By Frank Moher
Charlie Veitch, one of the first activists arrested at the G20 in Toronto, was arrested a second time on Tuesday as he attempted to catch a plane home to England. According to a Toronto Police Service media release (pdf) issued on Tuesday night, Veitch has been charged with impersonating a police officer.
It is to laugh. Or rather, not to.
Here’s video of the incident that’s gotten Veitch, a gifted satirist (especially when he’s on his feet), into trouble. To cut to the chase, scroll forward to the 6:20 mark.
In it, he deadpans to a security guard outside Union Station in Toronto that “We’re from British military intelligence, I’m here with the Metropolitan Police, see, so it’s all fully authorized to the highest levels.” As if conflating the military with city cops isn’t absurd enough, he continues: “Have you heard of what an agent provocateur is? Sometimes when there are big demonstrations — I can tell you this because you’re security — they use fake protestors to cause trouble. And we’re here to be those fake protestors.”
My favourite part is: “I can tell you this because you’re security.” Note also that, besides revealing all this to a security guard, he is being videoed by at least two cameras, which would make him the least competent undercover agent in the history of British Intelligence. Or is that the Metropolitan Police?
In the next video, also filmed by pressfortruth.ca, he tells the first actual police officer who approaches him, quite clearly, that he’s “from The Love Police. We’re kind of absurdist, surrealist filmmakers.” That part, mind, is true.
The cop goes on to tell one of the the accompanying cameramen that he can’t film (wrong) because they are within five metres of the G20 security fence and the “Public Works Act states that.” Wrong again. It’s telling, though, that the first thing the police want to do is stop the filming.
Eventually Veitch is arrested, not for impersonating an officer, but for failing to provide identification which, he is told, is also a crime under The Public Works Act. Wrong, wrong, wrong. On Tuesday, the Ontario government announced that it never did pass “a secret law that gave police additional power to arrest people during the G20 summit in Toronto,” despite widespread reports to the contrary. And apparently the Chief of Police knew it. Reported Canadian Press: “Asked Tuesday if there actually was a five-metre rule given the ministry’s clarification, Toronto Police Chief Bill Blair smiled and said, ‘No, but I was trying to keep the criminals out.’”
Nice. So in addition to misleading the public, Blair hung his officers out to dry, enforcing a law that didn’t exist. The province insists that no one was arrested under the Act. That will come as news to Charlie Veitch.
We can hope that when Veitch comes before a judge this afternoon, on the impersonation charge, it’s one who has a sense of the absurd, or who at least knows a vexatious and vindictive use of the law when s/he sees one. With hundreds of people inappropriately arrested and still to be processed by the courts, did the Toronto police really need to add one more? If they want to keep charging people, how about the cop who was making up the law as he went when he approached Veitch last Thursday? How about the ones who arrested him under a law that also didn’t exist? Or better yet, their boss, who told them it did? How about the ones who broke the Charter of Rights on the weekend — broke it into a million pieces and then stampeded their horses all over it?
That’s who should be in court today. Not Charlie Veitch.
Update: Veitch was released on bail; court appearance scheduled for August 23rd: