Prank turns serious for British filmmaker
For Charlie Veitch, it was a joke.
For the Toronto police, it was no laughing matter.
In one of the more unusual G20-related arrests to have occurred following the summit, a 29-year-old British filmmaker is facing charges of impersonating a police officer after posting what he thought was a satirical video of himself in an exchange with a security guard outside Union Station last Thursday.
“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,” Veitch said outside a Toronto courtroom Wednesday.
In the video which was posted online, Veitch, a self-described “absurdist, surrealist filmmaker,” is seen telling the security guard that he is from the “British military intelligence” and the “Metropolitan Police.” Veitch continues: “Have you heard of what an agent provocateur is? Sometimes when there are big demonstrations — I can tell you this because you’re security — they use fake protestors to cause trouble. And we’re here to be those fake protestors.”
The encounter, which occurred last Thursday, was later posted by Veitch online. Veitch was then arrested Tuesday at Pearson International Airport as he was boarding a flight to return to England after a warrant was put out for his arrest by Toronto police.
“Officers conducted an investigation, came across the video, and in the video he alleged he was a police officer,” said Const. Tony Vella. “We couldn’t locate him, so a warrant of arrest was issued. We received information he was heading out to England, where Peel regional police arrested him at the airport.”
Vella added that police spoke with the security guard involved in the video, and police felt that there was a need to arrest and charge him, adding that Veitch could be facing jail time if convicted.
“When you actually watch the video, Charlie’s style of activism is that he tries to bring a sense of humour to the situation. It was clearly just kidding around,” said Dan Dicks, a film producer for Press For Truth, the website where Veitch’s video was initially posted.
For a visibly traumatized Veitch, who was released on $500 bail on the condition that he not re-enter the downtown core before July 5, what happened to him should be a warning to other Canadians, he said.
“The Canadian people need to think very carefully about what kind of police force they have. It’s very upsetting,” he said.
“All I want to do is have a quiet last day here (in Toronto), and book a flight home.”
Veitch is scheduled to return to a Toronto courtroom on Aug. 23.