Whenever there is a social movement or a protest, there is always a representation of it in the media. The representation of an event in the media is not by a coincidence; there is usually a certain perspective of the event that is meant to be conveyed to the public by the media. In the G20 Toronto summit more than 20,000 police, military, and security personnel were involved in policing the protests, which had 10,000 protestors, known to be the largest amount it has ever been. There were no deaths reported, besides only three injuries, all of them were inflicted upon the protesters by the police. Over 1,000 arrests were made, making it the largest number of mass arrests in Canadian history. When the news released that there were massive arrests, the public came to the theory that there must have been extreme cases of violence and acts of uncontrollable criminal behavior that eventually lead to these massive arrests. The consumption of this type of news prevents people from questioning the high number of arrests, all due to the way the news is framed and represented in the media.This all automatically conveys a perspective to the audience and portrays a message that the police are just doing their job for the safety of general public (Esmonde 2002).
There is always a specific reasoning for the media to shape events in a certain framework. A perfect example of this is G20; the first image of the event was broadcasted as chaotic and violent protestors who took over the streets of downtown. The main focus was on how the police cars were caught on fire, and how violent protestors are breaking the windows of the stores on the streets of downtown. But there is always two sides to a story, it is unfortunate that that the power dynamics in our society are clearly divided, it is more like the state vs. people involved in dissent/ protesters. Those who refuse to conform to the rules of the state are labelled as deviant and criminals and this label eventually justifies the arrest. This footage was posted online on the day of the event June 27 2010. And all you see is the actions of violent protesters. There is barely any indication of police brutality towards the protestors and most importantly there is absolutely no sign of thousands of peaceful protestors who came out to protest against important issues occurring in the world. In the article “Mass Media Depreciation” Boykoff talks about how the media can be used as a tool to shape a certain perspective of an event towards the public. And how different political forces can come into play to decide what type of news should be delivered to the public and what should be kept in the darkness. “By focusing on some issues and disregarding others, the national mass media influences the standards people use to assess political leaders, candidates, governments, and public policies” (Boykoff 2007:185). However there were few media reports later that did critique the police and realized their excessive use of force towards the protesters as comparison to the first images that was portrayed by the media.
The first article “Memories of Toronto G20 protests still Scar” discusses the tension that took place between both parties the protestors and the authorities. The article states that anyone who fit the characteristics of a suspect would get mobbed by the police officers and arrested. On that day pretty much anyone could have and did come into contact with the authority whether they were at fault or innocent. The author talks about the violence that took place from both parties, from the protesters side there were police cars that were put on fire, windows being shattered on the streets of downtown and on the other side the police officers pretty much arrested anyone they wanted to with the name of the security, which lead to be one of the massive arrest in the Canadian history. “ High-ranking Toronto police commanders overreacted, they unfairly labelled the protestors as “marauding terrorists,” according to the report, used excessive force and ignored the basic rights of citizens under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms” (O’Flanagan 2012). So although there is a sympathetic tone towards the protestors, but the article was published May 18, 2012 which is much later than the actual event that took place and by now it is questionable to whether there will be any affect on the general public by critiquing the authorities or police officers.
The second article “Marin Blasts G20 Police Powers” also has a more critical approach to the police power and how the rights of the protesters had been violated. The province had quietly passed the regulations that gave extra power to police officers which allowed them to arrest protestors who come near certain kilometres to the fence. Not a lot of people were aware of this new regulation, especially because there were no further debates or discussion on this topic, but instead was immediately in place. After the summit it was reported that this extra power was abused by the police officers, who lead to massive arrests and even peaceful protestors became the target and were detained for hours. Once the report came out in public, the police denied any sort of co operation and had denied to give any statement based on this topic; in fact Chief Blair rejected two information requests from the ombudsman’s office (Li 2010). More than 1,000 people were arrested but ultimately were released without any criminal charges being laid. This indicates that the police had abused their power and pretty much had arrested protestors without them being involved in actual criminal activity that is why many were released later without charges.
