UK satirist charged with impersonating G20 officer
A self-described absurdist filmmaker and member of "the Love Police" is facing a charge of impersonating a peace officer. He appeared in a Toronto courtroom Wednesday.
"I'm shocked and appalled. I've spent 48 hours in incarceration for things which were not crimes, I did not hurt or steal anything," Charlie Veitch told the Toronto Star on Wednesday.
He is to re-appear in court on Aug. 23 after being released on $500 bail.
Police announced the arrest late Tuesday in a news release.
"On Thursday, June 24, 2010, the accused was filming the G20 Summit security fence area at Front Street/York Street," they said.
"He was approached by a security officer and was requested to provide identification. He indicated that he was not carrying identification because he was working undercover as a peace officer."
Peel Regional Police carried out the arrest as Veitch, 29, of England, was about to board an aircraft at Pearson International Airport.
One YouTube video shows him telling a private security guard on June 24, two days before the G20 Summit started: "We're from British military intelligence. I'm here with the the Metropolitan Police. It's all fully authorized at the highest levels."
The video doesn't appear to show Veitch flashing anything that imitates official identification.
"We're not press because we're fully undercover. If we carried ID around we might be searched by protesters," he told the guard.
When challenged again as to his identity, Veitched added: "I can't say. If you're going to radio that in, we're undercover, so it's best not to say."
Another YouTube video shows Veitch conversing with other security guards and Toronto police officers.
"Ladies and gentlemen, we are the police entertainment division. We know that protecting Toronto against all those anarchists and terrorists can get very boring, so we are here to remind you that we are on your side," he said using a megaphone.
"We are the Love Police, and our job is to lower fear and raise love."
Private security guards told Veitch and his crew they were on private property. They then moved onto the public sidewalk close to the security fence.
Police approached and engaged in conversation. Veitch said the police had been "super cool."
The officer said they couldn't film where they were because they were within five metres of the fence. He asked them to turn off the camera. "The Public Works Act states that," he said.
Police asked to see Veitch's identification. He asked to see theirs.
"Failure to identify yourselves under the Public Works Act is going to end up in you guys being arrested, which none of us wants," the officer said. "I hope that sounds fair."
A badge number wasn’t visible in the video.
Later, one of the film crew was arrested for not identifying himself. An officer said as soon as police determined his identity, he would be released.
According to the alternative website PressForTruth.ca, the person arrested was Veitch.
On Tuesday, it became known police didn't have authority under that act for arresting someone for not showing identification within five metres of the fence. Asked about it, Toronto Police Chief Bill Blair said, "… I was trying to keep the criminals out."
At least 1,500 people showed up at police headquarters on Monday to protest police tactics used to quell demonstrators after the appearance of anarchist vandals caused chaos and damages.
One person armed with a microphone, possibly Veitch, told the officers protecting the building that if they were not neo-nazi fascist police to raise their hands. "Come on, there's some of you in there," he said.
On Wednesday, Blair told CTV Toronto: "I wasn't lying to anybody. I was telling them what I believed to be true."
He said he did insist that every police officer be told about the limits to their authority around the fence, but the public was never informed. He said he regrets not issuing a news release, but pointed a finger at the provincial government and the G8/G20 Integrated Security Unit.
According to the Globe and Mail, more than 1,000 people were arrested during the course of the G20 summit, but only 263 were charged with an offence more serious than breach of peace.
Police spokesman Mark Pugash told the Globe that no one was arrested under the Public Works Protection Act who shouldn't have been.