Agents Provocateurs

This week, at the North American Leaders Summit in Montebello, Quebec, 3 undercover police officers pretended to be protesters in an attempt to provoke violent incidents. The entire series of events was captured on video, and shared via YouTube. The cops are the three goons with bandanas over their faces. None of the real protesters wore disguises. One of the cops is carrying a rock.

Agents Provocateurs with a rock

Agent provocateur with a rock in his right hand.

The real protesters intervene, trying to prevent violence. Somehow, they realize that the agents provocateurs are cops, and accuse them of that. The fake protesters stop dead in their tracks, and one of them can be seen leaning over and talking with one of the uniformed riot police – over the riot shield – and shortly afterward, the three “protesters” are yanked out, “arrested” and carried to the safety of the police side of the line.

The Quebec Provincial Police have admitted that the 3 “protesters” were cops in disguise.

Elizabeth May, leader of the Green Party of Canada (and, one can only hope, future Prime Minister of Canada) wrote a description of the event on her blog (the Green website is Drupal, by the way…) Similar events allegedly happened in Seattle and Quebec City. Police either staging or allowing violence in order to justify cracking down on protesters.

This is unacceptable. I expect all police officers involved in this action to be summarily fired. And the entire chain of command, up to whoever ordered this. We can’t stand for our police forces to be instigating violence. Thankfully this didn’t happen this time. But it was damned close.

As a Canadian citizen, I demand an inquiry. I demand it to be public and open. And I expect for this to never, ever happen again. We are above this.

What scares me is this – what would have happened without YouTube to get the video out? There was video taken at Seattle and Quebec City, but it stayed on analog tape and didn’t get as widely circulated. This is why “Web 2.0” is important. Never mind personal publishing for cat blogging, and ego surfing and identity management. The reason Web 2.0 is changing the world is by putting the power back into the hands of individuals. Democracy is mass media, in action.

34 thoughts on “Agents Provocateurs”

  1. D’Arcy,
    Thanks for blogging this-
    it’s good to know that it’s not only our country that’s gone nuts.
    And you are right- Web 2.0 can change the way politics works. No more making excuses long after the fact on why you voted one way or another- we’ll be able to look back at your blog- and see what you said the day you cast your vote. We won’t have to depend on the media-
    just as a side note- not all people protesting wearing masks are bad:

  2. @David: I agree – there are lots of scenarios where anonymity is important to protect protesters. These guys stood out, however, as the only three protesters wearing masks. And police-issue boots. And carrying rocks.

    ps. that was a very cool and ballsy thing you did. good on ya. Glad you didn’t wind up eating the legal costs! Many people (including myself) are vocal about these issues, but few actually put the pedal to the metal as you did. Huge kudos.

  3. D’Arcy, I wish I could be as shocked, but this is standard operating procedure at protests these days. You’re right, it’s great that it got caught on tape (yeah Maude!) and that the tape can get out there through YouTube. Maybe that will make a small difference. But as the saying goes, if you’re not outraged, you’re not paying attention.

  4. I really hope the shock doesn’t wear off. This is despicable. On top of that, the QPP says their agents were discovered when they refused to throw rocks at the police. Except the video clearly shows the exact opposite. They inserted agents to initiate violence, then lied to make it sound less evil. We can’t stand for this. It has nothing to do with the issues, or even the protesters. It has to do with the integrity of the police. If they do this, what other underhanded things are being done? Entrapment? Trumped up charges? etc…

  5. We need an apology from Harper! There also needs to be laws to prevent this sort of behavior from the police. It’s disgusting that modern democracy in one of the most peaceful countries in the world has come to this!

  6. D’Arcy-
    The first time I donned the hood- it cost me business, a ton of lawyers bills, and 2.5 years of limbo while the courts kept ruling in my favor. Final settlement was $100K with most going to lawyers.
    A public that stands idly by while the government oversteps it’s bounds will be trampled. Keep publicizing when the government forgets that it works for us- otherwise- all hope is lost.
    People still don’t get the message I was trying to communicate-
    but in this case- it’s clear- the cops were the criminals- and things need to change.
    The more people that know about this – the better.
    My original choice to don a mask was in protest of secret meetings where they discussed ways to keep the citizens off the Televised commission meetings- it was long before 9/11- yet I still had called the police chief the night before to warn him.

