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Countering Conspiracy Theories on Police Response to Black Bloc

by Zig Zag

Photo by Ali Mustafa
Photo by Ali Mustafa

Also posted by dawn:

   Despite a $1 billion security budget and some 19,000 security personnel during the Toronto G20 Summit, police appeared incompetent and confused as militants inflicted extensive property damage and torched 4 police cars.  While the protests failed to breach the 6km security fencing, the attacks were a significant victory for the resistance, which had vowed to 'humiliate' the security apparatus in the weeks prior to the summit.

Toronto Police chief Bill Blair attempted to rationalize police inaction during the Black Bloc attacks by claiming they sought to distract police and lure them away from the fence.  The police's main priority, according to Blair, was to protect the G20 Summit. Mission accomplished. 

    Yet, just two weeks prior, he had stated that “his biggest fear was that radicals would destroy property by 'breaking windows, burning cars, overturning street furniture'”  (quoted in “Security or Liberty,” by Marcus Gee and Colin Freeze, Globe and Mail, June 28, 2010).

    At the same time, a CBC News headline reported that “Black Bloc expected to test G20 security” (Monday, June 14, 2010).  Police, therefore, cannot claim to have been ignorant of what was coming.  While some are portraying the police inaction as part of a larger conspiracy, discussed below, it appears that the police were unprepared for the level of militant resistance on the streets and may have even believed it had been dampened through fear-mongering, massive police deployment, the raids and arrests earlier in the day of 'ringleaders', and overall intimidation of protesters.

    Police inaction in the face of the Black Bloc was portrayed as an example of “remarkable restraint and professionalism,” according to Michele Paradis of the Integrated Security Unit.  But others were left wondering:

    “Thousands of cops were brought in from around the country, a new law was secretly enacted to give police more power, millions spent on security... but still a committed group of protesters made Toronto burn.  So what happened?”
    (“The Burning Question,” Michelle Shephard, Toronto Star, June 27, 2010)

    The 'burning question' of why police failed to respond more aggressively to the Black Bloc quickly gave rise to conspiracy theories that they “allowed it to happen.”  This is a common response from conspiracy theorists and liberals and has a number of contributing factors.

    On the one hand, there is a deeply-rooted cynicism and distrust of government that sees sinister motivations behind any major disturbance or event (the 'Reichstag syndrome').  This attitude itself has a subversive tendency, but it also leads to a distorted view of the powers of the ruling class.

    The idea that police allowed the destruction to occur also arises from a belief in the all-knowing, all-seeing and all-powerful state.  This view corresponds to conspiracy theories that the world is ruled by a secret elite that manipulate all major events, including social disorder, as a means of imposing ever-greater state control and repression.  It is ultimately defeatist, as by this logic, resistance falls into the orbit of 'state manipulation.'

    Liberal reformists do not believe that the state can be fought through militancy. For this group, conciliation, negotiation, and adherence to strictly legal measures are the only way to succeed.  When militants carry out an effective attack, especially against such a massive security operation, it shatters this defeatist premise upon which reformism is based.  The liberal response to such attacks is that they must be part of a 'greater conspiracy,' a reaction based on pure speculation with no regard for the facts. In the long term, it will only make them look like the fools that they are.

    The idea that police allowed the destruction to occur unopposed also includes allegations that police planted derelict vehicles to be torched, and that some of the arson attacks were carried out by undercover pigs within the Black Bloc., a website known for circulating conspiracy theories, posted photos of members of the Black Bloc and focused on their footwear as 'evidence' they were undercover cops.  This weak attempt to duplicate the incident at Montebello in 2007, when undercover SQ pigs were identified posing as masked militants, who were then 'arrested' by riot cops as a means of removing them from the hostile crowd.  A key piece of evidence was that they wore the exact same boots as the riot cops, and the SQ later admitted they were indeed undercover cops.

    From this, attempted to show that the same technique was used in the G20 Black Bloc, focusing on militants' shoes.  In one case, they showed a pair of walking shoes with an outdoor tread and claimed they were military issue combat boots, although they weren't even boots.  In another, they showed a person wearing runners and claimed they were the same as boots worn by riot cops.  They also showed a mismatched pair of black and white socks worn by one person, speculating this was a 'code' for cops to identify the undercover agent. All of these allegations are easily debunked, and seem to be constructed by coming to a conclusion and then forcing the facts to fit the outcome.

