One week before violence came to the streets of downtown Toronto during the 2010 G20 Sid Ryan of the Ontario Federation of Labour and Maude Barlow of the Council of Canadians issued statements that helped launch one of the year’s biggest conspiracy theories. Ryan and Barlow warned the government not to plant agent provocateurs into G20 marches- pointing out Quebec Provincial Police sent undercover officers dressed as Black Bloc protesters at Montebello in 2007.
Meanwhile, in parallel, associates of Ryan and Barlow’s organizations who were leading the protest openly admitted some participants planned on violence. Websites were published, Youtube videos filmed, and militants wheat pasted signs across the city- making it clear some protesters came for a battle. Moments before the violence Canada’s most prominent supporter of Black Bloc tactics Harsha Walia led the militant bloc with her husband Harjap Grewal of the Council of Canadians at her side.
Media reports, both before and after the violence, were so commonly inept they helped fuel a conspiracy theory that the police were behind it all- many Torontonians still think this today. Last week, five years after the G20, the very same organizers led a march through Downtown Toronto to protest the Pan-Am Environmental summit- it was a great opportunity to see how and if quality of the media’s coverage changed.
The Globe And Mail Gets Their Spin on:
On June 24, 2010, the Globe and Mail published an eye opening story about G20 activists. You just might find love while protesting the G20 romanticised the protests sharing the personal stories of three couples who met each other through their activist work- a spin job, framing fighters as lovers.
The first couple profiled were Ontario Coalition Against poverty members Nancy LaPlante and her partner Omid Zareian- the latter was arrested at the Queens Park riot and several other protests. Next came 2010 Olympic protesters Joanna Adamiak and Terrance Luscombe- the latter was arrested a couple days later as part of the G20 Main Conspiracy group. Finally, how could any love story be complete with out including two of the country’s most vocal supporters of protest violence, Harjap Grewal with his wife Harsha Walia- the latter was arrested, and later released, for her part in the G20.
Five years later the Globe’s Colin Freeze reports on the same group’s participation in the Pan-Am protests. Freeze’s story was a scare piece covering mining activist’s allegations that police sent two undercover cops to infiltrate their group in the lead up to the Games. The headline reads like it was written by a spin doctor, a more accurate title would be “Shadow of G20 Protesters looms over Pan-Am Games Security”.
The story’s first paragraph is reminiscent of the Toronto Star’s post-violence photo shoot of convicted G20 organizer Leah Henderson walking her dog down a quiet city street. But this time, rather than puppies and kittens, Freeze launches his story describing how mining activist Merle Davis (a.k.a. Merle Davis Matthews) was innocently baking cookies on the day of her alleged run-in with the two undercover cops.
Davis is a member of the Mining Injustice Solidarity Network, an anarchist led anti-mining group co-founded by American activist Sakura Saunders- a person of interest to law enforcement on both sides of the border. MISN is an action group of the University of Toronto’s Ontario Public Interest Research Group (OPIRG). The OPIRGs are student fee funded NGOs that provide resources, funding, and sometimes “money laundering” services (similar to TIDES Canada’s) for the most radical of radicals.
The story explained how two people who joined MISN last year (“Kat” and “Alex”) set-off red flags for Davis and her fellow members. The couple presented themselves as newbies to activism, MISN members got nervous when they started asking questions about the violence and the Ontario Coalition Against Poverty’s tendency to get violent (OCAP is usually front-and-centre at riots and other clashes with the police).
The last part the the story read like an Ian Fleming novel with MISN member Kate Klein explaining her boyfriend Terrance Luscombe’s chance encounter with the “Kat” and “Alex”. Stalking the couple as they walked through a subway station, Luscombe alleges he almost walked right into the couple as he walked down a stairway. Luscombe turned back, the couple moved on, and he claimed to see two police cars pull-up moments later (anyone who’s had to call Toronto Police will be amazed how quickly they responded).
