Dr. Dawg

Police state follies: G20 cops get sensitive

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G20 police thuggery.jpg

Criticize cops involved in the G20 debacle? We can now expect to be arrested and face criminal prosecution.

Forget a civil defamation suit—two members of the Ontario Provincial Police, aided and abetted by the Crown Attorney’s office, have chosen the nuclear option, charging a Kitchener activist with criminal defamation.

(More here. Needless to say, this latest assault on the right to dissent has not received much coverage in the corporate media.)

From the Waterloo Record:

Dan Kellar, 29, was recently charged with two counts of defamatory libel by officers in the OPP anti-rackets squad as he left his Kitchener home on a bicycle.

He was also charged with counsel to assault one of the officers.

Police allege he published comments likely to injure the reputation of the officers by exposing them to hatred, contempt or ridicule, or that were designed to insult the officers.

…Kellar says the officers who arrested him are from the same unit that arrested other AW@L members and activists in connection with G20-related allegations.

“The cop who arrested me is the one who’s making all the arrests for conspiracy cases,” he said.

He said police agents began infiltrating activist groups before the summit. The two undercover officers joined AW@L [Anti-War at Laurier, a campus peace group], but were kicked out in the spring of 2010, before the summit, because activists didn’t feel comfortable around them, he said.

…The defamatory libel charges were laid against Kellar after he put out a “community alert” on AW@L’s website, peaceculture.org. Kellar learned one of the officers had been spotted in Toronto, and, “sent out the warning…’suspected infiltrator police agent spotted in Toronto,’” he said.

In the posting, he made comments police allege are defamatory.

Here’s the Criminal Code provision, rarely invoked in this country—until now, I guess:

298 (1) A defamatory libel is matter published, without lawful justification or excuse, that is likely to injure the reputation of any person by exposing him to hatred, contempt or ridicule, or that is designed to insult the person of or concerning whom it is published.

Mode of expression

(2) A defamatory libel may be expressed directly or by insinuation or irony

(a) in words legibly marked on any substance; or

(b) by any object signifying a defamatory libel otherwise than by words.

Note that the bar for a successful criminal conviction (“beyond a reasonable doubt”) is considerably higher than for a successful civil action (“balance of probabilities”).

Kellar’s words might exceed current legal boundaries, although they don’t seem to me to be much more heated than many of the public comments that erupted in the aftermath of the G20 police riot. And, given a recent court ruling, young Kellar may have an ironclad defence in any event—at least for now.

I must at this point remain sceptical of the OPP’s motives: “outing” an undercover officer, with a photo, is more likely at the root of this remarkable arrest. But the latter sets a disturbing precedent for those of us critical—sometimes harshly so—of police actions during the G20, and elsewhere.

For good measure, Kellar has also been charged with counselling assault on a police officer:

He also invited people to “spit in the footsteps” of the officer if they saw him. For that, he is charged with counselling to assault.

Now, hold on a sec. Not “spit on the officer,” but “spit in [his] footsteps,” the rhetorical opposite of “worship the ground he walks on,” something that too many police officers appear to expect from a compliant, forelock-tugging citizenry. Last I heard, footsteps are not part of the body, and are not protected by the Criminal Code.

If this is the rock upon which the Crown is to build a case of counselling assault, one can only wonder at the strength of the criminal libel case, and whether this is simply punishment by process.

But in a free society, we shouldn’t have to wonder.


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This page contains a single entry by Dr. Dawg published on September 13, 2011 11:10 AM.

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