It’s only fitting that the violent, aggressive and intimidating tactics police used to control protesters during the G20 summit in Toronto this weekend is named after my hometown – the city where I’ve been arrested twice in the last three years for photographing cops against their wishes.
The Miami Model came into existence in 2003 during the protests outside the Free Trade Area of the Americas summit where more than 270 protesters, photographers and non-participating bystanders were arrested in downtown Miami. Not a single person was convicted. The City of Miami, which was overseeing a multitude of police agencies, ended up dishing out more than a half-million dollars in lawsuits (I was still living in Arizona at the time, which is just as well because I’m sure I would have been arrested).
It’s been used to a lesser extent on Miami Beach during Memorial Day Weekend (where I was arrested the second time) when hordes of black people come down to party. Not surprisingly, very few of those arrests end up in conviction. My case was dismissed when the cop failed to show up to court twice.
Nevertheless, the Miami Model is viewed as a successful tactic within the law enforcement community because it allows police to target everyone and anyone regardless if they are committing a crime or not.
And this, of course, includes photographers and journalists.
So far in Toronto, four journalists, including three photographers, were reportedly arrested during the G20 summit over the weekend.
However, with more than 500 people reportedly arrested, there’s bound to be many more journalists and photographers swept up in mass arrests that we haven’t heard about yet.
Granted, some of those people arrested probably deserved it considering they were torching cop cars and breaking windows. That is, if the cops took time from arresting peaceful demonstrators and journalists to arrest those people.
Regardless, the Miami Model doesn’t distinguish between those who are breaking the law and those who are demonstrating peacefully or covering the demonstrations, as a Toronto Star columnist is discovering.
The Miami Model, in fact, escalates the tension by turning officers into urban stormtroopers. Just watch the above video when police dressed in indistinguishable riot gear pull people out of crowds to arrest them who were not doing anything except peacefully protesting.
According to the National Post:
Brett Gundlock, a staff photographer for the Post, was tackled and taken away by several police officers in riot gear as they attempted to disperse protesters hanging around near the Ontario legislature.
Kier Gilmour, a photographer for Canwest News Service who witnessed the arrest, said the officers knocked Mr. Gundlock to the ground and then dragged him away. He had been standing with several other media photographers at the time.
“They slammed him down, onto his ass so to speak, then they dragged him back up and pulled him back to the police line,” Mr. Gilmour said.
Colin O’Connor, a freelance photographer working for the Post, was also apparently detained.
Mr. Gilmour said the police were being very aggressive in trying to disperse the remaining demonstrators near Queen’s Park, which is several blocks away from the secure zone where the G20 meeting is taking place.
“They kept screaming ‘it’s time to go home, it’s time to go home.’”
He said that every few minutes a group of officers would rush the crowd at a full sprint and grab a few people. The protesters were not doing anything violent or provocative at the time, he said.
According to the U.K. Guardian:
Jesse Rosenfeld, a freelance journalist who has written for the Guardian’s Comment is Free website, was arrested and hit by police officers, according to a Canadian TV journalist who witnessed the arrest.
There was considerable anger at some of the police tactics. In scenes broadcast live in Toronto, an officer in riot gear could be seen striking an apparently unarmed protester several times during a standoff between lines of protesters and police. A Montreal journalist, Stefan Christoff, said he was hit many times by a riot policeman with a plastic-coated metal baton after chanting slogans opposed to the G20.
Steve Paikin, who presents TV Ontario’s current affairs programme Agenda, said he saw the assault on Rosenfeld. “As I was escorted away from the demonstration, I saw two officers hold a journalist. A third punched him in the stomach. The man collapsed. Then the third officer drove his elbow into the man’s back.”
The irony is that the real culprits in these protesters, the ones who are doing the actual vandalism, are members of the Black Bloc; the collective group of anarchists who don black masks and uniforms as they commit their criminal acts.
These people also have an issue with photographers and have been known to attack them.
They embraced the Black Bloc tactic, a popular sight at almost every international protest since the late 1990s: The crowd, dressed in their black uniforms, moves as a blob, its members indistinguishable from one another. One will run from the pack and lob a rock through a window, before disappearing back into the mob.
On Saturday, as the riot police shuffled closer to the intersection at College and University Aves.— shields up, gas masks on, guns raised — they disappeared again.
Dozens huddled on a patch of grass outside Queen’s Park. Protected by their peers, the ones in the middle changed into their street clothes. Within minutes, all that was left was a pile of black garments.
“Don’t take a f–king picture of me,” said one man, now wearing a brown T-shirt, as he walked away.
So essentially you have two groups of masked thugs; one wearing indistinguishable black uniforms, the other wearing indistinguishable riot gear.
And the real victims are the hundreds who get arrested who have broken no law as well as the taxpayers who end up dishing out thousands in lawsuits.
To learn more about the Miami Model, check out the ten-video documentary on the 2003 FTAA summit arrests. It’s really a fascinating look at the police mentality and underground element within my city. It probably explains a lot of my own persona.
Video # 4 is where the police brutality begins.