Freeze tells his readers that Luscombe was arrested and jailed for 20 days in 2010 as part of the G20 Main Conspiracy Group- six were convicted, but “the charges against Mr. Luscombe and 10 others did not stick”. Readers unfamiliar with the story might be misled by that statement- Luscombe’s charges weren’t dropped for their lack of “stickiness”, but as part of a plea bargain.
Did Freeze Fall For One Of Sakura Saunders’ Pork Pies?
If it wasn’t for the seriousness of the issue, Freeze’s description of the Globe’s investigatory techniques would be a real laugh riot. Steps he took in his exhaustive research included:
- Investigating the two Facebook pages MISN said belonged to “Kat” and “Alex”; the Globe determined that both were created in 2013, neither had face pictures (“Alex opted for the stylized Guy Fawkes mask that is the symbol of anonymous agitators everywhere”), and neither account responded to requests for comments.
- Emails were sent to both of their email accounts but neither responded.
- Kat claimed to be a professional dog walker, the Globe “contacted two dozen dog walkers, but none could say who Kat was”.
- Kat claimed “she once lived in an apartment on Regina Street in Waterloo,” the Globe went “Door-knocking in that neighbourhood turned up no leads. It’s a small street with a half-dozen high-rises”.
- “Social media indicate he was a fan of the A.S. Roma soccer team. The president of the Toronto fan club said he was not a member.”
- Police were contacted, but as expected, they refused to comment on the work of undercover officers.
If you nearly spit out your coffee laughing at the Globe’s cunning plan to contact the A.S. Roma fan club you’re not alone (I had to clean some specks off of my monitor). The only “evidence” in the Globe’s story is the protester’s hunch that Kat and Alex “might” be cops is the word of the activists who told him so.
If one is to to believe the protester’s accusations it’s necessary to make one of two important assumptions:
- The protesters aren’t being paranoid: The first problem with this is that activists are notoriously paranoid- partly due to the large amounts of weed they consume, but also because many of their comrades are actively committing crimes. The number of people who’ve been accused of being undercover cops is magnitudes larger then there are cops- Sakura has tried to smear me as a cop a few times in the past.
- The protesters are telling the truth: This is, of course, the biggest assumption of them all. This website has 100’s of articles that detail the mistruths we’ve heard from MISN members and people in their community.
One of the best examples of the MISN’s credibility issues happened in 2012 when their leader Sakura Saunders tried to spin a 2012 police incident and falsely accuse Toronto police officers of beating-up a trans woman because of her sexual identity (see above screenshot). I was there that day, gathered videos of the event, and personally know the people involved- Saunder’s attempt to smear the cops was an outright, shameless, lie.
Another great example of MISN’s credibility issues happened at a 2013 rally they organized rally they organized to protest Barrick Gold’s AGM. Anti-Barrick protests are generally all about clashing with the police- the TDSB’s Student School cancelled a field trip to last year’s event after they were alerted to the danger to their students. Protesters at the 2013 event included at least two convicted organizers, falsely accused a police officer of assault.
One last good example comes from last Wednesday’s march. Darryl Richardson (same Darryl Sakura mentioned in the screenshot at the top of this section) of the pro-violence Media Co-Op posted some of his own AgitProp on the march’s Facebook page. It was a lame attempt to scare people into thinking that “Stephen Harper” is using unmarked helicopters to invoke Bill C-51 and spy on the protesters (on pubic streets). Of course, as readers of this site are already aware, Darryl is an idiot- it was an AM 650 helicopter. Richardson has a history of making false claims about the police.
Why Would The Police Want To Infiltrate?
While it’s entirely likely that the MISN is making up stories, it’s not out of the question that they could be telling the truth. Why? Primarily because Saunders, MISN, and their sponsors at OPIRG are deeply entrenched with the criminals who organized and engaged the violence during the 2010 G20. Could you imagine the liability Toronto would have faced if the cops hadn’t been tracking MISN and their OPIRG peers and we saw a replay of G20?
Sakura Saunders has caught the interest of more police agencies than you can shake a stick at. Readers from the RCMP and Homeland security have spent significant time researching Saunders on this website. Toronto police officers who work protests are very aware of Sakura- two have disclosed in private conversations they’re dismayed she’s allowed entry into Canada. Saunders was stopped by the Canada Border Services Agency earlier this year, and claims they investigated the contents of her cell phone.
