Toronto police displayed photos Wednesday of a "most wanted" list of people they allege took part in violence and vandalism during the G20 protests.
ANDREW WALLACE/TORONTO STAR
Toronto police detectives tasked with holding vandals to account for the wanton destruction and vandalism that occurred during last summer’s chaotic G20 weekend admit many criminals escaped punishment because they could not be identified — including those who burned two of their police cars.
“There was a lot of people who committed criminal acts who didn’t go on to be apprehended just based on how much of a disguise they were wearing,” says Det. Sgt. Gary Giroux, the lead investigator of the police’s G20 Investigative Team.
The specialized unit has so far made 40 arrests and laid 257 criminal charges for summit-related offences. They also have arrest warrants out for five U.S. citizens, all of whom are in the top 10 of the police’s “G20 Most Wanted,” Giroux said
The five Americans are the only outstanding suspects not yet apprehended, Giroux said, and the unit is no longer actively investigating G20 cases — its detectives having been returned to their regular duties. Police will, however, continue to follow up on new tips.
But Giroux admits some of the vandals have got away. Police have been unable to identify 17 suspects whose photos have been released through the media on multiple occasions. Countless other offenders, who used Black Bloc tactics to completely conceal their identities, never even became suspects.
Giroux said if Toronto were to hold another event on the scale of the G20, he would like to see a special temporary law to ban the wearing of a disguise at any time.
“If it was illegal for people to disguise themselves — even if it’s just over a seven-day period — if it was illegal to do that, then things would be totally different,” he said.
Under the Criminal Code, wearing a disguise is only illegal while committing an offence.
Established in the immediate aftermath of the G20 summit, the police’s G20 Investigative Team was comprised of senior detectives from a wide range of investigative backgrounds. More than 20 officers and three Crown attorneys were dedicated to the investigation full-time for six months following the summit.
Police compiled more than 500 videos and more than 40,000 photos from the weekend, and relied heavily upon the public’s assistance to both amass evidence and identify suspects. Giroux figures roughly 80 per cent of the photos and videos came from the public.
Among the most visible of the property crimes committed that weekend was the burning of four police cruisers.
The cruisers — two at Queen St. W. and Spadina Ave., and two at King and Bay Sts. — were abandoned when they were set upon by a group of violent protesters, police said. “Tactical disengagement” was the only way to ensure officers’ safety. One officer, Staff Sgt. Graham Queen, was attacked by stick-wielding protesters while he was still in the driver’s seat of his car.
Three people were charged with setting fire to the two police cruisers at Queen and Spadina — two have been found guilty and sentenced; a third is still in pre-trial custody.
Both of the convicted men were intoxicated at the time of the offence, were not politically motivated and confessed to getting caught up in the mob.
Police have not charged anyone with setting fire to the two cruisers at King and Bay, which Giroux says is “obviously disappointing.”
“It was a bit more of a challenge in the area of King and Bay,” he said, adding that the destruction that took place there was “all Black Bloc,” compared to Queen and Spadina, which was more of a “mob mentality.”
Police are still seeking the public’s assistance to identify suspects whose photos are posted on their Facebook page.
G20 Investigative Team Stats
Convicted of at least one offence
Still before the courts
Had all charges stayed or withdrawn
Arrest warrants for U.S. citizens
Suspects still unknown.
Source: Toronto Police Service