Chartered Accountants can float through lines of riot police
Big Four firms are very hierarchical, to the point where a colleague jokes with me that you gain certain magic powers when you get promoted to higher ranks. Mind-reading, the ability to move through walls, halt traffic with your mind. And other sorts of Jedi tricks.
I experienced a surreal moment Monday after work, as I discovered what may be as simple as a perk that comes from wearing a dress shirt and nice pants: you have the keys ot the city, so to speak.
Perhaps I should talk this up at future recruiting events.
The adventure started when my phone buzzed with news that the
506 streetcar had to detour around the stretch of track in front of the Police HQ.
Thank you TTC: coupled with the weekend's protests and violence, you could infer this meant protesters had gathered in front of Toronto Police Headquarters to lambast police tactics and chant for the release of those detained during the weekend's G20 shenanigans.
And so I walked up from my office, big fancy camera in hand. I passed by the smashed up Adidas store at Yonge and Dundas.
CTV news showed video of security shooing away the vandals who broke the window. They didn't succeed in defending the entire perimeter, but to be fair it was two guys versus a very large expanse of real estate!
As I passed the store, I also noticed another rowdy group: Brazil fans celebrating the victory over Chile.
They were passing by another victim of the violence: the men's club.... featuring dancing men.
I first noticed a significant police presence at Gerrard and Yonge. One cop sounded like he was whinging about the extended patrol in the rain last night. Or perhaps he was mocking people who were trapped at Queen and Spadina. You could almost feel a slight buzz in the air.
I checked out the line of vehicles parked at the northern edge of Ryerson University campus - including a full size bus and several vans.
Here's a lesson to aspiring photographers: if you want to photograph
an individual cop, try asking for his permission first. If he shrugs
his shoulders with a delightful, "sure, why not?" response, snap away.
Otherwise, look for more cooperative subjects or at the very least move
away to a respectful distance where it doesn't feel like you're being a
nasty and annoying member of the paparazzi.
I joked with the above officer visiting Toronto from Durham Region about all the cannisters on his vest. Were they CS? No, not all tear gas, he explained, but a variety of types.
"Oh, like a party pack," I mused?
Sort of like that, yes.
Right across the street you could see the unfortunate jewellery store hit by the Black Bloc thugs - pictured is either someone connected to the shop or the glass repair crew that was fixing up that side of the building. He didn't seem too bemused by my antics, so I quickly scuttled off.
But first I had to get a shot of the debris. I then finally scurried forward.
Ahead of me: the protest zone just west of Yonge on College.
A scruffy young guy got his bag searched - he's the one on the right. And I?
No questions asked - no challenges made. I might as well be the mayor or something, ignoring the fact that I'm lugging about an incredibly heavy and perhaps suspicious-looking backup, loaded with my audit kit.
And yet friendly or at least pleasant nods come up all around from the cops.
This is peculiar, but awesome. I'm floating through the lines.
Even the undercover police are rather chill - even though their cover is suddenly blown by their squaking radios. Oops, might want to turn those down. Another officer I later chat with says that the team was probably no doubt "made" a while ago. Might as well put on formal uniforms at that point I suppose. Also, note to the agent provocateur conspiracy theorists: these cops had a variety of footwear on, so give up on your "OMG black boots on thugs mean they're cops." The logic is as faulty as the quality of your photos, so please move on.
Moving back to that last photo though, I must highlight that in Canada the police do not have the right to force you to let them examine your bag in a normal public place. You can be super-obedient like the scruffy young man, but you only expose yourself to legal risk.
It's safer, legally speaking, to politely decline the request. But once you grant consent, you're essentially giving up your right to privacy.
Far too many people don't understand this point.
There's a particular reason I would refuse to open the bag, in addition to wanting to exercise my civil rights: I carry audit files with me. I will not consent to a search as this may expose the files to risk. They can call my firm's legal department if they want, but I'm not going to dare open my bag to the police.
You need to know your rights, whether or not you're a CA.
As for how I managed to float through those police lines without a challenge to show off my gear, did my camera on my neck help? Doubtful - many journalists got arrested on the weekend!
I don't know if "looking the part" keeps you safe, even with a suspiciously over-packed bag, or if you can actually project an aura of "I don't care if you have a gun, you're not allowed to use it to threaten me so leave me alone" by knowing your rights.
I'll write another post about my time "behind the lines" to reiterate peoples' rights shortly, because this can't be stressed enough.