Wednesday’s #RiseUpTo march is a excellent example of why the police would want to investigate. The event’s sponsorship list included OCAP, the Raging (but AWOL) Grannies, the New Socialists, Common Frontiers– and a host of OPIRG linked groups including MISN, No One Is Illegal, Latin American Caribbean Solidarity Network, Rising Tide Toronto, and Network for the Elimination of Police Violence- a group connected to convicted G20 vandal Kelly Pflug-Back.
The march sounded like it had promise at first. Over 1,100 people signed up on the Facebook page including a Nötley Crüe of violence promoters, useful idiots, two convicted G20 organizers, and two whose charges (as Freeze would say) “didn’t stick” after they were dropped in the plea bargain. The organizer’s enthusiastic plans were to “swarm the Royal York Hotel, and disrupt those entering the Pan Am Climate and Economic Summits,” and to “confront the financial and corporate headquarters of Canada” (by blocking minor downtown intersections).
The good news for the people of Toronto is that less than two hundred “activists” showed up by the height of the protest (204 including CBC staff). Followed like hawks by 40-50 cops, a dozen or so from the media, and a helicopter from CP24 (belching carbon for the length of the protest). All of this attention made it near impossible for them to accomplish much damage- the Fort York barely noticed, only a couple minor intersections got blocked, and the only thing smashed-up by anarchists was their own credibility.
Corruption & Ineptitude: It’s Not Just The Globe And Mail:
For all the arguments I’ve made over the past few years about how violence doesn’t accomplish anything, I have to admit that yesterday’s protest proved me wrong. Close to a dozen hungry journalists showed-up for the protest. Reading their reports on yesterday’s march it could be easy to assume they were clueless they were surrounded by convicted riot organizers.
The CBC’s report on the protest turned out to be a bit of a bait and switch. About 20% of the article was about the protest, with the remaining 80% covering the issues being discussed at the Pan-Am environmental summit. As expected, they neglected to report on the troubled history of the organizers and participants.
James Moore from radio 1010 showed-up. His story neglected share with his readers why the media was so interested in this relatively small protest. Other parts of his report included a quote from No One Is Illegal’s official spokesperson (but nobody else) and an outline of the people attending the Pan-Am environmental and economic forums. He also neglected to mention they sat down on the street and blocked city intersections.
Moore threw a curveball at the end of his story, pointing-out that that the anti-poverty protesters walked right past homeless person and ignored him. My first reaction was similar to Moore’s, the man on the ground was low-hanging fruit. But unlike Moore I declined to report on something that I couldn’t confirm- it’s possible that all is not as it seems on the surface:
- Not everyone panhandling at Union Station is who they say they are. Con-artists have been known to frequent the area including the “Stranded female commuter from Hamilton”, the “Stranded Man In Town For Medical Treatment”, and the recently arrived “Fake Buddhist Monks“.
- As Moore explained later that morning on Jerry Agar’s show, the man was laying in “a high traffic area”- to be more exact, one of the busiest sidewalks in the city. With dozens of city workers passing by every morning it’s a great place to make some money- that said, it’s busy and loud, outside of passing out from substance abuse, it would be hard to imagine how anyone could fall asleep there.
- Wednesday was a beautiful July morning, about 17 degrees outside and sunny, an unusual day to see someone sleeping on a heat vent. I felt heat coming out when I walked by, so it’s very possible he was there for the vent- that said, the high rates of pedestrian traffic still make it a difficult place to sleep.
- Moore’s posting claimed that the man “passed out on the sidewalk”- his words could be misleading. The man’s clothes were cleaner than my own (I did laundry later that night), his blanket was neatly laid out on top of the heating vent- two signs, a small book, and a Tim Hortons cup were laid out in front of him with perfect symmetry.
