The OMG-20: In defence of Officer Bubbles

Question: Was the video of Officer Bubbles "doctored"? Did someone try to deliberately portray the police in a bad light to further their own cause? Has this video single-handedly given protesters the proof that police acted incorrectly?

In the claim put forward by Adam Josephs, he states that the arrest of Courtney Winkels occurred sometimes after the "bubbles incident" and that arrest was not connected to the "bubbles incident".

I just have to shake my head. The G20 is not going away. The minor has been elevated to the major; the simple has turned into the complicated and the big picture has been totally lost in everyone’s personal, individual view of the event.

To recap
The G20 took place from Thursday, June 24 until Sunday, June 27, 2010.

I live in downtown Toronto right at the corner of Beverley and Queen. I was witness to just about everything. If I wasn’t out in the streets, I was glued to CP24 while watching things unfold from my balcony which overlooks the corner of Beverley and Queen. I toured the downtown core at various times throughout the weekend to see firsthand what had taken place and took both still pictures and video of what was going on. In other words, this is not the opinion of some armchair general; I was there!

Here is my (brief) account of what I saw during the OMG-20. Each link takes you to the full article; I provide a pertinent tidbit under the link.

Friday, June 25 : I’ll show you

It’s the G20 summit. Canada has spent over a billion dollars to put it and the G8 together including the tightest security ever seen in Canada. Terrorism is very much on everyone’s minds.

Dave Vasey is asked by a policeman to show some I.D. He refuses. Dave Vasey is arrested.

Dave Vasey in his picture looks to be under 30. I am 57. I understand the need for security. I understand the threat of terrorism. I understand the strong possibility of protests turning violent. If the police ask me for my identification, I am going to produce it forthwith and without hesitation. Dave Vasey now has to appear in court on July 28; I know I would receive a courteous "Thank you very much sir" and I would be on my way. Besides, I am not going down to the security fence; I am certainly not going to stand within the 5 metre limit of the fence and I am not going to by any stretch of the imagination decide to test my democratic freedom in front of somebody charged to ensure the safety of these important dignitaries from gawd only knows what threats. Canada is a truly great place to live but standing in front of a policeman dressed in riot gear armed to the teeth is not the time or the place to change the world; it is just downright foolish.

Do I have rights? Do we have rights? Does Dave have rights? The answer is a resounding yes. But for heaven’s sake, pick the right time and the right place.

Saturday, June 26 : I’m shocked. Here?

At one point, there was a line of riot police just outside our window. My wife and I stood partly on our balcony watching the confrontation live while watching our TV to see what the cameraman in the street was filming live right at the front of the line. I can hear a young lady and a young man yelling at a single policeman about needing to be heard, about social injustice and such. Is this the time and place?

Somebody in the crowd throws an object. I watch this "thing" arc out of the crowd and fall beside a policeman. Scary, and of course the police as a whole react by moving forward and pushing the crowd back. What the heck did that accomplish? Each one of the uniformed police is an individual like you or me probably apprehensive if not scared of being confronted by a crowd which seems unorganized and on the verge of descending into anarchy.

Is this the time and the place to "storm the Bastille"? Canada is one of the best countries in the world. Don’t get me wrong; things are not perfect. Nevertheless, there is a time and a place for everything and there is a method of making your voice heard. Want to change the world? Run for election. Don’t like how the system is being run? Change the rules but legitimately. Be part of the solution; don’t be part of the problem. Smashing a storefront window will not affect the outcome of the G20. Yelling at a single cop dressed in riot gear is not the time or the place to make a point.

Sunday, June 27 : It’s over

I remain myself quite miffed at watching police cars burning, police cars that I helped pay for with my tax dollars. I am ticked at watching my own neighbourhood set upon by masked men randomly smashing windows. I am cross at those I saw yelling at the police as if the police are somehow the enemy.

The Aftermath, the Afterthoughts

Several times I heard protesters chanting. Some group leader yells, "Whose streets?" and the crowd replies "Our streets". Sorry folks, this is my street. Now go home.

