Toronto: Protesting is Now Illegal

Anonymous submission to North Shore

On Saturday, January 16th, the Toronto Police Service tweeted the above image.

So, it’s official. The government has declared that protesting is now illegal in Toronto, and, probably in all of Ontario.

Doug Ford has essentially said that leaving your home for “non-essential” reasons is not allowed. What is and what isn’t essential?

Thankfully, Dougie helpfully clarifies: “I know essential means different things to different people … so we need everyone to use their best judgment. If you’re not sure if a trip is absolutely essential, it probably isn’t,” he said.

Couldn’t this be taken to mean that if you aren’t sure whether or not something is illegal, it probably is? Who gets to decide? Doesn’t this essentially give the police the police to arbitrarily stop and harass anyone for any reason?

At which point do we call this a police state?

The Oxford dictionary defines “police state” thusly: “a country where people’s freedom, especially to travel and to express political opinions, is controlled by the government, with the help of the police”.

Of course, whether or not protest is actually illegal is a matter of debate, given that Canada is ostensibly a constitutional monarchy, where the constitution is the highest law in the land, but how much does that matter anymore?

The Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which is part of the constitution, explicitly states that people have the freedom of assembly, the freedom of mobility, the freedom of expression, and freedom of religion, but that hasn’t stopped the state from introducing all kinds of draconian laws this year. Is a precedent being set that basic human rights do not apply in times of crisis? If the people accept this, what is to stop the powers that be from deciding that future crises

This expansion of police powers is already having tragic consequences. Consider the tragic death of Scarborough resident Moses Demian. Hours after the events of this video, which shows Mr. Demian being arrested in a parking lot after being carded* by police, Mr. Demian took his own life.

This tragedy apparently occurred because Mr. Demian refused to produce ID when the police demanded it. Perhaps he felt that he had the right to hang out in a parking lot, and chose to assert his right. Perhaps he knew that he was not legally required to produce ID (Ontario law does require you to identify yourself verbally, but not to produce ID). Perhaps he was just fed up with being harassed, and voiced his frustration. In any case, he defied a cop, and now he’s dead.

It bears mentioning that Ontario’s lockdown law, in true Orwellian fashion, is called the “Reopening Ontario Act”. So I pose the question again: Are we living in a police state? And if we are, what is to be done?

*For those unfamiliar with the term “carding”, Wikipedia defines it as “an intelligence gathering policy involving the stopping, questioning, and documenting of individuals when no particular offence is being investigated”. Activists in Toronto have long denounced it as a racist practice, as police disproportionately target BIPOC folks. To learn more about the racist use of carding in Toronto, please refer to the work of black power activist Desmond Cole.

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this article inaccurately stated that Moses Demian died in a jail cell. In fact, he committed suicide after being released from jail. The author regrets their error.

Fundraiser for Moses Demian’s family:

3 thoughts on “Toronto: Protesting is Now Illegal”

  1. i wonder if the lockdowns will ever end
    next it’ll be lockdowns for “keeping the peace” or climate lockdowns
    scary shit

  2. You on the Left, especially those at Antihate and the associated accounts, acted as cheerleaders for this for months. Hundreds of tweets and articles and fearmongering SM posts every single day. Used every speck of clout, influence, and platform available to you to push the Govt into enacting draconian repression on the populace, while the Right urged caution, saying ” anything you get passed to repress us can and will be used someday to repress you”. But nobody listened. Now, the only thing the Left can hope for is a biased (in their favour) and unequal application of these dissent-criminalising laws they were so eager to see passed.
    You got what you wanted.
    Congrats on “owning the CHUDS”, I guess.

    1. There’s a lot more in the political ecosystem than left and right, first of all. Get out of the social media echo chamber, look a little closer, and you’ll see anarchists certainly haven’t been cheerleading repressive measures. Some folks get scared and make unprincipled, sloppy arguments sure. By and large though, we’ve paid attention to even the very recent history that shows they come back around.

      The anti maskers opposing state repression seems a bit dishonest. It wasn’t so long ago that a lot of the same people who have been refusing to wear masks in front of Hamilton city hall (as one example) were wearing yellow vests and calling for the state to engage in massive repression against migrants.

      Anyway. As for this site, there were criticisms of the lockdown measures published starting last March:

      In the context of covid, most anarchists in this region were doing things like organizing prisoner support:

      Or trying to organize to mitigate harm to renters:

      All without pretending the virus isn’t real or like simple health measures like wearing masks are the same as concentration camps or invoking bizarre global conspiracies. Or confusing social media with real life.

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