The third article that was analyzed was “Judge Hammers Police for G20 Crowd Tactics”. This article focuses on an Ontario Judge who criticizes the police tactics used during the G20 summit. The judge believes that the actual violence and criminal behaviour was perpetrated by the police officers that day, not so much by the protestors. He also criticizes the “Kettling” method used during the G20 because it disregards the peaceful protestors and by standers and they end up being the target of this “kettling” tactics used by police. There is a clear indication that the Ontario judge has sympathized with the brutality and unnecessary force that was inflicted towards the protestors during the event. The article also emphasizes that if we are talking about violence, more than the protestors the police were involved in creating the violence and had abused their power by attacking just anyone they felt was considered to be a “threat” which involved many peaceful protestors and by standers.”The zealous exercise of police arrest powers in the context of political demonstrations risks distorting the necessary if delicate balance between law enforcement concerns for public safety and order, on the one hand, and individual rights and freedoms, on the other” stated the judge (Switzer 2011).
The fourth article that was analyzed was “Anatomy of the G20: What went wrong” where the main focus of the article was on the violence of black bloc on the street of downtown during the event. The author has mainly focused on how there were million dollars invested on the security, yet the violence from the protestors was unable to be prevented. “Police had about 5,400 officers working 12-hour shifts in Toronto- yet, a mob using black bloc tactics still managed to elude the security force and catalyze a shift in police tactics literally overnight”. (McLean 2010). The article has excluded any type of peaceful protestors, and has just focused on the few violent protestors who had caused the violence. “In these large events, you’re going to have successes and you’re going to have things that don’t work out perfectly. I’ve said a number of times here, folks, believe me, we don’t think we’re perfect, but our interest was in the safety of the citizens of Toronto.” said Chief Blair (McLean 2010). There was barely any mention of police brutality in the article; instead there were interviews from authority officials who had regrets that they were unable to stop the violence of these protestors and had justified the police actions by stating that their goal was to provide safety for others.
Although some of the articles I mentioned in my analysis were more sympathetic towards the protestors and the authors had had realized that the protestor’s rights were violated by the state/police. But at the end of the day all of these articles have one theme in common which rotates around the notion of violence that took place in the event either be it from police brutality or the few violent protestors. The purpose of the protest was to raise awareness and fight against some of the important issues occurring around the world. Thousand of peaceful protestors who came out to protest were not heard by the world leaders neither did their message come across to the general public because there was barely any media coverage for them. In almost all the protests including G20 the focus becomes violence from other sides, money spent over the security, and how the police had abused their power and so forth, but the underlying issue is still there, where the protestors are there to make a change and bring a difference in the system but their voices and concerns remained unheard.
Boykoff, Jules. 2007. “Mass Media Deprecation.” Pp. 216-47 in Beyond Bullets:The Suppression of Dissent in the United States. Oakland: AK Press.
Colin Perkel and Maria Babbage. 2010. “Protestors Clash with Riot Police.”CP 24. Retrieved December 9th, 2012 (http://www.cp24.com/protesters-clash-with-riot-police-1.526861).
CBC News, CAN. 2010. “G20 Protest Violence Prompts over 400 Arrests.” CBC News Retrieved December 9th, 2012 (http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/story/2010/06/26/g20-saturday-protests.html).
Li, Nda N. 2010. “Marin Blasts G20 Police Powers.” The Windsor Star, Dec 08 (Retrieved from Proquest on December 5th 2012.)
McLean, Jesse and Jennifer Yang. 2010. “Anatomy of the G20: What Went Wrong.” Toronto Star, Aug 21 (Retrieved from ProQuest on December 4th 2012.)
O’Flanagan Rob. 2012. “Memories of Toronto’s G20 Protests Still Scar.” The Guelph Mercury, May 18 (Retrieved from ProQuest on December 4th 2012.)
Switzer, Jane. 2011. “Judge Hammers Police for G20 Crowd Tactics.” Edmonton Journal, Aug 13 (Retrieved from ProQuest on December 3rd 2012.)
Yang, Jennifer and Brendan Kennedy. 2011. “INSIDE the G20 Kettle.” Toronto Star, Jun 25 (Retrieved from ProQuest on December 3rd 2012.)