  7. David, the problem with donning the hood is that you can easily become a target. Here in Canada Jaggi Singh has been detained a number of times by CSIS and has been video tapped continuously, but never charged. You can also expect that his phones have been tapped, etc. The authorities in Canada are not nearly as bad as others, but still the fact that they’re willing to exhibit this sort of behavior lets us know exactly what sorts of games they are willing to play. Purely civil matters are one thing, but when you get into this protesting/terrorism mess which the authorities are attempting to tie together these days, you better be prepared to pay the price of continuously having your phone tapped, even to the point that you cell phone is turned on so they can eavesdrop on your conversations. Anything from the conversations may be used against you to get a warrant and search you house, if they don’t find anything, well their bad — while you get the stigma attached with being that “type” of person. Your website/blog will continuously be monitored, etc. I personally choose not to get in to the mess because I got a taste of it — I don’t have the resources to defend myself if something goes awry, or the authorities overstep their bounds which these days are drawn in the sand. What we need is a pool of monetary resources to bring legal action and marketing when something like this happens — and make as many test cases as possible until the authorities agree that the citizens are not willing to take this sort of harassment when they exercise their rights. In the end the authorities don’t understand the implications of what they’re doing, because they feel that the rules don’t apply to them or that their cause is too great for our petty rights. That is until the day when they do and then either it’s too late or they just wave their credentials and walk away. Short of that, any individual wanting to don the hood better be prepared to pay a damn right high price, especially if they have done nothing whatsoever wrong. It’s definitely a moral cause with little reward, in the world of easy money, easy gratification, very few people will bother risking their rights and freedoms to protect the commons until everyone’s rights and freedoms are gone.

  8. I think I’ll dress up like a Mountie and go throw rocks at some traffic cops. Then we’ll all enjoy a hearty laugh together!

  9. Brain, I believe impersonating a federal officer is a felony in many areas and may include: imprisonment up to five years (sometimes more), fines (usually $1000 or more), probation, permanent criminal record. So yeah with all of your cell mates, perhaps you will enjoy a hearty laugh 🙂

  10. Stockwell Day gets in front of a microphone to say the moles were discovered because they refused to throw rocks. The police must have video footage of the entire event, from multiple angles. Put that footage on YouTube, Stockwell. Don’t just recite a QPP press release. Show us the facts.

    @Brian: I think your Elvis glasses would give away the disguise 🙂

    @Sami: worth it? yeah. maybe not…

  11. Wow! Under “Ways to Make Your People Distrust You”, this ranks pretty high. I’m not a Canadian citizen, but I can easily see the American police doing the same. I’m sure going to be more careful next time I protest … Good luck Canadian activists!

  12. Join the camcorder truth Jihad, video tape anything and everything that looks suspicious or interesting. Just like the peeping willy episode of simpsons it makes the world a better place. Curb some of the police fascism at least.

  13. Under the Criminal Code of Canada it is a crime to impersonate with the intention of causing disadvantage or harm to others. It is also fraudulent misrepresentation, deceit and falsehood to act under false pretenses. The Rule of Law applies equally to all regardless of their position in life, whether they are a cop, politician or citizen.

    The Canadian Criminal Code defines the charge of impersonation as:

    Personation with Intent

    403. Every one who fraudulently personates any person, living or dead,

    (a) with intent to gain advantage for himself or another person,

    (b) with intent to obtain any property or an interest in any property, or

    (c) with intent to cause disadvantage to the person whom he personates or another person, is guilty of an indictable offence and liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding ten years or an offence punishable on summary conviction.

    R.S., 1985, c. C-46, s. 403; 1994, c. 44, s. 27.

    What does the Rule of Law mean? “It means that everyone is subject to the law; that no one, no matter how important or powerful, is above the law — not the government; not the Prime Minister, or any other Minister; not the Queen or the Governor General or any Lieutenant-Governor; not the most powerful bureaucrat; not the armed forces; not Parliament itself, or any provincial legislature… If anyone were above the law, none of our liberties would be safe.”

