A raucous, but peaceful Tamil protest that shut down the Gardiner Expressway and ended with a phone call from a Liberal official and not through forceful police intervention may cause police to act on future Tamil demonstrations differently, an expert said yesterday.

The disruptive action lit up Internet forums with calls for police to move in and end such demonstrations.
One expert on protest policing said the contentious protest Sunday may cause police to become less accommodating of the group.

“I would guess that their tolerance for these actions are going to go down considerably now,” said Patrick Rafail, a doctoral candidate at Penn State University who wrote his master's thesis at McGill University on protest policing in Toronto.

Rafail said in such situations police must weigh many factors. In the protest Sunday that included the optics of breaking up a crowd that included children, he said.

“They would have had to have used probably some fairly heavy-handed tactics to get people off (the highway),” he said.

“They would have gotten a lot of bad publicity had they gone in with tear gas.”

At one point police went behind the protest line on the highway and arrested two women and a man. The three face charges of assault on a peace officer and mischief interfere with property.

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