    The abandoned and subsequently arsoned police vehicles were fuel for perhaps the most popular of the conspiracy theories.  According to this line of thought, they had been purposefully left behind to be smashed and burnt (thereby somehow 'justifying' the massive security operation).  Yet, while it may be shocking news to reformists and other armchair theorists, it is not unprecedented that pigs abandon their vehicles and run for their lives in the face of determined resistance. This occurred during the initial police raid at Oka in 1990, and again at Quebec City in 2001 (where I saw police vans abandoned, full of riot shields, shotguns, munitions, etc., which were in the process of being looted until more vans of riot cops arrived to secure it). 
    The first police cars abandoned had been following the People First Parade on June 26 and were trapped when the break-away contingent reversed direction, storming east on Queen St.  One officer, a Staff Sergeant, was trapped inside his vehicle and only rescued when a group of officers ran to protect him (documented by, among others, 

    The second pair of cop cars attacked was at King and Bay Streets, again overwhelmed by a rapidly moving mob that caught them by surprise.  The pigs inside these vehicles ran for their lives.

    In both cases of arsoned pig cars, munitions inside the vehicles could be seen exploding.  If police had orchestrated the destruction of police cars, they surely wouldn't have left munitions that could be taken by militants who were already armed with Molotov cocktails and other weapons.  These were not pre-planned actions and could not have been, given the chaotic, fluid, and rapidly changing situation on the streets.

    The idea that police 'allowed' the destruction to occur also fails to account for what gains the police would make by doing so.  Some assert that the $1 billion security needed to be justified, and by allowing militants to rampage through the downtown core this could be done.  Sort of like, “See all the destruction?  That's why we needed $1 billion!”

    However, the most common response was not a case of “I told you so,” but instead sharp questions about police incompetence: With some 5,500 riot cops in the downtown area, a billion dollar security budget, etc., why couldn't police stop the Black Bloc?  By 'allowing' the attacks to occur in the context of the largest security opertation in Canadian history, the police only appeared as incompetent, if not cowardly.

    A Toronto Sun columnist claims to have spoken to frontline pigs deployed during the June 26 protests.  They described a situation of utter confusion and signs of fear among police commanders about attacking the Black Bloc:

    "The orders went from engage to, no, don't engage, to engage to, no, don't engage,' " said an officer. "It was an absolute shambles. Everyone was talking over each other on the radio. Nobody seemed to know what to do. It was just a mess."

    “The officer said that eventually there was "a clear order from the command centre saying 'Do not engage' " and, at that point, smelling weakness and no repercussions, the downtown was effectively turned over to the vandals while police, up to 19,000 strong, were ordered to stay out of it.
    (“Warmington: Cops had hands 'cuffed,” by Joe Warmington, Toronto Sun, June 30, 2010)

    It may very well be that police intelligence, based largely on the 2001 Quebec City riots, expected the security fence to be the primary target.  Two weeks before June 26, CBC News had reported that “The No. 1 target of the Black Bloc in Toronto is expected to be the tall mesh security fence surrounding the centre where the G20 leaders will meet” (“Black Bloc expected to test G20 security,” CBC News, Monday, June 14, 2010).

    This report was probably based on interviews with police and reflected not only their main concern (security for the Summit), but also wishful thinking (the militants will only attack the fence).  Much of the mobilizing propaganda was also focused on the fence, with graphics and slogans referring to tearing it down.  Police may also have felt that their efforts at intimidation, raids and arrests, had seriously eroded the capability of a Black Bloc to carry out any actions on June 26.  In this regard, they would have seriously underestimated the resistance.

    There are also reports that police had significant problems with communications.  Toronto police had received a new communication system prior to the G20.  They would also have had problems coordinating the actions of multiple police agencies from across the country, including many cops unfamiliar with the downtown streets.

    The ability of the bloc to move quickly enabled it to outmaneuver the riot cops, who were hampered by a slow response time.  Wearing up to 80-90 pounds of gear, they could not move fast enough over any distance.  Just to get to an area required moving chartered buses or convoys of mini-vans through city streets (not an easy task even under normal traffic conditions). 

