Evan Dyer


My day started at about 9 am on the Hull side of the Portage Bridge, where I was posted by CBC National Radio News to follow that contingent (one of three) of the protest. My assignment was to cover the day's protest with live reports, an item on The World This Weekend, and a follow-up item on World Report Sunday morning.

At about 10 am I crossed the Portage Bridge with the protesters. They were stopped about halfway across by a line of Ottawa police in riot uniform who obliged the demonstrators to move through their line one-by-one. They were questioned about what they had in their pockets and backpacks and many of them were searched. I showed my media credentials and my G-20 accreditation and was allowed to pass through the line without search after a brief delay. This was the only time my accreditation worked in the course of the day.

I did not observe any excessive force in this search. However, I did observe what I consider to be illegal searches and seizures, in that they were conducted without apparent probable cause, and items were seized (such as gas masks, bandannas, and bicycle helmets, as well as containers of milk and orange juice) that were private property and could not be described as weapons.

After crossing the bridge the Quebec contingent that I was following turned up Lyon Street, walking in the middle of the road. I followed alongside on the sidewalk. Approaching the intersection with Laurier Street the small Quebec contingent joined up with a much larger crowd traveling eastwards from Lebreton Flats. The two groups continued together down Laurier Street towards the downtown core. The demonstration was at this point entirely peaceful, orderly and even good-humoured. Several pedestrians not involved in the demonstration had stopped to watch and I also saw  people waving from windows in buildings overlooking Laurier street.

There had been no vandalism except for some messages written in chalk on the road. I observed no interference with private property except for two protesters with squeegees who were washing the windows of dirty cars.

As the crowd approached junction of Laurier and Lyon, I saw a detachment of about 20 or 30 OPP riot police straddling Lyon street on the south side of the intersection to bar the crowd from turning out of the pre-arranged route. The march turned as arranged and continued down Laurier past the line of riot police. Again, I observed no acts of violence or any form of threatening behaviour, and I was positioned in such a way that it would have been difficult to miss.

After a couple of hundred marchers had passed, I was approached by the head of CBC's Parliamentary Bureau, David Taylor. He told me that he had overheard police saying that they would move in to the crowd to arrest people who were marching with black flags. I saw a small area in the middle of the column of marchers where about half a dozen black flags could be seen, just approaching the intersection. I moved closer to wait for them and began to record. I was wearing all of my credentials in a highly visible manner and had a six-foot long boom microphone with a CBC flasher on it held clearly above my head throughout this incident. My recording gear was also in plain view, again marked with CBC stickers.

Suddenly and without warning, about 20 riot police with three or four German Shepard dogs charged into the heart of the crowd. There was considerable noise and confusion as people in the crowd scrambled to get out of the way. I saw that police had knocked down three or four protesters. I could not see them properly since each one had two or three officers on top of them. Most of the rest of the riot squad began beating and prodding people with their batons until they could form a ring around the officers who were handcuffing the people on the ground. They were all shouting "Get back, get the fuck back" and hitting people with their batons and shields.

One officer stood in the middle of the ring with what appeared to be a 12-gauge shotgun with a rotating cylindrical magazine. He turned around, pointing the shotgun at the crowd, aiming more or less at knee height. At that moment I noticed a 'low battery' warning on my recorder and reached into my bag for replacements. I found them and was in the act of changing them when I felt a blow on the left back of my head and the back of my left shoulder.

I half turned to see an OPP officer in helmet and riot gear who had in his hand what appeared to be a telescoping, coil-spring metal baton. I said to him "I'm a reporter". He replied "I know," and struck me again on the side of the left shoulder. He then added "Get back. Move. Move" He continued to prod me and hit my microphone boom with his nightstick while I remonstrated with him and asked him his name. He refused to identify himself. He had no nametag but appeared to have the number "05" on the back of his riot helmet. An officer I took to be his commander approached. I told him that the first officer had assaulted me and told him I  wanted to know the officer's name. He replied "Get out of here."

At that point I saw another large commotion on the northwest corner of the intersection, where police appeared to be striking a small clutch of protesters who had sat down. I headed for that area and rolled tape for about one minute. I then moved back towards the south side of the junction. At the southwest corner I was passing on the outside of the ring of riot police when a police dog on a leash lunged at my leg and bit through my trousers. It tore the fabric but did not draw blood.

I again remonstrated with this officer and he replied: "Move. You're going to get bit. You're going to get bit." I ran into this officer again later that day at the intersection of Elgin and Sparks street, when I heard him trying to taunt me from behind a police line. He was making an odd high-pitched voice and repeated several times: "I'm media. I think I'm special .... I'm media, I must be special." It wasn't quite clear to me what he was talking about, except that he seemed to have some kind of general resentment of people who work in the media.

While this officer was certainly unprofessional and frankly even strange, I don't believe he deliberately provoked his dog to bite me. Rather his dog lunged because that is, I presume, what it's been trained to do. The dogbite was the consequence of the decision by his commander to bring the dogs into the crowd. Several people were bitten or had dogs attempt to bite them in the Lyon Street incident. All those incidents I saw involved dogs on the leash and were the consequence of the handlers rushing with their dogs into the heart of the crowd.