Complete photos and videos

My take on things
We can debate how serious the situation was, how much the situation had degenerated but one thing was clear to me; this was an unusual security situation for Canada and Toronto. As a consequence, I for one am going to pick the time and place to protest and demand that my rights be respected. When the police are on high alert, when the Black Bloc torch cars, vandalize property and steal, I don’t think I should be expecting anybody to make a fair distinction between me and anybody else in the street. If I stand in a duck pond and a flock of ducks land beside me, I don’t think I should complain if a hunter opens the blind, fires off a round and I end up with an ass full of buckshot.

Julian Ichim
May I remind everybody that before the G-20, social activist Julian Ichim and the group Sense of Security announced to the media their intention to tear down the security perimetre fence. Talk about throwing down the gaunlet. On the Monday before the G-20, June 21 the group temporarily occupied the Esso gas station at the corner of Dundas and Jarvis. Is it any wonder that those in charge of security for the G-20 tightened up their plans to keep the conference safe from outside interference? On a personal note, I have no idea what Mr. Ichim hoped to accomplish. The outcome of his announced plans, his actions and his subsequent arrest is that he looks more like a nutbar than a concerned citizen.

I would also remind you of Julian’s girlfriend, Kelly Rose Pflug-Back. She was accused of being one of the organizers of "Black Bloc" tactics responsible for $250,000 in damage to Toronto storefronts and police cruisers during the summit. She was facing 13 criminal charges including conspiracy, intimidation of a police officer and obstruction of justice plus seven counts of mischief over $5,000.

Here’s what I personally witnessed during the G-20:
A young man armed with a stick which I think was used to hold up a flag… maybe? Maybe the stick was a weapon; I don’t know. In any case, I watch the riot police line up to block the street. Each is wearing armoured vests and, a helmet and is carrying a riot baton and a shield. This young man is in front of a crowd poking the shield of one of the riot cops. I watch him do this over and over while yelling at this particular policeman.

To this young gentleman: Are you out of your freakin’ mind? You weight about 170 (77 kg); that cop weighs about 225 (102 kg). How long do you think you can poke anybody before they get ticked? Do you think the Charter of Rights and Freedoms includes poking riot police in the middle of a protest which has shamefully gotten out of control, been hijacked by nefarious elements and now includes the burning of several police cars? You are, sir, a gawddamn moron. If you got your ass kicked, you deserved it.

In another confrontation, I watch a couple around 20 years old standing in front of a crowd screaming at the top of their lungs about the f**kin’ pigs and they have rights, blah, blah, blah. You people have confused the right to protest with the right to behave like an a-hole. I am ashamed to consider you people fellow Canadians. If it had been up to me, I would have the lot of you, a bunch of petulant unruly youth off to bed without your supper.

From my balcony, I watched a crowd being held back by a line of mounted policemen. All of a sudden, an object thrown by an unknown arcs out over the crowd and hits a policeman atop a horse knocking him off his mount to the ground. Shameful. And you wonder why the police get a little hot headed? Just how long do you think you can poke the lion before it puts out its paw and slaps you silly if not leaves a line of claw marks across your chest?

Officer Bubbles
Now that I’ve set the stage, let’s look at the "bubble incident".

The following video shows a young lady persistently blowing bubbles at the cops. If this had been a family picnic and this woman did that to me, I would have gone along with the gag… to a point. Sooner or later, I would have gotten irritated and asked her to stop… politely at first, then… [ominous growl]

The Real News: video of the bubble incident

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PGMTm3QRwEc
N.B. See the blog at the bottom of Michael Murray about the video clip. Was it doctored?

But here we are in the middle of a protest which at times has turned into a riot… literally. This is not, I repeat this is neither the time nor the place to be screaming about your rights. You all have forgotten that there people on the other side of those badges; people just like you and me who have a job to do and are probably just as edgy as everybody else about things getting out of hand.

