The CBC reports today that, “Four ‘sound cannons’ Toronto police purchased for use during the G20 summit will not be used against demonstrators as weapons, Chief William Blair says.”
“Activists viewed news of the purchase of devices with suspicion and some, such as the Council of Canadians, have suggested they would hand out earplugs to activists to protect people from hearing loss.” To read just some of the extensive coverage we received in numerous media outlets on this issue, go to http://canadians.org/campaignblog/?p=3688.
“Sound cannons can be used to broadcast prerecorded messages but are also capable of emitting ear-piercing and hearing-damaging alerts that can be heard as far as 1.5 kilometres away.” At the time of the announcement of the purchase of these sound cannons on May 27, the Toronto Star reported, “(Toronto police constable Wendy) Drummond acknowledges LRADs can cause permanent hearing damage if used improperly but says Toronto police are developing guidelines for deployment.” There was no promise at this time that the “ear-piercing and hearing-damaging” function would not be used.
After the Council of Canadians made its offer to hand-out earplugs to people so that they could exercise their fundamental right to protest, then came further media reports about the health damage that could be inflicted by these sound cannons. Robert Harrison, a doctor at the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto who also works for the Hearing Foundation of Canada, said, “They can be set to induce pain. Any pain also means damages to the ear. We’re going to have another taser-like inquiry if these things are deployed at the level that they are capable of.”
Then, undoubtedly wanting to avoid another taser-like inquiry, the RCMP said they did not support the use of these cannons against crowds. “(Julie) Gagnon (a spokesperson for the RCMP) had been asked whether Mounties consider LRADs safe. She (replied in an e-mail to the Globe and Mail) that ‘the RCMP does not use the LRAD as a crowd-control tool’ and also stated that an internal RCMP review ‘did not support the use of LRADs as crowd-control devices.’”
Now Toronto police chief William Blair says very clearly, “It is not our intent and we will not be using this device as a force option. It is, for us, a communication device.”
If Mr. Blair keeps his word, this is one important step forward in ensuring our democratic right to protest against the unjust policies of the G20.
MORE NEEDS TO BE CHANGED
But so much more needs to be done. As highlighted in this campaign blog http://canadians.org/campaignblog/?p=3636, the Council of Canadians shares the same concerns as the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, particularly about designated free speech zones and the size of the security perimeter. These concerns and others should be addressed next.
And while the chief has now outlined how the Toronto police will spend $122 million of the $1 billion plus security budget for the summits, it still needs to be justified why the Toronto police expenditures for the summit are more than six times higher than the overall costs of the last G20 summit in Pittsburgh.
We know that the Toronto police spent $55,000 on the four sound cannons they purchased, which is considerably more than the under $100 cost of a good 1000 yard megaphone.
To find out more about the major march against the G20 in Toronto on Saturday June 26, please go to http://canadians.org.
The full CBC report is at http://www.cbc.ca/canada/toronto/story/2010/06/11/summit-traffic.html#ixzz0qd1bk6mm.