Volume 95, Issue 31
Friday, October 26, 2001
London prepares for protests
Activists criticize police intimidation
By Chris Lackner
Hundreds of police officers, thousands of protesters and the Ontario Progressive Conservative party will combine to create an interesting weekend for the Forest City.
All will be centre stage when the Tories hold a policy conference at London's Convention Centre this weekend. Numerous protests have been planned and local police have laid down plans for heavy security.
"We're prepared to manage any occurrences that may arise out of the PC convention," said Tony McGowan, deputy chief for the London Police Department.
Ontario Provincial Police officers, as well as those from Windsor, Waterloo and Hamilton, have been called in to help manage the expected crowds, he said.
"We have a long standing rapport with London groups that take offence with the provincial PCs. We have assurances their protests will be peaceful," he explained.
McGowen said he met with Jesse Greener, an organizer with the London Coalition for Global Justice last week and Jeremy McNaughton, a member of Action Family, a local group concerned with issues of social justice, yesterday morning.
"The purpose of the meetings was [to be] pro-active," he said.
"If people over-step their bounds, people will be subject to arrest," he added, noting actions such as blocking of roadways could lead to possible arrest.
"There are liabilities attached to organizers of these events," he said. "If something goes wrong with [the event], they can be held responsible."
Greener said he considered the police's threat of legal recourse an attempt at intimidation.
"The ultimate responsibility is not with the organizers," McNaughton agreed. "It's a highly unlikely [occurrence], but we can't be responsible for someone who throws a rock."
McGowan said police will commit searches on those who demonstrate in Victoria Park.
When asked about the legality of such searches, he said the parameters of the law can change depending on individual situations.
McNaughton called the threat of searches a blackmail tactic. "This is a local police force trying to quell local dissent," he said.
Mayor Anne Marie DeCicco, said she expected all those who protest in London on the weekend to abide by its laws, despite the fact recent demonstrations in Toronto closed down businesses and resulted in some vandalism.
John Clarke, an organizer for the Ontario Coalition Against Poverty, which organized the Oct. 16 protests in Toronto, said his organization only has a supportive role in the coming weekend's protests.
Greener said the comments made by LPD have created an arena for confrontation and noted many protesters are highly concerned.
Copyright © The Gazette 2001