Bubble girl is being a brat, just as plain and as simple as that. If it had been my daughter, I would have spanked her. I don’t care if it was a stick, a stone or just simple bubbles, this lady was deliberately trying to provoke the police. Like the guy poking the riot cop’s shield with a stick, like the couple yelling "f**kin’ pigs" at the police, like the person who threw something at the mounted policeman, this was a deliberate attempt to provoke the cops. And guess what? She succeeded. There is a time to protest; there is a time to shut up.

The Real News: Fair coverage of the bubble incident

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GP_LB_ZhcTA
My assessment
All of this is quite unfortunate. The setting of the G20 was tense for everybody; nerves were frayed and many were quite on edge. Did the police go too far? Sometimes, I’m sure they did but what everybody forgets is that the protesters went too far. Now individual protesters will say, "I didn’t torch the police cars. I didn’t vandalize the stores. I didn’t steal anything." Maybe so, but if you’re standing in the middle of a riot, don’t whine to me that you got hurt. You can’t stand out in the rain and not expect to get wet. Everybody gets wet, no exceptions.

To all the innocents out there who want to exercise their right to protest: You were hijacked by the Black Bloc. Nefarious elements, dubious characters with their own agenda invalidated the legitimacy of your protest. But I saw enough of supposedly legitimate protesters misbehaving that I have to shake my head in disbelief when you protest about being mistreated or arrested. What in heaven’s name did you expect? There’s a riot going on; did you not think there might be collateral damage?

I want to protest
Hey, so do I. But you tell me what an effective way of doing it is?

Harper decided the G20 should be held in downtown Toronto. Harper decided to spend over one billion dollars. Harper has made decisions which all of us want to protest. Okay, why is he in power? What have you personally done to get him out of power? Did you vote? Did you campaign against him? Did you write letters? Did you contact your own MP to protest?

I see you out in the street in front of my home… yes MY HOME and the results resemble some sort apocalyptic movie like Mad Max. We are here because Harper is in power. Just what the heck have you done to stop this? Okay, you show up to march but did you do any of the things I just mentioned? Harper is in power. Somebody has voted for him. He didn’t end up being Prime Minister all on his own. You want to protest the injustices of Canada? Well then, get Harper out of office! But ya ain’t gunna do that marching in front of my house yelling about the f**kin’ pigs. Your behaviour in no way constitutes a legitimate, viable protest which could in any way be construed as an effective means for social change. On the Saturday, I walk by what looks to be a typical suburban Mom about 35 years old. She is wearing a black T-shirt on which I read, "F**k Canada". Oh how charming.

Isn’t it comical?
We like law and order. We like the police. We want them to deal with the bad apples. Unfortunately, it sometimes is a tad difficult distinguishing the good apples from the bad apples and… oh, now you are screaming bloody murder, police brutality, overstepping their authority. Geeze all that after I watch several cop cars set on fire, windows smashed, stores looted, etc. There is an unruly mob running around the downtown core but when it comes down to you getting arrested, now all of sudden the police have to magically be selective, constantly be polite to every individual and treat you with kid gloves. Okay, would the guilty party who threw the object and knocked the mounted policeman off his horse please step forward?

The cartoons

 
Here’s a link to one of the cartoons. Links to other cartoons are to the right. Please keep in mind that this link may disappear but you may be able to find others searching for the words "Officer Bubbles".

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PtnLDVqSvCI
[sigh] I guess it’s inevitable. Now that the G20 is over; now that we have moved on; now that we take the incident, remove it from its context of the weekend of riots and look at the big bad cop versus the sweet innocent girl, it all looks so ridiculous. In that light, it was inevitable somebody would do something like this, create cartoons ridiculing the cop in question. [chuckles] You will note that nobody looks at the woman and considers her to be a brat.

