OPP commissioner leaks video in effort to garner public sympathy
Some serious ethical and political considerations are raised by OPP Commissioner Thomas Carrique’s decision to selectively release police evidence through the OPP’s media platform.
SIX NATIONS – In an increasingly technological world it should come as no surprise that the Ontario Provincial Police have upgraded their surveillance equipment and now use Twitter to put out promotional videos and to announce important information.
The OPP especially loves showing off their new toys. Here for example, they Tweet about how well their air surveillance unit can record high resolution infrared images of “unsanctioned gatherings” in Wassaga beach. The same technology is no doubt used to surveil the inhabitants of #1492LandBackLane as well.
But the recent actions of OPP Police Commissioner Thomas Carrique seem to be of a different, more political nature. On Sunday, October 25th shortly before Onkwehon:we people gathered at the 6×6 Safety Zone and walked down Argyle St to hold a peaceful gathering commemorating the 236th anniversary of the Haldimand Proclamation, the Commissioner decided to release cell phone video footage filmed by an OPP officer from within their vehicle.
The Commissioner leaked a 1:05 minute video and a Tweet which read: “Protestors falsely blamed #OPP for escalation in #Caledonia. Extremely proud of my officers for their professional and measured response to keep the peace & preserve life while under attack. Arrests continue as members take responsible and sustained enforcement approach.”
The video shows two Rotiskenhrakete approaching an OPP officers’ vehicle located at 6th line and Hwy 6 shouting at them to leave, then proceeding to bang on the windows and throw rocks, cracking the front windscreen of the vehicle. While panning across the car, the OPP video captures four faces on the computer console in the vehicle, presumably the faces of people the OPP had warrants out to arrest.
According to witnesses at the 6×6 Safety Zone, when the OPP Cruisers refused to leave, five more vehicles pulled up and started shooting “less than lethal” rounds. Officers then unsuccessfully attempted to chase down the Rotiskenhrakete who had damaged their vehicle.
Eyewitnesses told Real People’s Media that, “five more cops suddenly showed up. They came out of their cars wielding weapons, and they opened right up on them.” Multiple rounds of rubber bullets were fired in the direction of the 6×6 camp, with bullets hitting the fence around the perimeter, and one bullet hitting the fire barrel. The OPP were then driven off the site, fires were lit, and barricades went up again.
Why did this happen?
The outcome of October 22nd was entirely predictable. Indeed, OPP Superintendent John Cain, the Regional Commander for the West Region of the OPP, indicated as much in his Oct 5th affidavit to Judge Harper. Cain’s affidavit is worth quoting at length:
“The OPP continues to engage in operational planning for removal of the protesters on McKenzie Meadows. This is a complicated process. As seen from the reaction to the enforcement activity on August 5, 2020, the OPP has to also prepare for an almost inevitable backlash to such action.
The past history of disputes in the Caledonia area make it very likely that protesters will respond with violence and further blockades, which would likely cause property damage to goods and infrastructure and interrupt the free flow of traffic on highways and rail lines. There is also a significant risk of injury to police officers, protesters or members of the public, not only in the course of enforcement activities but in its aftermath.
There could also be sympathy protests, blockades and occupations in other parts of Ontario or Canada that could cause significant property and economic damage. The situation remains tense and volatile.
The OPP’s belief that enforcement action will cause a significant backlash and likely result in violence is not only based on historical precedent, but also its own intelligence and information-gathering and risk assessments.
While I am not prepared to advise of the source of that information or to share the risk assessments, I can advise that some of the protesters have access to weapons. I also believe, based on the information available to me, that protesters have access to incendiary devices and may use them in the event of an operation to forcibly remove protesters.
I further believe that critical infrastructure such as railways, bridges and hydro stations may be attacked and damaged in retaliation for the use of force by the police.“Affidavit of OPP Superintendent John Cain, the Regional Commander for the West Region of the OPP
Immediately after Judge Harper made his injunction against the #landbackers permanent, paving the way for further police enforcement, the OPP arrived at the “backdoor” to #1492LandBackLane – the Hwy 6 and 6th line intersection where the 6×6 Safety Camp is located with the intention of making arrests.
This location is one of the most strategic in the current standoff. Whoever controls it secures the main way for people and supplies to get in and out of #1492LandBackLane, and also controls the main roads going into Caledonia and Six Nations.
The Onkwehon:we want their #LandBack, and will not allow corrupt politicians to pave the land for new suburbs; this much is clear. So it is no surprise that the Rotiskenrakete did their job in driving the OPP off Proclamation land. Rather than simply leaving, the officers called for backup, and that backup arrived pointing guns, shooting tasers, and firing “less than lethal” projectiles into the 6×6 Safety Camp. This escalation produced the exact same results as it did on April 20th, 2006 and August 5th, 2020: the OPP were driven away, and barricades were put up to stop them from returning.
Superintendent John Cain was correct, things played out exactly as he predicted. And nobody on the Six Nations side was terribly surprised either. So what was the OPP top brass thinking, and what does Commissioner Carrique’s releasing of the video mean for the current situation?
Video raises troubling questions
The OPP is now posting selective pieces of evidence in what it considers “active criminal cases” but which are actually nation-to-nation treaty conflicts to social media. This is occuring in a context where Crown representatives have abdicated their responsibilities to negotiate a peaceful resolution to the issue.
The OPP video of the confrontation at 6×6 has now been viewed over 1.7 million times and has gone viral. #1492LandBackLane spokesperson Skyler Williams has indicated that recent threats of violence and escalation from non-natives have sky-rocketed since the release of the video.
According to Williams, “I think it’s really despicable content that you show a one-minute clip out of context. That was just following rubber bullets being fired at people, a guy getting Tasered,” he said in a media conference held on Monday. “These are the tactics that we’re used to seeing from not just the OPP, but police in general, across the country when it comes to dealing with people of colour. This is why Black Lives Matter is the way it is. This is why Indigenous standoffs are happening across the country,” Williams added.As Lawyer Sarah Dover Tweeted: “Still not convinced about the presence or magnitude of racism in Canada? Search for “@OPPCommissioner” and read the replies to the video that Ontario’s top cop posted inflaming anti-indigenous sentiment in the middle of critical incident involving indigenous rights.”
The fact that the video was released from the Commissioner’s account indicated that the decision to do so came right from the top. With the OPP now releasing selective evidence from an ongoing land dispute does this mean the OPP is now a media organization playing at politics?
Did the OPP show up to 6×6 on October 22nd to show Judge Harper that they were making immediate efforts to enforce the injunction and make arrests? If so, why would the OPP rush into such an action mere hours after the injunction was made, and thereby disregard its own policies for “critical incidents” and the recommendations of the Ipperwash Inquiry?
Or perhaps, the OPP officers involved knew exactly what would happen and wanted to ensure that they continue to make overtime in “Cashedonia”, as it was referred to by rank and file officers in 2006. Afterall, according to its website the OPP has 5,800 uniformed officers, 2,400 civilian employees and 830 Auxiliary officers, for a total staff of 9,030. Of that staff, over half – 5,062 – made the Province’s “Sunshine list” by earning more than $100,000 a year in salary.
Could the OPP’s actions on Oct 22nd just be a way of making sure that genocide continues to pay? And the video an attempt to portray them as victims rather than the instigators of conflict that they really are?