    I observed one convoy of vans, for example, moving to stop the protest that was eventually mass-arrested on Saturday night (at the Novotel Hotel).  After the protest had passed south down Yonge St., the convoy rolled up and stopped at an intersection.   A pig got out of the lead vehicle and began walking back, telling others he had extra batteries for their radios.  Pigs got out of the vehicles and made last-minute adjustments of their gear, then got back in.  The whole process took some 5-10 minutes.  Overall, they were just too big and cumbersome to move quickly enough, especially against the elusive Black Bloc.

    Days prior to the June 26 action, a local Toronto activist told me that Toronto police had lots of experience in crowd control.  Aside from the militant actions of ARA and OCAP in the late 1990s, however, most crowd control situations in Toronto have simply been for large public events such as baseball or hockey games, parades and festivals, etc.  It can hardly be said that they have much experience in facing off against militant street fighters (as is the case with Montreal pigs).  This lack of experience would be another contributing factor to the poor performance by Toronto pigs (who had overall control of security outside the fence).

    If police had simply swallowed their pig pride, they would have used restraint following the Black Bloc attacks in order to keep attention focused on the 'violent vandals.'  Instead, unable to capture the black-masked militants, impotent with rage, and with orders to re-establish control of the streets, they launched a counter-offensive against peaceful protesters and citizens, thereby creating an even bigger problem.  In fact, the police's heavy-handed response to the vandalism helped minimize criticism of the militant attacks and focused attention back to the police state:

    “On Saturday, as images of torched police cruisers and masked vandals left a public embarassed by the world's view of Toronto, much of the criticism was directed at violent protesters.
    “But by late Sunday, with a reported 604 people arrested, tear gas used on Toronto streets for the first time and demonstrators stung by rubber bullets, the focus had turned to the police.”
    (“Police tactics: Too tough or too soft?” Robyn Doolittle and Michelle Shephard, Toronto Star, June 28, 2010)

    One can see the same dilemna affecting Western military forces in Iraq and Afghanistan; unable to identify and directly attack insurgents, soldiers vent their frustration and anger on the civilian population.  Although they know that the insurgents find cover among the people, their repressive actions attempting to seperate the people from the insurgency only draw more people into the ranks of the insurgents.

    Now the pigs are screwed either way.  The enormous security budget and the imposition of the security zone had already drawn widespread criticism.  Now people are asking why, with a $1 billion budget and some 19,000 security personnel, could they not stop the Black Bloc?  Why were police so slow to respond, and only attack peaceful protesters and citizens when they did?  Not only do they appear incompetent and cowardly, they also emerge as brutal and vindictive (all true).

    In summary, there is no evidence that police voluntarily 'allowed' the Black Bloc to carry out attacks as justification for the massive security operation, even if authorities attempt to spin it this way (as they do with any militant attack or disruption, part of the cycle of resistance-repression). 

    More than anything else, the inability or unwillingness to control the militants shows the state to be vulnerable and weak, while the brutality unleashed on peaceful protesters and citizens has further alienated police from the public. Both are dangerous trends for state authority; on the one hand it encourages and emboldens the resistance, while on the other it deepens public cynicism and hostility towards the state itself.

Note: this is a revised excerpt from Fire and Flames: A Militant Report on the Toronto Anti-G20 Resistance

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discerning the truth

It's a worrying to me that opinions on whether there was any police provocation at the Toronto g20 seem to divide along lines of previously held beliefs.  All those who favour property destruction say there was none, while almost none of those who don't favour these tactics seem to agree.  On the one hand people attach no importance at all to previous instances of provocation like Montebello (and throughout history).  On the other you have people citing the wearing of  sturdy boots as evidence of infiltration (okay, maybe that is a worse abuse of common sense -- what would you wear?!) and ignoring the cases in which police were clearly on the back foot.