So now the policeman is trying to sue YouTube to take down the cartoons. Of course, somebody likes a challenge so as soon as the cartoons came down, somebody posted them again. Is this true that the constable in question has received death threats over this? Has anybody phoned up the woman and threaten to spank her? She was being an annoying. Some punishment is warranted. [I wag my finger]

Folks, let’s get a grip. Don’t we have far greater issues to deal with? Global warming? Economic turndown? This whole affair has just gotten completely out of hand. Yes, Officer Bubbles seems to have over-reacted if I look at the video. However if I look it in the context of the entire summit, I am willing to cut the guy some slack. My advice: drop the suit, move on. And for the rest of you? Quit ragging on him!!!

But… Let’s look at the other side of the coin.

The Bubbles Girl: Courtney Winkels

 
You are an idiot. You are a brat. You deserve to be spanked. Just like Dave Vasey who was arrested for refusing to show his I.D. (the charges were subsequently dropped), you pick the wrong time and the wrong place to test the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. If you are in a secure area and there is a riot or even the threat of a riot, that is neither the time nor the place to go out of your way to provoke anybody especially the police. You are not asking for trouble, you are begging for it.

I repeat what I said earlier. You want to protest? Vote. Campaign. Contact your local MP. Write parliament. And if you do take to the streets, be respectful. Be respectful of the police who are charged with maintaining order and who are charged with maintaining the peace… in "my" neighbourhood. Don’t break my windows; don’t vandalize my stores and please don’t set cars on fire in the street next to my home. If the Black Bloc shows up again; distance yourself… quickly. Make sure you demonstrate to the police you are not part of the Black Bloc, you are a nice protester and not provocateur… notice the association of words: provoke and provocateur.

And don’t forget, the next time the crowd chants in the street and the leader yells out, "Whose streets?", before you respond with "Our streets!" I want you to remember that I live here. You are going home afterwards to other districts, the suburbs, even other towns while I remain here with the burned out cars, the broken windows, and the looted stores and yes, all of your litter.

The OMG-20 indeed.

Click HERE to read more from William Belle

References

The Toronto Star: ‘Officer Bubbles’ sues YouTube and users over cartoons
Saturday, October 16, 2010
http://www.thestar.com/news/article/876487–officer-bubbles-sues-youtube-and-users-over-cartoons?bn=1

When he first saw a video of a Toronto constable threatening to arrest a G20 protester for blowing bubbles, one YouTube user was so livid, he couldn’t stop writing comments.

In fact, the man, who uses the alias “theforcebewithme,” can’t even remember writing the specific comment that now has him defending a $1.2 million defamation lawsuit launched by Toronto’s now notorious “Officer Bubbles.”

In his statement of claim, Josephs calls the cartoons and several comments “devastatingly defamatory,” alleging they have brought him “ridicule, scandal and contempt both personally and as a member of the (Toronto Police Service).”

He claims the animations have also resulted in threats against him and his family.

However, online anonymity won’t necessarily protect people’s identities, as the website can be ordered by the court to provide users’ IP address and other information, said lawyer Tony Wong, a partner at Blake, Cassels & Graydon LLP who specializes in media and privacy law.

On Friday, a Manhattan judge gave Google 15 days to reveal any information it has on the identities of three cyberbullies who labeled a woman a “whore” on YouTube.

“I think there’s a real ignorance among the public about the risks of posting user comments or Twittering or blogging. The technology is new but the same laws of libel apply,” said Wong.

“Every time you post a comment on YouTube, a newspaper’s website, a blog, you can be sued for defamation by anyone whose reputation has been harmed by your comment.”
see my blog: Freedom of Speech: Freedom to say anything?

Statement of Claim
http://www.scribd.com/doc/39541458/Officer-Bubbles-Statement-of-Claim

10. While at the investigation site, Josephs encountered a female "protestor" blowing soap bubbles into the face of another female police officer in an effort to mock the police and diminish their authority in the eyes of her fellow "protestors".

