Toronto School Board Spokesperson Sends Police Out To Hassle One Of Its Critics
from the if-you-can't-beat-'em,-intimidate-'em dept
As we’ve seen occur in multiple instances, bogus infringement claims have been used to make things disappear from the web. When that isn’t an option, vague claims of libel or defamation are used to shut down critics. And if it isn’t either of the above, the entity being criticized will fall back on the law — or rather, law enforcement — to achieve silence through intimidation.
Sometimes it works all too well. Other times, it backfires completely. Such is the case with longtime critic of the TDSB (Toronto District School Board), Arnie Lemaire, who writes the Blazingcatfur blog. A member of the school board sent the Toronto PD over to Lemaire’s place after finding something “threatening” in a six-week old blog comment. (via)
“We received a knock at our door a little after 8 a.m.,” said Lemaire. “Two detectives from Toronto Police Services identified themselves and asked if they could come in to discuss a matter.”
Enter Det.-Consts. Irene Liska and Sergiy Lobanets, from 32 Division.
They presented “a photocopy of my post about the TDSB teaching children that the Black Panthers were a harmless social justice organization link” and specifically the “OISE and the TDSB need to be purged, or burnt to the ground” stinger.
It was almost laughable. He thought everybody would understand it was meant figuratively and obviously not literally.
Unlike other cases where the police have overreacted first before circling back to ask a few questions (for instance, strip-searching a man whose daughter drew a picture of a gun in class, or detaining a teen for three hours over some misheard Will Smith lyrics on a voicemail message), the responding officers had this sorted out in a matter of minutes, finding the whole thing nearly as laughable as Lemaire did.
[Lemaire] added he “assured them I had no intention of torching the TDSB.”
Police, he said, “were immediately satisfied with that explanation and assured me there would be no charges.”
The police must have been less than amused by being used to run errands for the school district as they generously gave up the name of the complainant — TDSB spokesperson Sheri Schwartz-Maltz. Schwartz-Maltz was “out of the office” when contacted for comment but another board member offered this in the way of explanation.
[F]ellow TDSB spokesman Ryan Bird explained “when certain words or terms are used in relation to schools or the board, they are flagged — as per protocol — to the Toronto Police Service without exception to determine if there is any threat that would require further investigation.”
Oh, look. It’s our old friend “zero tolerance,” once again making an ass of itself and the people willing to blindly adhere to “protocol.” Lemaire’s comment was clearly non-threatening. Note the lack of first-person (“I would like to burn TDSB to the ground…”) or any call to action directed at others (“someone needs to burn TDSB to the ground…”).
If it is indeed the policy of the school board to flag certain terms for police investigation, one wonders why it took the board six weeks to get this horrible “threat” investigated. Presumably, safety still remains first for the district. A lag of six weeks from threat to response isn’t going to stop bad things from happening, no matter how low the “tolerance.” [Currently at “zero.”]
No, this is just old-school intimidation. Call the cops around to make a point about saying things the offended party feels just shouldn’t be said. But Lemaire’s having none of it, returning to his anti-TDSB blogging with the headline “Dear TDSB, You Can’t Silence Me.” The school board, on the other hand, has returned to the security of its “protocol,” apparently seeing nothing wrong with calling the cops over a few nasty, hyperbolic words.