The Emperor Has No Clothes ~ FreeByron

What would you call a professional security consultant who tests the vaunted security apparatus of the billion Dollar G20 Summit that descended on Toronto like a pall last year?

You’d call him Byron Sonne.

A Canadian flag flies at half mast against a blue sky

In the children’s story I reference in the title, the child that pointed out the deficiencies in the Emperor’s wardrobe was listened to.

In Canada, for doing much the same thing — pointing out the deficiencies of the G20 security apparatus — Byron Sonne was arrested, incarcerated without bail for nearly a year, and is now undergoing the rigors of a trial.

the trial

Three days were scheduled for the Charter arguments — to decide whether the protections of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms have been breached by law enforcement in this case. The Charter argument has stretched into two weeks.

The Toronto Star has released a video of one of Byron’s interrogations by Detective Tam Bui a day after his arrest on June 22nd last year. Watching this video is an up close and personal look at the Canadian justice system.

The reason citizens need some kind of protection from the law is that the law is far more powerful than most citizens will ever be.

In the video, we see the detective ask Byron about a whole host of things that he did.

  • Taking photographs in public places and posting them on Flickr.
  • Posting comments about the increased police presence for the G20 on Twitter.
  • Owning a potato cannon and air guns.
  • Possessing a variety of chemicals for various purposes that might be combined to make bombs.

“…why don’t you go down to Canadian Tire, why don’t you arrest them because they have all the ingredients…”

—Byron Sonne interrogation video released by the Toronto Star

I’m not a lawyer, but I didn’t think that any of these things are illegal.

Taking photographs in the public spaces of the municipality where you live isn’t illegal. Or, it didn’t used to be.

And when did taking photographs of law enforcement officers become illegal?

Back when I was in the seventh grade, I was on a class trip with my first camera when I happened across an RCMP officer dressed in the distinctive Red Serge “Review Order” dress uniform. I asked him to pose for me. And he did.

Now I’m an adult who takes plenty of photographs everywhere I go with my digital camera. And I post photographs on Flickr too. But these days, when I find myself photographing police officers, at the KW Multicultural festival for instance, I wonder: is this going to get me arrested?

I post comments about things that I perceive to be threats to democracy on Identi.ca, Twitter and Facebook all the time. I blog a lot, too. Is this going to get me arrested?

Personally, I’ve never owned anything like a potato cannon or an air gun. My older brother wanted an air rifle, just like Ralphie, when he was a kid. When he didn’t get one, he built himself a slingshot that I lacked the strength to use. But I’ve seen children using working trebuchets built by amateur enthusiasts at medieval festivals. The incredibly popular “Angry Birds” computer game involves shooting birds out of catapults to knock things down. How many people like playing shoot’em-up video games? . Clearly, people like shooting things.

Years ago I allowed my brother-in-law to put a plaster head I’d sculpted in my high school art class on a cedar rail fence and shoot it into plaster dust with his real hunting rifle. You know, one of those long guns that the Federal Government doesn’t want to have registered?

As a life long mystery buff. I’ve been reading and watching mysteries my whole life. I recall a Columbo episode that involved a chef killing someone with a frozen fish, then defrosting it and feeding the murder weapon to the guests at a dinner party. Most anything can become a murder weapon.

And if we are going to start talking about possessing chemicals that are legal to own, but that can then be combined to make a bomb, that covers an awful lot of ground. If you know anything about chemicals, you know that cleaning supplies can be used in many ways their manufacturers did not intended. I know never to mix bleach and ammonia because combined they make poison gas. Many perfectly useful things can be combined to make explosives.

Detective Bui:
This is a very structured, organized shelf of chemicals you have here. My understanding is that ammonium nitrate can be used in the construction of an incendiary device or an explosive device, is that correct?

Byron Sonne:
Yeah, but so can lighter fluid, so can your barbeque tank in your back yard, so can cooking oil in your house.

Detective Bui:
You’re a chemist, or an engineer or you definitely have a chemical background…

Byron Sonne:
not a licensed engineer

Detective Bui
OK. Do you have elements here that could be combined to make an explosive device?

Byron Sonne:
Ah, No, because I would not combine them into an explosive device.

Detective Bui:
But that wasn’t exactly my question. I’m asking do the elements exist. When we take a laundry list of items out of your house, and if we combine them in a certain manner could create an explosive device.

Byron Sonne:
I think that this interview might be over officer.

interrogation video released the Toronto Star

Boing Boing said it best: Law prof and cop agree: never ever ever ever ever ever ever talk to the cops about a crime, even if you’re innocent

If you watch the interview closely, you will see that Byron and the Detective are in agreement that none of the bits of “evidence” the detective asks Byron about are in and of themselves illegal. The detective doesn’t question that, instead, what he does is to try to get Byron to agree that the chemicals could be used to make a bomb, and that the cumulative effect of the evidence is how bad things look, and what other people might think of this or that.

Have I missed something? I thought that our legal system was based on facts and evidence, not innuendo.

What did Byron Sonne actually do?

