Saturday, August 25, 2007

Response to Some Reader Comments

Given the mini-controversy brewing here at the Nexus regarding some comments I made about the recent "bootgate" controversy, we're going to take some time out to address some reader comments.

Many of these comments have to do with the question of the rock in the officers hand, and what readers think he was going to do with it, despite the fact that what he didn't do with it is much more relevant:

Here’s a comment from a reader identified merely as Chris:

Police have now admitted they were cops. They claim that someone gave them the rock to use but this doesn’t pass the laugh test given that they had been repeatedly told to “put the rock down”.

I’m all for cops going undercover as this appears to be, as claimed by the protestors, to be cops acting as provocateurs.

Rocks in hand: one. Fair enough.

Rocks thrown? Zero.

This considering the fact that undercover officers routinely stage opportunities to defy police officers as a way of proving their legitimacy.

If the officer in question was holding the rock with the intent to throw it, and incite a riot, rather than simply as a pretext for their “arrest” (subsequent removal from cover), he probably would have thrown it. It actually would have served as proof they weren’t police officers, and the boot revelations would have never even come to pass.

Here’s another, from another reader:

So there is no proof that they were "agents provocateurs", nothing conclusive at least. I'll grant you that. But why were they dressed as hoodlums carrying weapons when most of the guys around them were dressed normally?

Their presence only makes it easier for the media to ignore the protesters message and focus on violent extremists. That should not be the goal of the police. Worse their attitude and demeanor made the possibility of violence more likely. If David Cole wasn't there to demand he put down the rock, who knows what might have happened.

The other fact about undercover police work is that undercover officers don’t disguise themselves as an average, everyday person. They disguise themselves to fit in with their target.

Clearly, when patrolling a protest site for violent protesters, one isn’t targeting people like David Coles and the CEP. One is targeting groups like Black Bloc protesters (in this case, the officers were dressed as Black Bloc protesters.

There is a good reason for this. A Black Bloc is organized so that all members appear as part of a uniform unit, and are virtually indistinguishable from one another. A protester could throw a rock, retreat back into the bloc, and be unidentifiable. Police would be forced to arrest the entire Bloc, as opposed to merely the one member.

However, if you have undercover officers inside the Bloc, you’re more likely to be able to arrest that member once he retreats into the group.

It should be noted, however, that while groups like the CEF shouldn’t be considered targets for arrest, they are part of the patrol area in general, and will eventually be monitored in the name of covering the entire area in question.

However, this reader does make one very good point: this scandal does tend to direct attention away from the message of the protesters (which, in the CEF’s case, was a very benign and respectable image) and toward the issue of violent protest in general.

It does serve to undermine the protests, which, when non-violent (as was the CEF) are legitimate forms of democratic expression.

Here’s another comment, from a reader identified as Gayle:

"There is still no reason to assume they were trying to incite a riot, and actually every reason in the world to believe the opposite, considering that staging an arrest to remove an officer from cover is well within the boundaries of typical undercover practices, especially when an officer's cover is blown."

The funny thing about lies is that once a person lies about one thing, it is pretty hard to believe that person is telling the truth about anything.

So here you have a denial they were cops, and then, finally, an admission. The first denial was an outright lie, and it begs the question as to why we should believe them when they say there were not there to incite a riot.

You may be correct - the cops may well have been posing as rioters and carrying weapons (and hid themselves amongst a group of individuals who were not armed) solely for the purpose of maintaining the peace. I would point out, however, that simply possessing a rock in those circumstances was itself a criminal offence (possession of a weapon for a purpose dangerous to the public) - hard to argue they were trying to preserve the peace when by definition their actions were violating the public peace.

Add to this the evidence of the other protesters, who claimed these undercover cops were there to incite violence. While you may not want to accept that evidence, it is in fact evidence and cannot simply be discounted simply because it is not convenient for you to acknowledge it.

Now I do not conclude they were trying to incite a riot, but that is hardly the point. The suggestion has been made, and the damage is done. If people believe the police were there to incite violence, the police have only themselves to blame.

As Gayle may or may not be aware, in any criminal case two basic things must be proven: first that actus reus, the act itself, has taken place. Secondly, that mens rea, the intention to commit the act, was present in the accused.

In a case like Gayle is proposing, first the rock would have to be demonstrated to pose an imminent danger to the public. This is actually fairly simple to prove. When the officer picked up the rock (or accepted it, as Stockwell Day claims, but there is actually no evidence to show the rock was given to the individual in question, so this supposition will be discarded for the sake of this argument), there was a certain amount of danger involved: risk that someone else in the group could have taken the undercover officer’s possession of the rock as a cue to begin throwing rocks on their own, thus precipitating a riot. Whether or not these events actually transpired is immaterial: the danger existed once the rock was picked up.

However, mens rea cannot be established. As a matter of fact, it is already disproven, given that the rock gave nearby riot officers pretext to remove them from cover after their cover had been blown.

Once again, the evidence isn’t “inconvenient”. Where as previous evidence was inconclusive, the matter regarding the officer handling the rock is no less conclusive toward the pretext theorem than it is toward the provocateur theorem. Perhaps even more so, because the rock was never thrown.

Matt Bin:

Let me just get this clear -- you're saying that despite the fact that the Surete were caught in a blatant, public lie, we should give their officers involved the benefit of the doubt about their intents. Because what they say about their agents' actions can now be believed.

You'll excuse my spluttering laughter

People like Matt Bin, on the other hand, may want to check into the actual statements made by the Surete du Quebec. While they have recently admitted that the individuals in question were police officers, they never denied it (nor did they initially confirm it).

What they denied are the claims the officers were acting as agents provocateurs.

Admittedly, CTV's headline was somewhat deceptive, cosidering that no denial that the men were officers is found anywhere in the body of the actual piece.

As such, the initial statements released by the Surete du Quebec do nothing to undermine the credibility of later statements. There are no "lies" among them, except in the minds of those who have concluded that if police were working under cover among the protesters, they simply must have been there to incite a riot.

This despite the fact that the behaviour of the officers in question is consistent with the practices of undercover police officers, and not at all consistent with the past activities of either the RCMP or the Surete du Quebec.

Then again, when the case against the officers is built entirely upon politically-motivated cynicism, it's unsurprising that such facts seem to matter so little.

1 comment:

  1. This coming from a guy who stated--
    "If they don’t have a genuine one, a person had to realize they were going to invent one.
    And they have."
    with regards to the planted cops.
    'Cause when other bloggers surmised that the 3 guys in question were indeed police plants, you went off on quite the tirade against that idea.
    And yet, lo and behold--actual cops.
    And here you are again, yipping about how 'nothing happened'
    A bunch of grandparents gathered for a peaceful protest and 3 thugs all dressed up for potential carnage--one carrying a rock as you yourself stated--and all you have to say is 'no harm, no foul'?


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