I’m not writing this to pass judgement on the man laying down on the sidewalk- even if he’s a con-artist, my inner bleeding heart feels bad he’d chose to destroy his soul like this. That said, I do have some question’s about Moore’s assumption the man is homeless- it appears journalistically unsound. More importantly, what kind of a schmuck exploits a homeless person who’s “passed out” on the sidewalk for such a lowball attack?
A Hopeful Moment With CP24, Followed By Devastating News:
My first hint of the media’s hunger to film of G20 rioters going berserk happened at Berczy Park. CP24’s Cam Wooley called out to Alex Hundert, “hey Alex, will you do an interview?”. After three years covering Toronto protests this was the first time I’d ever heard a member of the media acknowledge when they were in the presence of convicted riot organizers- what a pleasant surprise!
I grabbed Wooley’s attention for a moment after Hundert declined to interview, he explained his thought that Alex’s shyness was likely because “they don’t want him talking to the media”. It almost sounded like Wooley understood the “obedience cult” freakishness of Hundert’s movement. Wooley’s reports acknowledged the presence of convicted G20 organizers but didn’t give any names- fair enough.
I had another opportunity to chat with Wooley a couple of hours later standing in-front of city hall. Undercoverkity was there, the three of us got into a quality conversation about the protester’s colourful histories. Wooley explained to us that despite the presence of the riot organizers he was still able to learn some interesting things from a couple of First Nations protesters.
This led us to a conversation on how the activists leading the protest have an unfortunate tendency to appropriate indigenous people’s voices. I used the example of when Sakura Saunders and Dave Vasey, standing in the very same square in 2011, introduced con-artist Kevin Annett as he lied about finding a mass grave of residential school students at the Six Nations reserve. Shortly after Saunders told people to be quiet for “a very important announcement”, Annett pulled animal bones out of his pockets and claimed they children’s bones that were “cut up into pieces by the church”.
Wooley acknowledged these sorts of things do happen, but that there are many genuine people working on First Nations causes. Just as I was about to acknowledge this statement he gave us an example- “you know, that chief who went on a hunger strike”. Undercoverkity and I were both a bit shocked, we explained to him how Theresa Spence owned a blinged-out Hummer while her people suffered, how she complained about the oil industry at the same time she was investing her band’s money in the oilsands.
The final part of our conversation has been resonating in my head since Wednesday. Wooley explained how it’s difficult for him to ask challenging questions on First Nations issues- out of fear it might offend “the people in the middle”- uninformed Canadians whose guilt is a primary enabler of the activists who appropriate indigenous voices.
After nearly four years studying how activists take advantage of this situation, Wooley’s statement wasn’t a surprise. That said, it was the first time I’d seen such a clear and irrefutable evidence- straight from the horse’s mouth. The only thing I could think of when our conversation ended is how damaging this situation is to First Nations communities.
If Toronto Community Housing was caught buying $95,000 Zambonis while families lived in squalor the media would be all over it, but Theresa Spence got a free pass. It would be the worst kind of scandal if John Tory contracted his wife to manage the city treasury, but most of the media neglected to discuss how Spence hired her boyfriend a whopping $850 a day to manage her band’s money. I don’t blame Wooley for this problem, he’s just the guy with the microphone. It’s his management who call the shots- offending the “middle” people might drive away viewers and affect CP24’s bottom line.
Wooley explained to us howBell Media has been extra careful to minimize the conglomerate’s influence over the newsroom ever since the Kevin Krull incident. I’m sure this is true, but I can’t help but wonder how much of the message “not to offend” is coming from the corporate office. If CTV or CP24 do something that offends the “people in the middle” not only do they risk losing viewers- but Bell could lose telecom customers too.
The media’s job was supposed to be to protect the public by exposing corruption. The mainstream media’s fear of offending people by asking critical questions is the worst kind of poison. People have, will, and are suffering because of this- Attawapiskat only one example, there are dozens of more examples across the country.
I’m usually quite energized after a big protest. The combination of the noise, boisterous crowds, and evil looks from people who want to (or already have) hurt me me is as exhilarating as a day riding roller coasters at Canada’s Wonderland. But Wednesday’s protest was different, I went home feeling a deep sadness inside- wondering how many more innocent people will pay the price for the mainstream media’s cowardice and ineptitude.