We know very well that -- in certain circumstances -- the police have resorted to such tactics, and we need to examine their own actions in this light.  In the current case, it would be nice to see some argument to say why police would not employ tactics at the g20 that they used at Montebello.  I have heard reports of suspicious behaviour amoungst a few supposed protestors at the g20 from eye-witnesses.  FOf course it is ridiculous to claim that the police allow destruction in order to justify budgets, but they certainly stir up trouble from time to time, probably in order to make it easier to use harsh measures and/or to produce fodder for the media.  The overall goal is often directly to suppress dissent, rather than just to justify themselves etc.,  as shown in many well-documented cases from the 60's particularly, in which the FBI helped to make documentaries defaming the new left, used provocateurs, and many other (sometimes lethal) tactics.


we're not all liberals

In response to some comments here and in other posts:

There is a universe of tatcics between begging policitians for change, and smashing windows.  Our first concern should always be "how best can I act to win social change?".  I've seen comments on this site saying that insurrection has bought about positive change in the past, and labelled all those who don't destroy property as clueless individuals with no plan.  This is a very shallow analysis to say the least.  Sure insurrections have hapenned, and some urban riots etc. have pressured elites into giving concessions.  How does that compare to our situation, right now, in Canada?  In all cases I know of there was strong feeling for the actions in some community which had a strong conciousness of being oppressed.  Radicals in Toronto don't make up a very large group on the other hand.  We are not at anything like the situation that Detriot was in the late 60's, let alone what Barcelona was in the 30's.  To the extent that radicals are isolated and not reaching out to the general population, things are not going to go well for social change.

comments are one thing,

comments are one thing, because we don't heavily moderate them. The site is also open publishing. But at no time to I recall reviewing a story that portrays "all those who don't destroy property as clueless individuals with no plan."

If there is a specific example maybe you could point to it?

I had a look back at comments

I had a look back at comments on articles on the g20, but there are a LOT, so I can't find the comment I referenced, sorry. Yes, it was only comments that were really dismissive, but that gives a hint of what some people out there are thinking. Likewise, in this article you could be forgiven for thinking that you either have property destruction, or liberals begging corporate puppets for change with no back-up threat at all. Okay it's not a terrible case of it, but I've had this straw man argument come up before online and in conversation, so it's worth bringing up. Doubtless there's more to the argument for property damage that I don't know, but I haven't heard it in the recent swirl of web-stuff or in conversation.
I wanted to say, in this context, that military recruitment disruption, occupations, outreach work, space reclaimations, strike and the ultimate weapon, the general strike (alright, most general strikes involve a bit of violence, but they are not primarily based on violence), are all all there in the catalogue too, along with a lot more, and sometimes they are a good option strategically.
Anyway I'm not trying to stir shit. We're allies. The article is a useful contribution. I also don't want this stuff (which can get people on the defensive) to overwhelm other parts of our process of communicating, learning and growing more effective as a result. What's wrong? How do we build the movement? How do we win change? How do we make the change stick? What do we want society to look like after the social transformation that we seek? Essential questions that sometimes get submerged in the aftermath of a big event with heavy repression. Some energy has to go into processing things and defending our friends who are still suffering at the hands of the state. But keep envisioning!

What is Diversity of

What is Diversity of Tactics?

That is a very astute observation.

As someone who witnessed the RNC in St. Paul, Minnesota, and was very supportive of all protestors in the aftermath, I also observed that isolation being a barrier to actual change, social and otherwise.  Sometimes that isolation appears to be self-imposed.  Sometimes i think it is imposed from outside the radical community.  However, breaking through the barriers of isolation is not, like most remedies, the only answer.  Even more tactics must be introduced.  And, yes, some of them will make Black Bloc tactics look as apologetic as those who feel they must petition the government for redress.  Some of them will even involve radical thinking people realizing that radical changes will only begin to be realized when true community building begins.

Hey ZigZag,   This is fucking

Hey ZigZag,


This is fucking great shit. Thanks for this analysis. Very accurate.






I've been getting pretty fucking tired of people who weren't even there telling me with a straight face that the burning cop cars were Hollywood fakes.  People see a youtube video and think they're Yoda.

Thanks for the ammo, Zig Zag!

 this is an important

 this is an important contribution to our movements. Thanks for writing :)

Black Prop

These supposed Black Bloc articles, are really just function as Black Propaganda.
Everyone in toronto on the ground could see a bunch of kids in black running around, with police just standing there.
That is beyond discussion, that is what happened, look at the videos. the only real questions is why police were ordered to not stop the black bloc, and then even let them get changed, grab a coffee and snack, and a couple hours later go after all the innocent people.

there are lots interesting stuff coming out, and the Facebook group calling for a G20 public inquiry has some interesting information.


the only real questions is why police were ordered to not stop the black bloc, and then even let them get changed, grab a coffee and snack, and a couple hours later go after all the innocent people.

