Violent protesters set fire to police cars and shattered store-front windows at the Group of 20 economic summit in Toronto this weekend. How did the Times, so skittish about the hypothetical threat of non-existent Tea Party violence from the right, react to actual violence committed by political protesters by the left-wing and anarchist groups? With more snort-worthy apologias for left-wing protesters being overwhelmingly "peaceful" in numerical terms
Reporter Randal Archibold made a similar claim in his April 24 story from Phoenix at a protest against Arizona's anti-immigration law, claiming that "hundreds of demonstrators massed, mostly peacefully, at the capitol plaza." Local news in Phoenix reported three people were arrested during the immigration rally, including two seen throwing water bottles at police, and videos showed more lawlessness on display.
The same defensive tone is present in Monday's Business section story from Toronto, with the ludicrous headline "Police in Toronto Criticized for Treatment of Protesters, Many Peaceful," by Ian Austen. Austen's story is illustrated with a photo from the European Pressphoto Agency showing two policemen arresting a woman, but not photos shown elsewhere of burning cars, like the Associated Press photo by Frank Gunn above.
Austen managed to fault the police both for initial passivity and subsequent overreaction:
An escalation of aggressive police tactics toward even apparently peaceful protests at the Group of 20 summit meeting led to calls for a review of security activities.
After allowing a small group of people to burn police cars and smash windows unimpeded on Saturday afternoon, many of the 20,000 police officers deployed in Toronto changed tactics that evening and during the last day of the gathering.
There was a notable increase in both the numbers of police officers who surrounded demonstrations as well as more use of tear gas and rubber or plastic bullets. At the same time, there was a visible drop in the number of demonstrators in the city streets.
As a result, the violence by some demonstrators that marred the opening of the Group of 20 meeting did not reappear on Sunday, and more than 600 people were arrested Saturday and Sunday.
The Times seemed to miss the obvious connection: More police and more arrests = less crime. It's one the Times has missed before, most notoriously in this headline from September 28, 1997: "Crime Keeps On Falling; but Prisons Keep On Filling."
Unlike Archibold's Arizona coverage, Austen didn't ignore the violence on display in Toronto, though he did offer the same ludicrous apologia to this group of left-wing protesters that Archibold did to the ones in Arizona, writing that "the overwhelming majority...were peaceful."
The violence was not exceptional compared with problems at previous international meetings, like the World Trade Organization's gathering in Seattle in 1999. Toronto's shopping district sustained the greatest damage but quickly became something of a tourist attraction.
But it was nevertheless extraordinary for Toronto, a city with little history of violent protests. David Miller, the city's mayor, was among the many who swiftly condemned it. "Does today send signals about Toronto that I wish weren't sent?" he said on Saturday evening. "Absolutely."
William Blair, the city's police chief, did not respond directly to the widespread criticism over the lack of police response during the period of violence. But at a news conference, he suggested that officers were deliberately held back.
The protesters, the overwhelming majority of whom were peaceful, promoted a variety of causes. Many were challenging the legitimacy of the Group of 20 and proposing that governments work through the United Nations. Others championed specific issues, particularly in relation to human rights and the environment.
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