(This column was published in the North Shore News on July 3, 2002)

 

Big bucks and cops equals a peaceful summit

 By Leo Knight

CALGARY - By mid afternoon Thursday, Air Force One took off, barely squeaking out in advance of a boiling thunderhead.

 

No sooner had the famous blue aircraft gone "wheels up," when the raindrops, big as gum balls, began pelting down ending the unseasonable heat wave which marked the days of the Kananaskis Summit.

 

Before the American president gained cruising altitude, the discussions began about the nature of security, the cost of it all and why there had been no trouble.

 

In fact, the debate over the success of the actual summit seemed to take a back seat to the issue of security and the so-called peaceful protest.

 

Were one to watch CBC news or read the Toronto Globe & Mail, one might actually believe the reason there was none of the senseless violence which has marked these events the past few years was because the protesters themselves were better behaved. They were even called polite by one national news organization.

 

Stuff and nonsense.

 

In the first place, there were only about 500 to 700 protesters. They included the End Capitalism crowd as well as the Ban the Bomb types, Down with America and just about anything else you could think of.

 

As the protest was taking a break in front of Calgary city hall beneath the shade of some well situated trees, some of the signs seen were, Save Iraq, End Corporate Greed, and a very 60s Che Guevara, done in black on orange.

 

There were several union banners from the Canadian Labour Congress, the Teamsters and assorted other union types hanging around with the masked urban terrorists called the Black Bloc.

 

The caricature of the day had to be the beer-bellied guy with his blue jeans at half-staff displaying a not-so-attractive plumber's butt and wearing a black T-shirt emblazoned with Proud to be Union. Ahem.

 

As the protest moved on toward the federal government building, the main thrust of the group was well ahead of the stragglers, which, as it happened, were the afore-mentioned union crowd who were apparently so pre-disposed to dogging it, they couldn't manage to stay within 200 yards of their own protest.

 

But let me firmly dispel some of the nonsense being dished out by the media.

 

There was little or no communication between the protesters and the police. And not for lack of trying by the authorities, I might add. The police had requested little details such as the planned route the protest march would take so they might block traffic as needed. No such information was forthcoming.

 

The police were forced to run a moving security perimeter, guessing what the protesters might do and reacting with speed to head off the more nefarious elements at the pass, so to speak.

 

In the fore were a couple of dozen Calgary Police Service members and RCMP members on bicycles. They were being directed from the control centre with information being provided by HAWCS, the local police chopper.

 

As the protest group made a move toward a specific "target" as identified by the protest leaders, the police moved in smaller groups, leapfrogging the demonstrators and spreading themselves along the fronts of the buildings housing the so-called targets. Well-rehearsed private security locked down the target buildings making them impenetrable in moments.

 

Behind the scenes and also continuously moving to be immediately available should the Black Bloc manage to get a foothold on one of the targets, were the tactical units of the Calgary Police and the Ontario Provincial Police.

 

The only time any police units other than the bikes came into play, was on the Eighth Avenue pedestrian mall. As the bulk of the protest moved east on the shopping concourse, several of the Black Bloc tried to get into another vestige of corporate greed, McDonald's, apparently trying to attack a Big Mac.

 

Several bike cops immediately placed themselves between the masked thugs and the building. Then, seemingly from nowhere, there appeared a squad of tactical officers dressed in "soft hat," - no helmets or shields - who moved right along and into the faces of the would-be rioters.

 

The Black Bloc tried to push their way past, but to no avail. Behind them were the cameras of the hungry media dying for something to happen in a Summit devoid of news. All around them were more police - on bikes, foot, motorcycles and above all, ready.

 

The police outmanoeuvred those among the protesters who were bent on violence, but had no stomach for the only thing the security forces left to them, a battle in the street while surrounded by a stronger and smarter force.

 

The police, represented by Insp. Redford, of Calgary Police, and a variety of RCMP members led by Chief Supt. Lloyd Hickman, began planning nearly a year ago. The private sector held organizational meetings beginning in early February orchestrated by Glen Kitteringham, senior security manager for Brookfield Properties, who manage the biggest and most prestigious buildings in the downtown core. Together, the public and private partnership managed to eliminate available soft targets for those bent on violence.

 

The majority of protesters, while lacking in logic, were in Calgary to lend their voice to their respective cause, however dubious. But, without question the urban terrorists called the Black Bloc were also there. They tried to get at something on a number of occasions. They were stymied by a well-prepared police and private security force.

 

The security operation for the Kananaskis Summit of the most influential of the world leaders cost more than $100 million. Some might argue it wasn't worth it because the protesters were polite.

 

Understand this: if the police and security forces were not prepared, I guarantee there would have been the same violence which scarred Seattle, Quebec City and Genoa.

 

If we are going to host events like this to maintain our position on the world stage, then this is the cost we must bear. On this occasion, it was expensive, but the good guys won.

 

-30-

 

 

 

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