11. Josephs informed the female "protestor" that if she did not stop blowing bubbles into the face of his fellow officer immediately, he would arrest her for assault contrary to the Criminal Code, R.S.C. 1985, c. C-46. The female "protestor" (arrested later that same day by another police officer on a charge of possession of a weapon for a dangerous purpose) eventually stopped her bubble blowing, but she then proceeded to verbally mock Josephs. The encounter ended without incident, however it was captured on film by another member of the crowd and published on YouTube.

2010-10-21

WHAT!?! The video has been doctored?
Has this infamous video clip of Officer Bubbles been doctored? Was the clip put together to deliberately make Officer Bubbles look bad while suggesting that Courtney Winkels was being arrested for blowing bubbles when she was in fact being arrested at another moment for something unrelated?

blog: michael murray – July 22, 2010
http://www.michaelmurray.ca/blog/?page=news&id=352

Demonstrations almost always make me uncomfortable. It seems that regardless of how worthy I might find the cause, there’s always somebody “on my side” who just makes me want to slither away in shame.

Canada, where I grew up and live, is an entirely decent place. It’s a relatively progressive country that’s infused with humanitarian values, and the honest truth is that it’s pretty easy to live as the person you want to be without too much difficulty. The protests here generally have less to do with how we think we should be treated, and more to do with how we think that other people should be treated. Rarely urgent and spontaneous expressions of rage, demonstrations are essentially political marketing displays, theatrical events designed to sway people come election time.

In the wake of G20 Summit in Toronto, YouTube has been flooded with videos designed to support the claims that the police behaved in a brutal, authoritarian manner. Surely, they did, but just as surely, they did not, and the tribal insistence of many activists that the police were “evil” and the demonstrators “good,” is a self-serving and deceptive reduction that lacks generosity, I think. Quite frankly, it’s the kind of thing that keeps me an observer rather than a participant when it comes to activism.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PGMTm3QRwEc

A primary example of this is the Officer Bubbles video, which has now received over 200, 000 hits. In it, a pretty 20-year-old woman dressed in camouflage fatigues is blowing bubbles into the face of a police officer. The officer doesn’t seem overly put out by this, and smiles thinly back at the woman (who later claimed to be a volunteer street medic rather than a protestor). However, another officer– a man, a big, black man– gets pissed off , strides over and barks at the woman that if she doesn’t stop she will be arrested. Feigning wide-eyed innocence, the girl, acted brutalized and stunned by the request. “For blowing bubbles? But I am light, love and purity! I’m just expressing myself!” the seductive pout on her face seemed to suggest.

(Imagine standing in line at Price Choppers and watching some guy with a pair of sunglasses perched on the top of his head blowing bubbles in the face of the cashier. How would you respond if somebody was doing that to you, or if your child was doing that to somebody else?)

At this point of confrontation between the officer and the bubble girl, there is an edit in the video, and a graphic that says “several minutes later.” We then see the girl who had been blowing bubbles getting arrested, and are led to believe through the construction of the video that she’s being arrested for blowing bubbles, but this isn’t the case. The arrest took place in a different part of town, under a different pretext, by entirely different officers who knew nothing of the bubble imbroglio.
No matter, a martyr was born, and legions of people rallied behind this disingenuous piece of propaganda, citing it as dramatic evidence of the brutal police state in which those of us in Canada live.

The G20 Summit provided those who were so inclined with a three-day bubble in which to attend a kind of fantasy activist camp. Downtown Toronto became a theme park in which people stepped outside of the obvious comfort of their daily lives, and acted out romantic fantasies of revolution, all the while knowing that in a day or two, they’d be able to return to the lives of privilege and ease they’d grown accustomed to. They camped it up and ran around with cameras, snapping pictures of the cops like they were tourists at the zoo.

The need of some in the protest movement to feel good about themselves, even holy, completely obliterated any sense of empathy or balance they might have for those external to their tribe. In the case of some, believing is seeing, and even though nobody was arrested for blowing bubbles, the “arrest” still became the central narrative and truth of the G20 Summit, and so I watched in dismay as this video metastasized and people used it to determinedly shape the truth they needed with the zeal and certitude of religious extremists.

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