Bonus Content: The Who’s Who Of The Protest’s Zoo!
Wednesday’s event was led by No One Is Illegal, a militant anarchist group with an unfortunate habit of appropriating the voices of marginalized people. NoII’s Toronto leader Syed Hussan was running around organizing and building energy in the crowd. Hussan was arrested for his participation in the 2010 G20 Main Conspiracy Group but was later let off the hook when a couple of other people at yesterday’s protest copped a plea bargain with the Crown.
NoII was a central figure in the violence during the G20; their Vancouver leader Harsha Walia organized their members to march directly in front of the Black Bloc activists who smashed-up the city. Hussan was one of their most visible spokespersons. NoII, Hassan, and several other of yesterday’s protesters almost started a riot in July 2013; radicalising the family of police shooting victim Sammy Yatim to the point where they yelled into megaphones on downtown streets calling on Torontonians to “kill all pigs”.
Standing to the far-right of Hussan is Maggie Helwig, the self-hating Anglican priest whose activism is often focussed on the decolonization movement (de-legitimizing her penultimate boss QEII). Whenever one sees Black Bloc or other criminally minded activists in Toronto, Maggie is often right there beside them. In June 2012, after I was assaulted by Black Bloc protesters (including a man deemed by DHS as a terrorist risk), Maggie ran over to console them after the police de-escalated the violence. Helwig was joined at Wednesday’s protest by fellow Anglican priest Andrea Budgie.
Dave Vasey was the de facto leader of Occupy Toronto, a “leaderless movement” that took-in tens of thousands of dollars that were never accounted for. Vasey was the very first person to get arrested during the G20 after being caught looking for vulnerabilities in the fence- one of the most bizarre parts of his story is that the Crown supposedly “lost” the evidence and dropped the case.
Vasey also took leadership during last year’s protests against Line 9, the last time we saw him he was facing criminal charges for their final occupation in Innerkip. Embarrassingly, though Vasey claims his activism is all about representing indigenous people, he helped facilitate indigenous abusing con-artist Kevin Annett’s fraudulent claim to have found a mass grave of children on the Six Nations reserve.
Dave is standing in the above picture with superstar Toronto activist Angela Bischoff, a director at the Ontario Clean Air Alliance– an environmental group that fought against coal power plants. The first time we covered Bischoff was was during Now Magazine contributor Zach Ruiter’s self-serving protest against GE-Hitatchi’s decades old uranium processing plant- wiping thousands of dollars of the values of several West Toronto homes.
Bischoff was previously married to Tooker Gomburg, a now deceased 2000 mayoral candidate who lost to Mel Lastman by a landslide. Studying her past antics, Bischoff has the appearance of being somewhat selfish. The book Taking Back The Streets, Adventures In Urban Anarchy explains how she and Gomburg would block traffic on their Montreal street for the purpose of being a nuisance. They participated together in the anti-globalization movement’s “resistance” against the police at the Quebec City Summit of the Americas- he was arrested.
Observant readers might have already noticed that Bischoff spends a lot of time fighting energy projects- including coal, oil, and nuclear. Like her fellow activists, Bischoff calls for Ontario to switch to “renewable energy”, but where she differs is that she actually has a plan- developed in Cuba during her 2007 visit with Energy Minister Sergio Marchi.
Bischoff wrote about Cuba explaining her perspective how their “social and economic revolutions are impressive”. Explaining her joy how “each person in Cuba consumes only about 1/30 the energy of a North American”, Bischoff cheered the fact “their standard of living seems high, especially when compared to the rest of the less industrialized world”. There’s one little problem of course, “every few days there are blackouts of electricity”.
Mandy Hiscocks is a Guelph anarchist who was arrested along with other members of the G20 Main Conspiracy Group. On the day she was sentenced to 16 months in Vanier Prison Hiscocks defiantly stood-up and told the court that her criminality was justified because “Our society is racist and colonial, it’s rooted in wealth and power, and so is the rule of law that upholds it”.