    With the Rule of Law in full focus is it unreasonable for citizens to question the validity of police impersonating “with intent to cause disadvantage” and wonder if the reverse circumstance were true, where a citizen was impersonating a police officer, would they not be quickly brought before a court of law and charged? It should not be left to fellow policemen to determine whether these “undercover” cops were committing criminals acts or not, but it is up to a court of law. And, citizens should not be left to ponder and/or question the double standard implied when the Rule of Law is seriously bent.

    Cops, posing as protesters, Agents provocateurs, are hard infiltrators. Hard infiltration is the attempt to disrupt, subvert, provoke, prevent or otherwise interfere with a citizen’s right to protest. Agents provocateurs belong to a police state. Civilized societies outlaw them and, if created by a rogue police force, prosecute them vigorously in order to defend democracy.

    The right to peaceful protest is a cornerstone of our democratic society. Impersonation is not.

  14. This incident is discussed again and again, but nowhere are the names of the officers mentioned. Who ordered the action? Who was in charge of the police? Who were the officers?
    Without this information, nothing can be done.


  15. “without information, nothing can be done”…….well that’s how cops “serve&protect”….by performing illegal acts using plausible deniability to
    hide their actions…guess that’s why they are pigs. The Kossack

  16. Remember Rodney King? No one could possibly forget the LA riots that followed. History would have turned out very different if a witness didn’t have the presence of mind to grab his personal video camera. Now, sadly, history repeats itself. The difference? Today society should have learned its lesson. Even if that takes time yet, video cameras and now YouTube are a citizen’s best method of protecting democracy.

  17. The availability of cheap and decent quality video cameras, and an immediate and wide-reaching means of sharing the results (i.e., YouTube, etc.) is probably the best thing that has been done for the beloved illusion of democracy and free speech.

  18. Even if you had a camera and got video, which we did in this case, even with the evidence what is being done that is effecting change? They didn’t apologize, they didn’t say that they wouldn’t do it again… In fact they justified their actions! If the situation was reversed there would be 4-6 individuals being charged with a felony. So what?? You can make idiots of them by putting it all over the news, but that’s seems to be the limit of our ability, even with the evidence. This “blogactivism” was recently criticized by Colbert, and I think that he’s absolutely right, without protests and really taking up the cause, in the end we’re just the choir preaching to ourselves. We’re not a concern if they simply ignore us.

  19. @sami: I’ve been thinking about that for awhile now. Venting on a blog isn’t the same thing as marching in a protest. I can vent all I want here, to no effect.

  20. I’ve joined a fair number of marches, some huge (350,000+ at an anti-Iraq War march in London) but am hard pressed to think of an instance when it accomplished an objective. The most dedicated political activists I know usually say the main tangible benefit of marches is to improve morale of the disgruntled, to give people a sense that they are not alone in their displeasure. A secondary benefit is drawing some attention to an issue. I figure blogging should be able to perform both of those functions just as ineffectually as marching.

    But add me to the list of people appalled at the impunity with which the cops and the Harper government (who seemed to enjoy baiting the protestors with snarky remarks and those ludicrous surveillance cameras so “the protests could be heard”) flout the law. But the great majority of people are apathetic dumbshits, which gives authoritarian criminals all the immunity they need.

  21. Pingback: Sami Khan
  22. D’Arcy-
    Your venting does make a difference- Stephen Colbert’s rant aside-
    That incident would have slipped right by me here in the USA where our news has been turned into McNews- and the rest of the world doesn’t matter. Sometimes, it only takes one connection- to tip off a chain of events, like fax being leaked- which is what started my protest.
    None of us know what that one thing is- but, if we share our thoughts- somehow, those connections get made.
    Sure- it’s not the same as protesting- but, thanks to this thread- I saw Sami’s response with the Colbert report on the tasered protester-
    which I had read about on another blog- it all connects.
    Give it time. It’s a step to a better future.