That's the only real question, huh?  Well fair enough.

The police were not pre-emptively ordered to "stop" the black bloc because dressing in black and concealing one's identity is not a crime - hence no justification for arrest.  Plus, if they had tried to do so, they would have had to perform a difficult mass-arrest in the middle of a major protest without any publicly-acceptable justification.  Once the break-off march had started, it became much more difficult to stop, owing to the reasons outlined in this article.  They then used the excuse of the property destruction caused by the black bloc to carry out a brutal mass arrest scenario - partly out of bull-headed anger at being humiliated, and partly so that they could use the experience to drive a wedge between black bloc participants and their more moderate fellow protesters - many of whom appear to have taken the bait.

The cops aren't on the side of "all the innocent people", TW... they are the hired bodyguards of corporate capital.


I've organized and participated in many black blocs, as well as observing the police at dozens of protests.

The suggestion that the police were standing around, just letting people do things is absurd. If the police were standing around, it's because they were ORDERED to stand there by their superiors. Let's remember that the police do what they are told. Policing is a very regimented, hierarchical system of command and control. That being said, the police usually have a hard time coordinating their response to protests, so it's understandable that the police may act peculiar.

Occam's Razor tells us that the police are standing around because that's what they've been told to do. It also tells us that the last thing the image conscious police want to be accused of is not stopping law-breaking at some protest.

So no police involvement, and

So no police involvement, and this "kind" of stuff never occurs.....police were NOT dressed as Black Bloc anarchists, and that never happens....right?? So why did the police department in Quebec actually ADMIT to having police, their own guys, infiltrate the anarchist group and dress up as the Black Bloc.....the writer of this article's only purpose is to create naysayer's and sheep, and to deflect responsability....way to sleep with the moronic numbnut..... truth is, the ignorant believe you, and the intelligent make up their own minds....and it's against you.......

Police Confessions

Thank you Pig McGuire:

On abandoning bacon cruisers:
“Those cars were abandoned because officers’ lives were in danger,” says (Jeff) McGuire (staff superintendent with the Toronto Police, one of the lead senior officers on the G20 security operation). “We didn’t leave those there intentionally.”

On follow-up (in collaboration with corporate skum media):
“We will analyze every digital image we have,” says McGuire. “Our team will continue to work for the next two years, five years, if necessary to bring every one of these people to justice . . . Nobody is getting away with this.”
(all the more reason to protect ourselves in the next battle) (nice source eh (gag) ?!)

Agent provacatuers happen in

Agent provacatuers happen in Montebello and now every people's response is just anytime there is some smashy smashy that all black bloc are CSIS insiders and cops. You'd think people would be able to tell the difference between the names Montebello and Toronto but we always want to believe what has already happened in the past

Except "the past" was merely

Except "the past" was merely 3 years ago.

In the court, being proven to have commited prior the exact same crime you're now being charged with  would result in your credibility being severely damaged when denying the allegation.


Is there any evidence for this statement in the article?" The second pair of cop cars attacked was at King and Bay Streets, again overwhelmed by a rapidly moving mob that caught them by surprise. The pigs inside these vehicles ran for their lives."

None that I've seen.



Nothing there

Thanks for the link, but there's no evidence there. The first car shown is the one on Queens. Different situation. The second *is* the car on King, but all the video shows is the abandoned car, people nearby, and a cop hopping around. Maybe it happened as described, but if so, I haven't yet seen it.

Were you there?

or are you basing "reality" off of youtube videos? The panopticon isn't quite finished yet, so there might be things you just can't see online, my friend. Having been there, I can assure, the cops were running scared.

No Black Bloc in Toronto, they all moved to Vancouver?

Toronto rally a huge success, few thousand people, short speeches by detainees, civil liberties, and others.
Ended the march by CBC headquarters, good idea to end marches by a media center.

No black croc crap anywhere. No one will ever stand for that fraud again. No insults at random police, and there were very few visible police, just a few bike cops. The message got out into the media, loud and clear.
G20 Public Inquiry.
Its essential to stand up for civil liberties this time, so they don't try this again next time.

