ATTENTION: NEWS EDITORS
Toronto Action for Social Change
Building Community Through Nonviolent Action
Box 73620, 509 St. Clair Ave. W
Toronto, ON M6C 1C0
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE September 23, 1999
Toronto Action for Social Change, Ontario Coalition Against Poverty subject of early morning interrogation at tenant activist's home
Two local anti-poverty organizations which were not endorsers of nor formal participants in anti-NATO demonstrations this week were nonetheless the subject of an anti-terrorist investigation by Metro Police.
Toronto Action for Social Change (TASC) and the Ontario Coalition Against Poverty (OCAP)&endash;as well as some of their activists&endash;were the main subject of questioning when the force's Detective Steve Irwin (Intelligence Services&endash;Security & Anti-Terrorist Investigations) and a fellow officer showed up on tenant organizer Paul York's doorstep at 8 am Tuesday morning.
"They told me there was a two-page letter which they had received a number of months ago linking me to a planned violent disturbance at anti-NATO demonstrations that I wasn't even aware of," says York, who has in the past worked with TASC and been arrested with them at a number of nonviolent anti-poverty protests.
"The questioning then went to my knowledge of [TASC's] Matthew Behrens, Brian Burch, and [OCAP's] John Clarke, what the philosophical differences were between the three and their organizations, and whether TASC and OCAP had been working together."
York says that he stressed both organizations' commitment to social justice and explained that both groups were nonviolent, a view which was apparently concurred with by Irwin.
"If the police know us to be nonviolent, then why are they questioning someone as to our background, our philosophies, and our politics?" asks TASC's Matthew Behrens. "Both TASC and OCAP publicly announce their actions in advance and take great pains to ensure that no one gets hurt at their demonstrations. And if there was some kind of threat that they knew about a number of months in advance, why were they investigating it so close to the event? If the police were looking for terrorists, they should have looked no further than the gathering of the NATO war ministers themselves, all of whose actions would qualify as terrorist in nature."
OCAP's John Clarke agrees, adding, "I'm torn between contempt for their hopeless attempts to intimidate us and angered that such intrusions go on. It's important that such behaviour be brought to public attention."
"It is amazing that advocating that the hungry get fed, the homeless housed, and that alternatives to violence as a way to solve local and international conflict is a matter for the terrorist squad," says Brian Burch. "In some ways, it's an honour, however, as it means that the Toronto Police Department is willing to treat the advocates on behalf of the marginalized in the same way that they treat those living on the streets themselves. It helps reveal the true face of the police in Toronto and the agenda that they are paid to carry out."
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