My complaints about this incident focus on four areas.

1/. The OPP used indiscriminate force against mere bystanders, including reporters, in order to arrest other individuals in the crowd. This involved pointing guns, beating people with nightsticks, and throwing them to the ground -- and these are not people the police were trying to arrest.

I do not believe the police would use the same tactics to arrest people in a crowd of shoppers in a supermarket or moviegoers at a theatre. The fact that the people they were seeking to arrest had not committed a crime makes this use of force all the more egregious. The action was highly provocative and significantly worsened the mood of the crowd in what had been up to that point a peaceful march.

2/. None of the OPP officers wore nametags that identified them. Moreover they refused to identify themselves when asked. The other three police forces present did not attempt to conceal their identities in the same way. Police in Canada are required by law to identify themselves. One of the consequences of this is that I am in no position to identify the officer who assaulted me with the coil-spring device, and I have little doubt that this was exactly the OPP's intention in concealing its officers' identities from the public.

3/. The use of dogs was entirely different in reality from what I later heard described by Ottawa police spokesman Staff-Sergeant Leo Janveau. He claimed that dogs were at the march as an "officer safety issue" to prevent protesters from leaving the march and attacking police lines. In fact, the OPP brought its dogs straight into the heart of the march, at the run, in a crowd that included people in wheelchairs and children in strollers who were in no position to defend themselves. A TVA cameraman was among those who were bitten by these dogs, with all the consequent hassles of injections and worries about disease.

4/. Although media were required to go to the trouble of registering ourselves and securing official G-20 credentials, police showed no interest in or respect for those credentials. Nor did they prevent reporters from being pushed around and even assaulted by police along with protesters.

I don't believe that police have the right to attack demonstrators. But I find it even more troubling that the OPP seems to believe it has the right to assault reporters who are just doing their jobs.

I was struck by how many reporters' items afterwards turned up in police evidence. One of the gas masks presented by Ottawa police as evidence of the protesters' evil intentions was in fact claimed as his own by one of the reporters present. (It should be said here that a gas mask is protective gear and in no way an unreasonable precaution given the history of tear gas use at anti-globalization protests in the past; protecting one's health is in no way evidence of an intent to harm others.)

Later at the meeting of the police services board police again displayed items seized during the march. Among them was a Sennheiser microphone clearly marked as belonging to CTV News. It had been placed in an evidence bag along with three rocks, in what appeared to be a clumsy attempt to make it look like a weapon. One of the police present told me that it could have been used to hit someone. I find this suggestion ridiculous considering that: a/. At about nine ounces it would make an extremely flimsy club. b/. At a cost of approximately $700 it would also be a very expensive club. c./ I know of no instance in which a CTV reporter has used his microphone to assault police.

Among other 'weapons' on display at this meeting were confiscated video cameras, still cameras, perhaps a dozen pairs of gloves, hats, raingear, backpacks, and personal items such as an unopened bottle of Mylanta antacid. There were few items that could be described as weapons by any stretch of the imagination. Police had also stacked up the wooden sticks that they had removed from protesters' placards. Without the signs they had originally been attached to, they were presented as clubs. This seemed to me a particularly dishonest misrepresentation, since the police knew perfectly well where those sticks had really come from.


In summary, from what I saw the RCMP behaved during the day with considerable calm and professionalism. I observed Ottawa and Toronto police acting in most cases with the same restraint and professionalism. There were some cases of what seemed unnecessary rudeness and hostility toward bystanders who were not involved in the march, and certainly the Ottawa police seemed on several occasions to conduct illegal arrests and searches. But neither police force appeared to lose control or indulge in unnecessary violence.

I witnessed the use of a beanbag shotgun by Ottawa police in response to an attempt to remove a police barricade outside the Chateau Laurier. The firing was preceded by a brief warning, and once the small group of protesters desisted, the police stopped firing. It seemed to me a reasonable and measured use of force by Ottawa police and was not untypical of what I saw at the main police line on Wellington street outside the Chateau Laurier.

The problem was the Ontario Provincial Police. Compared to the other three forces the OPP conducted themselves in a manner that was violent, dangerous, panicky, provocative and unprofessional. They showed no concern for the safety of marchers or bystanders, who included small children. Their concealment of their identities was troubling and illegal. It also prevents people from making the complaints against individual officers that I, for one, would like to make. Since this avenue is not open to me, I believe I have a right to an explanation from the OPP of what occurred at Lyon and Laurier Streets. I would like to know who ordered it and who led it.

Does the OPP believe this is an appropriate way to deal with the media and members of the public who have not committed any offense? Will the OPP continue to conceal their identities at public events in the future? Will dogs be used to attack demonstrators in the future? Will members of the media be targeted in the future? Will there be any consequences from this incident or not? I would appreciate a response to these concerns, as well as an explanation of why the OPP found it necessary to assault me from behind and without warning.


Evan Dyer Reporter CBC Radio