Tuesday, May 05, 2009

BASICS Condemns Arrests, Police Brutality at May 2 Tamil Solidarity Rally

BASICS Bulletin - 4 May 2009

BASICS Free Community Newsletter condemns the disgraceful conduct of
the Toronto Police Service in its treatment of of the Tamil community
and peaceful demonstrators attempting to join the Tamil rally at the
US consulate on May 2, 2009.

For the last two months the Tamil community has shown exemplary unity
and organization in demanding an end to the genocide of the Tamil
people being carried out by the Sri Lankan government, including the
use of military attacks on civilian targets and the use of chemical
weapons and concentration camps in an attempt to break their movement
for national liberation. The Tamil community has persevered despite
the silence of the Canadian government and corporate media and
undemocratic repression by the Toronto police. In the words of one
demonstrator, "We will not be treated like animals!"

On May 2, thousands of people, both Canadian-born and migrant workers,
marched to call for an end to the racist attacks of the Canadian
government against immigrant communities. After the No One Is Illegal
march ended at City Hall, a large group of marchers continued on to
join the rally organized by the Tamil community at the US consulate.

The police showed no respect for the peoples right to peaceful
assembly and freedom of speech as guaranteed by the Charter of Rights
and Freedoms. Even though there was no violence or even threat of
violence from the side of the demonstrators, police verbally and
physically assaulted the people, calling them "terrorists" and other
insults. The marchers were penned in between metal barricades and
rows of armed riot police, creating a tight bottleneck on one end of
the sidewalk while mounted police on horses assaulted marchers from
the other end. Tamils and non-Tamils alike were brutalized and
crushed together, including women and children. Police even assaulted
a young couple who were only passers-by and were complying with police
instructions to leave the area. The officer grabbed the woman with
both hands and threw her down on the pavement and threatened to arrest
her partner when he attempted to passively intervene.

Two marchers, including a correspondent for BASICS Free Community
Newsletter and a member of the Coalition Against Israeli Apartheid,
were arrested for "disturbing the peace," even though their only crime
was speaking out in defense of the Tamil people and calling for
international solidarity. Footage now posted on YouTube clearly shows
that the CAIA member was arrested simply because he dared to make the
links between the genocide of Tamils in Sri Lanka to the occupation
and apartheid policies imposed on the Palestinian people by Israel and
correctly identifying the Canadian state as being complicit in both of
these international war crimes. Footage also clearly shows that there
was no basis for the arrest and mistreatment of the correspondent from
BASICS at the hands of the Toronto police.

The police have been attempting to break the growing unity between
Tamils and non-Tamils, by spreading rumours to each side that the
others are "trouble-makers." Anyone who views the footage of police
conduct at the demonstration will know the truth: that it is the
police who are the real "trouble-makers!"

As our arrested comrade from BASICS said, "The excessive response
against me – both at the time of my arrest and during the booking
procedure at the police station, was intended to humiliate and
intimidate me and thereby discourage my participation in the Tamil
protests. Needless to say, I will be back at the Tamil protest making
“trouble” as long as the Tamil community will be there."

We will not be intimidated! Our unity will not be broken! BASICS
Free Community Newsletter demands an impartial investigation into the
treatment of demonstrators by the Toronto police, disciplining of any
officers who violated peoples rights, as well as a public apology from
Chief of Police Bill Blair for the disgraceful and cowardly conduct of
his officers. Further, we demand that the Canadian government use any
and all means available to pressure the Sri Lankan government to stop
the genocide of the Tamil people! For more information, contact
basics.canada@gmail.com or visit our website at