He took photographs documenting the G20’s massive influx of security cameras, the deployment of security fences around public buildings, and police officers visible on public streets.

Byron Sonne pointed out security flaws in the G20 security apparatus.

And now he’s pointing out flaws in the Canadian justice system.

a horizontal border of red graphic maple leaves

further reading

For an idea of what has been happening in court, read the notes published here: colah / ByronTrialNotes

Read Byron Sonne’s Twitter stream @torontogoat

See Byron Sonne’s toronto_goat’s photostream on Flickr.

P.S. Follow

The Daily Ruse

as it chronicles the story of law and democracy in Canada.

~ laurelrusswurm, 19 November, 2011

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Byron Sonne is “still quite a ways away from being free”

Canadian Flag, Old City Hall, Toronto

Is Canada a free country?

Or is Canada a banana republic?

Today was Byron Sonne’s 331st day in custody. On Monday bail was finally granted, yet Byron had to remain locked up until today, when there was to be a final Bail Hearing where the Crown Attorney would get an opportunity to contest the grounds of Byron’s release.

What has happened to Byron Sonne has exposed injustice in our so called justice system. The reason democratic nations enact laws to protect the rights of citizens is to counter balance the government’s power to crush citizens.

For a nation to be a free country, citizens must be free to both question and criticize.

Without guaranteed civil rights, any citizen can be deprived of liberty. You can wind up in a Gulag. You don’t even have to be protesting anything.

on the 2010 Toronto G20:

“The result was a massive breach of human rights on a scale never before seen in modern Canadian society. “

—André Marin, Promoting Good Governance and Human Rights: The Ontario Ombudsman’s Investigation of Events Surrounding the G20 Summit in Toronto

Among those rounded up in the G20 mass arrests were a many people who were shopping, working, going somewhere else, but uninvolved in the protests. Yet they were rounded up and deprived of the civil rights Canadians expect just the same. Simply for being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Byron has today been released under extremely stringent bail restrictions. The conditions are draconian, and somewhat bizarre. According to the Toronto Star:

“He must also have no contact with anyone accused with G20 conspiracy crimes or anyone associated with a number of anarchist groups or the Toronto Community Mobilization Network. There are no allegations that Sonne has ever associated with those people or groups.”

— Brendan Kennedy, Toronto Star: G20 accused Sonne out on bail; strict limits on Web use, leaving home

That last bit sounds like a smear… the very terms of the release are deliberately inflammatory. By prohibiting Byron Sonne contact with people and organizations there is no evidence he has ever any contact with, an association is implied. This is rather like prohibiting Byron Sonne from contact with Adolph Hitler. Except, if you read the Globe and Mail’s heavily biased account it says there is some evidence of Byron “downloading literature of both the far right (Mein Kampf) and the far left (Das Kapital).” Which seems to forge a stronger evidentiary link to Adolph Hitler, or Karl Marx. Who scares you the most?

It simply seems to be an attempt to make Byron Sonne look bad.

The group named by the Star that Byron must not associate with is the Toronto Community Mobilization Network which appears to be a collection of activists advocating for the civil rights for groups ranging from the disabled to indigenous peoples.  This seems at minimum to run contrary to Section Two of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms

Something that has disturbed me from the outset is that the denial of bail appears to be punitive. Is this a case of Canada’s Crown prosecution ensuring that an innocent man will pay the price of incarceration before trial since the trial is likely to exonerate him? In fact, our federal government has published statistics indicating an increase of the use if the remand process which could well indicate that the process is being deployed as punishment rather than waiting for a judicial finding of guilt, particularly when it is unlikely to happen at all.

You can read the rest of the extremely severe bail conditions in the Toronto Star.

I’m fairly new to social media, but something I have noticed is that some tweets about Byron use the #g20report hashtag. I initially assumed that some organization or group might be keeping track of the facts for the hoped for G20 inquiry.

Then I discovered Byron’s own Twitter feed and discovered that Byron himself seems to have invented that hashtag, using it to indicate the tweets he made documenting the G20 security.

This adds a huge amount of credence to the idea Byron Sonne was working as a citizen journalist.

It is also quite interesting that the @torontogoat is still online. We can read through it and see what Byron tweeted in his own words. Read it through and see what you think.

The Best Source

For information about Byron Sonne case is the FreeByron website, created and maintained by his friends and supporters.

recent articles

Jesse Brown: Byron Sonne gets bail. Finally.

Brendan Kennedy: G20 ‘geek’ Byron Sonne granted bail

Megan O’Toole: Man charged with possessing explosives before G20 granted bail

Toronto Mobilize: Court Support Needed for Byron Sonne

Tim McSorley: Byron Sonne granted bail; Crown to challenge conditions of his release

Denise Balkissoon: How Byron Sonne’s obsession with the G20 security apparatus cost him everything

David Harvey: Byron Sonne, Canada’s Political Prisoner

I got my title for this post from a tweet I found  under the #freeByron hashtag

@dr_kiwano (Kris Coward) says #FreeByron got bail, but is still quite a ways away from being free

Byron Sonne leaves courthouse
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