If you’ve ever wondered what a convicted riot organizer does once they’ve been released from prison, Hiscocks’ story (and another we’ll get to shortly) is a great example- she was immediately hired as a volunteer coordinator as a (giving her access to vulnerable youth) at OPIRG’s University of Guelph chapter. There’s no evidence Hiscocks has ever shown regret for her crimes.
Alex Hundert is the militant anarchist of the 1%. He led a privileged childhood with his family sent him to study at the exclusive Upper Canada College- a school that only 2% of Canadians can afford to send their kids to. Somehow, despite his privileged education, Hundert believes that the only way to change the world is to “smash the state”.
As one would expect this hasn’t worked-out well for Hundert. He was sentenced to 13.5 months in addition to his time spent in remand as Hiscock’s co-accused in the G20 conspiracy group. Even after being locked-up Hundert still felt the need to “resist”, resulting in his spending significant time in solitary after trying to radicalise fellow inmates.
Unlike many of his smashy smashy peers, Hundert doesn’t limit his violence and intimidation only to windows. Interviews were filmed of his victims at Occupy Toronto- including a Quaker, a trans woman, a man with a developmental disability. Hundert has got physical with me three times in the past, and a couple with my good friend UndercoverKity- who he once again assaulted at yesterday’s protest.
Trish Mills is both a clear example of how anarcho-revolutionary AgitProp is often an entry drug for self-destructive behaviour. Her journey started when she was arrested for civil disobedience at a Line 9 protest, minor charges she would likely have walked away easy from.
Unfortunately, rather than taking the easy path, Mills decided it was a good idea to be defiant- shouting outbursts in the courtroom and allegedly assaulting a peace officer for good measure. People in her community loved it, totally badass, but more sensible folk cringed- there was no reason for her to do this to herself.
Police attempted to arrest Mills again last summer while she was participating in a near-riot in front of a Toronto police station during one of the two big Sammy Yatim marches. Luckily for her, the police backed-off when the crowd rushed in towards them- scared they might get hurt. As covered a story about the Pan-Am protests published on this site earlier this year, Mills might have been re-arrested in February by the Hamilton Hate Crimes and Extremism Unit.
Sakura Saunders is an American anarchist with a long history of working for foundation funded NGOs. She’s also a cop-magnet who’s been of interest to law enforcement agencies including the US Department of Homeland Security, The RCMP, Toronto police, Guelph Police- and the Canada Border Service Agency who combed through he cellphone the last time she crossed the border into Canada.
When Zach Ruiter recently told UndercoverKity he quit trying to lead protests because “only a few” make any money out of it, it’s very likely he was talking about Sakura. Her anti-mining protests have brought in thousands of dollars from unions & NGOs- both foreign and local. When Ezra Levant interviewed her last year she admitted she’s obtained grants from as far away as Australia, but looked nervous and refused to answer if she’s ever got payments from the TIDES Foundation. Other income sources have included hosting screenings for Cinema Politica, and a PayPal account she uses connected to a US bank account.
In 2011 she and Darius Mirshahi (who she claims she’s legally married to) helped Dave Vasey keep control of Occupy Toronto (and all the cash?). Half way through the protest she and Darius took-off to Cairo– coincidentally (or not), there was an uprising at the very same time. Even more curiously, they spent their time there running around with Ali Moustafa.
Macdonald Scott works with two labour influenced groups- the Molotov Cocktail loving Ontario Coalition Against Poverty and the Law Union of Ontario. His partner Leslie Wood is a sociology professor at York University who, like myself, has spent a lot of time writing about and studying militant activist movements. Both suffer from Peter Pan syndrome and are way too old to be running around the street playing cat & mouse games with the police.
Wood & Scott both took leadership roles during yesterday’s protests- he was helping to marshal the crowd through busy downtown streets, and she was walking around with a walkie talkie communicating with people at other parts of the protest. Scott can be a bit of a bully; he’s tried to block me from walking around in public areas of City Hall, Metro Hall, and two public parks. OCAP leader John Clarke was with him- he was grilled on the stand in court for his part in the attack at City Hall.