  23. @David: Perhaps there is a thresholded that has to be crossed before people care enough to take to the streets or stand up for their rights and the rights in public and we’re helping reach that threshold by venting? I mean, I do think that it does make some difference, it may be (much) better than saying absolutely nothing, and perhaps it could be used much more effectively? Maybe we need a flash protest?

  24. Sami-
    “In Germany, they came first for the Communists, And I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Communist;

    And then they came for the trade unionists, And I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a trade unionist;

    And then they came for the Jews, And I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Jew;

    And then . . . they came for me . . . And by that time there was no one left to speak up.”

    At some point- it becomes relevant. If the gap between rich and poor continues to grow in the US- eventually there will be an uprising- as the financial system falls apart-
    but, until then – many will sit and think- oh, this doesn’t apply to me.
    If enough people say- there is a different way- change happens-
    so we need to keep making our chirps.
    Protests aren’t that effective either- Fahrenheit 911 showed protests during Bush’s coronation ceremony (no, that isn’t a typo) and we never saw any of it on the news…
    Just keep speaking the truth- hopefully, it will set us all free.

  25. @David: I wonder if anyone here has any theories about how change actually works, and how to be more effective in effecting change. Speaking the truth, when you have a little voice and the liars have megaphones, isn’t really all that effective. To me in many ways it’s a question of efficiency, if you have that many people and a decent amount of resources in terms of time and labour, how is that effort best spent in actually preventing authoritarianism or other evils? Can we shame politicians in to not being authoritarians or keep them from getting elected by marketing the fact that their policies verge on authoritarianism? How can we best utilize our voices to effect change? An unfocused effort or an ineffective effort is a waste of time, and this to me seems to be a standard business problem. We’re in the business of keeping the country running well, protecting our rights and liberties, and preventing authoritarians from ruling the world. We have probably a few hundred thousand employees in that effort. How can we best utilize these resources to make change? Actually I am going to fork this topic to my blog and then try to come up with a better understanding of what we’re trying to accomplish and what are some effective means of doing that… Make it a sub-project of my overcrowded life.

  26. I think much of it is related to our society’s extremely strong aversion to risk. Big Media won’t speak the truth, out of risk of losing advertisers, as well as possibly losing access to the newsmakers (white house dropping press credentials or access to the presidential press room).

    Individuals can’t/won’t speak out en masse, out of risk of losing employment, or worse. The implied threat of terrorism watch lists likely has much to do with this – if you protest, you get added to a List. Add to the fact that there are “free speech zones” at major events. Pres. Bush in town? You are free to protest, within the confines of this defined area, well away from the press and the Pres. Protest anywhere else, and you might win a free trip to Cuba.

    Freedoms have been surrendered willingly by the people of Canada and the US, initially out of fear (we’re doing this to stop the evil terrorists. you don’t support the terrorists, do you? then shut up already!), and then because they don’t know any better.

    It’s even more surprising that the US population, with “Live Free or Die” bumper stickers on their pickup trucks, are so passively handing over their civil rights to a government (both elected and shadow) of possible war criminals. The right to bear arms isn’t about defending your home from burglars, it’s about having the power and ability to take down a corrupt and authoritarian government.

    Having said that, I get to see how many watch lists I’ve been added to first hand, as I travel to Utah next week…

  27. They will be keeping a record of everything you are carrying, what you are reading, where you are going, and who you are staying with:
    But yes the free bloggers are open to all sorts of questioning and spying. How is this surveillance/data gathering different from a criminal record? They may use it against you to deny you your basic rights and freedoms, entry into a country, or even use it to deport you to Syria. There is a music professor in the US that they’ve simply denied a visa to and they won’t say why, she’s on unpaid leave at the school she teaches at down there. There is a DHS officer who has been using the system to keep an eye on his ex-girlfriend. I mean all of this amounts to psychological torture and increasing paranoia about what you can or can not say without being branded. If this is not psychological warfare against the public, I don’t know what is… and not knowing about it only makes things more difficult.

  28. None of the real protesters wore disguises?

    Why in the world would you say that? You have the high ground.

    The video showed several protesters wearing hoods and only one of them removed theirs in front of the cops.

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