These words are harsh, but carefully chosen. The Black Bloc is like a "cancer" to healthy protest movements. It gets inside, and kills it from inside. It also allows the state to crush all protests, with public opinion on its side.
Protests are for people to get energized, meet new people, and organize political action.

The black bloc smears the entire thing, as its intended. black bloc bloggers, a couple of university bums getting paid by the word by CSIS or something, just rant with no basis in reality.
then the black bloc gets full of delinquents, crooks, thieves, jerks, and cops and a few special forces in the big events, to do the torchings.

Just ban the black bloc military masks from all protests.
If they want to be the bloc, why don't they do it on their own day, in their own place? What are they so afraid of?
The fraud of the black bloc was exposed in Toronto G20, and the world can learn. Ban the black bloc, and your message can be effective, and win public approval, and lead to changes.
Accept the bloc, and the message becomes about burning flags, insulting local police, and the public wants you to all get thrown in a cage with a cheese bun for a pillow, and a broken wrist.

Smart protesters today, had some flyers, and stopped to TALK with many on the streets to explain the issues. That is how you do it. Democratic judo, as has been said.
Since the police refuse to stop the black bloc, and benefit from the black bloc, then the protest organizers themselves have to use the system to cut the black bloc out.
The Vancouver black bloc, are a transparent sham, with their designer signs made by the police undercover Props Dept, and flags from Home Hardware. The Vancouver bloc just exists to spoil the protests, keep people away, hijack the media, and poison public opinion.

If the black bloc is unwelcome, then the police have to enforce this, and the media pressure on police will force the police to control the black croc.
That is what the police-political powers fear, large, organized, intelligent protests, that can win public opinion and drive real change. So the black croc was created to destroy that.

So protesters around the world can learn from Toronto G20, and get rid of the black bloc, which then will show what a sham the security is. Its just a multi-billion dollar payout to political and ex-RCMP cronies, hiding behind security rules.
Robbing the public of their own money, and then using that money to suppress them.

The fake black bloc can be driven from Vancouver by simply making some small steps and preparations. They need a mindless crowd hide behind, to do their dirty deeds.

whoever wrote this comment is

whoever wrote this comment is an idiot, making shit up as they go along like a typical conspiracy theorist. 

Conspiracy theorists say G20 riots were an 'inside job'

More black comedy.
Notice how the so-called "anarchist" shills, and the right wing media are trying to say the exact same thing in their media spin, on the same days!
That is because its coming from the same public relations firm who is setting the media Talking Points.
There is no conspiracy, except the one to deceive the public from the facts the police were ordered to stand-down to allow some punks to vandalize and get some fires on TV. The fires were allowed to burn unattended for hours, risking city blocks. It will all come out in a public inquiry, which is why they are trying to do a cover-up.

Conspiracy theorists say G20 riots were an 'inside job' National Post


Oh really, what public relations firm is that?

zig to tha zag

zig to tha zag

G20 security vanished as Black Bloc appeared to loot store

Here's more proof, it ain't no conspiracy. Yonge St store owner watched the police take off when the black bloc teens came to loot and smash his jewelery store.


Jeweler Zohrab Kilislian shocked after being abandoned by Police Portion of an item by CBC reporter Ron Charles, aired on July 6. A Toronto shop owner describes how G20 security forces suddenly "seemed to disappear", just as 'Black Bloc' protesters arrived to loot his store.

the one cop kicking the light

the one cop kicking the light off the cruser he is a cop here in toronto the only thing that is a sure thing is every tine the police chrif oprns his mouth lies come out

his entrgrady is best sunerize as broken crack pipe and jail house promises would be the catagory best placed to discribe bill blare s word

now in saying that i think we should poly graph him aka place lie detcer on him aww it dont matter that smug retard lies about every thing

i have more questions mr blare what do you know about extortion and the murder of the owner of the barn because he wasnt wanting to be extorted by police and he came forward now he been misteriously murdered ironic isnt it

a billion dollars wasnt enough for toronto police they had to camit insurance fraud fer shame

it is amazing what motivated

it is amazing what motivated individuals in the streets can do armed with only rocks and sticks..

here is a photographs i took on March 15th of this year at the annual Police Brutality protest in Montreal... it is of a pig car running in fear as only 2 activist attack with rocks..

thanks for putting it how it is nice to read something good for once..

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