Tied to the mast
…but orange now and black

A billion dollars can’t buy us a fire extinguisher? (UPDATED)

The burning police car images have worked out very well both to publicly legitimate the cost of the security apparatus mobilized for the G20 events, and to divert the media from covering the substance of both what’s going on inside the fence, and the valid critical positions that are being represented outside of it (since that was obviously what they were going to do otherwise).

The mystery is how “10,000 uniformed police officers, 1,000 security guards, and several Canadian military forces” (wiki) arrayed against a few hundred kids (a) couldn’t protect two squad cars in the heart of the financial district and right next to the fence from being vandalized, and (b) once they were vandalized, couldn’t even get it together to spray the fire with an extinguisher or twenty. In the emblematic cultural image of a rioter, he has his arm pulled back to throw the molotov cocktail which is alight in his hand. Did they somehow not think of the contingency of having to rapidly respond to fire? Whoever made that oversight should be recognized as PRWeek’s PR Person of the Year (I made that award up for rhetorical flourish).

(hat tip for Margaret Christakos who called it yesterday)

Now let’s round up what’s what:

1. 200-or-so (update: less than 100, according to Wikipedia now, though it’s not clear where any of these estimates are coming from) kids with sticks and lighters are not that scary.

2. These 200-or-so (update: less than 100) kids are obviously both politically unsophisticated and in the wrong for exploiting the opportunity provided by the event for legitimate protest in order to destructively dramatize their fantastical self-images as badasses who are above the law.

Point 1: There’s not really much more to be said about them, no matter how many pretty pictures they were allowed to stage.

3. Inside the fence, decision makers are rounding dollar figures to higher multiples of ten than can even register the damage the vandals did.

Point 2: There’s a lot to be said about the decisions being made within the fence, both analytically and critically. So lets get over dumb people being dumb, and direct our energies to getting powerful people not to be dicks.

UPDATE: I’ve heard the “bait car” theory repeated today by a detective for York Region. No details beyond that the person said the cars had been stripped by the police of valuables (computer equipment, weaponry, etc.) before they were left. This isn’t necessary a solid source as the person wouldn’t specify how they knew this. But it’s enough that I would really like to see some of the security organizers’ strategic planning documentation. On the likelihood of that being released any time soon, see this Walrus article from January. Sample quotes:

Filing an ATI request is supposed to be straightforward: fork over $5 and petition the appropriate government agency to release specific files. Requests can be submitted by any Canadian seeking the kind of hard information rarely found in the press releases and talking points favoured by communications personnel and high-ranking officials. In the past few years, the law has been used, for example, by the Vancouver Sun to show how a suspected carcinogen banned in pesticides is still available in some bottles of lice treatment shampoo used mainly on children. Another recent ATI-based report by the Canadian Press revealed that abandoned explosives from bygone military training exercises (including World War II–era bombs, anti-tank mortars, and even torpedoes) might be scattered across more than two dozen native reserves countrywide.

When an ATI petition is filed, it initially goes to an access coordinator. The ATI officer’s job is to work with the department holding the documents, in order to decide how much information must be released. When amber lighting happens, the request works its way to the minister’s office, where it stalls until approval is granted — or not. When Hodgins worked as an adviser with the Treasury Board Secretariat, he often dealt with access coordinators. “They were very much under stress to redact information that could be politically embarrassing,” he says.

The backlog of complaints about departmental delays has grown so large that getting the information commissioner to resolve an access grievance can now mean a two-year wait. And in the absence of a ruling from the information commissioner, petitioners have no recourse to the court system either. “There’s less information being released by government than ever before,” says former information commissioner Robert Marleau, “and that’s alarming.”

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