In June 2010, hundreds of thousands of Canadians took to the streets of Toronto to peacefully protest the G20 Summit, which was taking place behind a fortified fence that walled off much of the city’s downtown core. On the Saturday evening during the Summit weekend, a senior Toronto Police Commander sent out an order – “take back the streets.” Within a span of 36 hours, over 1000 people – peaceful protesters, journalists, human rights monitors and downtown residents – were arrested and placed in detention.
The title of this publication is taken from that initial police order. It is emblematic of a very concerning pattern of government conduct: the tendency to transform individuals exercising a fundamental democratic right – the right to protest – into a perceived threat that requires a forceful government response. The case studies detailed in this report, each written by a different domestic civil liberties and human rights organization, provide contemporary examples of different governments’ reactions to peaceful protests. They document instances of unnecessary legal restrictions, discriminatory responses, criminalization of leaders, and unjustifiable – at times deadly – force.
This publication attempts to address some of the gaps in public debate about the state’s responsibility toward the protection of the right to protest and assembly.
-UNITED STATES: Billy Clubs versus Speech – Excessive Force against Protesters to Suppress Speech and Expression in Puerto Rico
-ISRAEL: The Case of Bassem Tamimi
-CANADA: Le Printemps Érable and the Silencing of Students
-ARGENTINA: Repression and Police Violence at Indoamericano Park
-EGYPT: The Mohammed Mahmoud Protests, 18-24 November 2011
-HUNGARY: Unlawful Ban of the Pride March
-KENYA: Police Excesses in Kisumu, Kenya, as Citizens Protest the Supreme Court Ruling on the March 2013 General Elections
-SOUTH AFRICA: Civil Society Committee for COP17 v. Ethekwini Municipality
-UNITED KINGDOM: Anti-Terrorism Powers used against Protesters
Promotion and Protection of Human Rights in the Context of Social Protests: Main International Standards Regulating the Use of Force by the Police