Toronto Mike

Criminilization of Dissent and Sheer Police Brutality at the G20


I've been following the very interesting discussion on my entry about the incident at Queen and Spadina Sunday night.  Regular readers have promised never to read this site again.  Some blame those at Queen and Spadina for being there, others feel the police mishandled things, everyone has an opinion.

Whether you agree or disagree with what went down, I think it's important we continue to ask questions and discuss things.  Andrew pointed me to this note (name removed) wrote on her Facebook page.

On Saturday night, June 26th 2010, I was arrested without   cause and forced to spend 18 hours at the G20 detention facility on   Eastern Ave. A fairly large group of demonstrators were holding a   peaceful gathering on the sidewalk outside the facility to stand in   solidarity with other comrades and activists who had been targeted,   followed, beaten, and arrested by police earlier in the weekend.* People   were chanting, playing music, dancing, and exercising their rights to   free speech and dissent within the law. It is worth emphasizing that   there was absolutely no violence nor any threat of violence occurring.   At about 1AM, our group was approached by hundreds of riot cops on all   four sides, in full gear with masks, batons, guns, etc. After completely   surrounding us, we were told through a loudspeaker that we were   “breaching the peace” and that we had to disperse immediately. However,   this order was impossible to fulfill as we were trapped and were not   being given a way out. Five minutes later, we were given a second   warning to leave the area, or “appropriate force” would be used against   us. Once again, everyone in the group was asking the same question-   HOW?? At this point, we wanted to leave and understood that we had to,   but we couldn’t. Finally, after one of our group members pleaded with an   officer, a small gap was created in the heavily fortified wall and we   all began to file out, heading westward on Eastern Ave. We stuck closely   together, for fear that any one person sticking out or walking alone   would be individually targeted, as had happened earlier in the weekend.   We quietly all left the surrounded zone and continued to walk down   Eastern Ave, as riot cops continued to follow and surround us on either   side of our line. Just before reaching Pape Ave, for some reason the   cops suddenly cut off our line, trapping about half of the original   group inside again. While the people at the front of the line were free   to go home, the rest of us were told to put our hands on our heads.   While we stood like that for fifteen minutes, I asked the guy standing   beside me if we were actually getting arrested- he told me that getting   arrested would be the best case scenario under these circumstances.
After   being notified of our arrest, we were swarmed by a bunch of cops and   each of us was handcuffed. Our bags were thoroughly searched, we were   asked to provide ID, and all of our belongings were taken. It was very   obvious that I was the first person my arresting officer had ever   arrested, as she clearly had no idea what was going on (“Do we actually   need to fill out this part of the arrest form?” “How do these handcuffs   work?” “I totally forgot to check your pockets, do you have anything in   there?” etc.) The only thing she had any confidence in doing was telling   me that it’s a good thing I’m self-employed because after this I’ll   have no hope of ever getting a job again (which is obviously completely   false). Our pictures were taken and they put us in the back of three   police wagons, which were essentially stuffy hot cages with metal   benches and locks. We were driven to the G20 detention facility, which   was literally just down the street as we had just come from it, and held   in the wagons for about an hour and a half. While waiting, I could hear   both the cries of the other prisoners (who we had just been rallying   for) as well as the uproar of the people that had just assembled outside   (who were rallying for us).
We were finally   led inside the warehouse and locked up inside 3x6m metal cages. There   were rows upon rows of these cages in there, bolted to the ground,   crammed with people. Inside each cage was a small metal bench and a   port-a-potty with no door and no toilet paper. It was freezing cold and   they had taken both my sweater and my scarf. I spent the night on the   dirty and cold cement floor with nine other women, shivering and huddled   together to keep warm. The lights were on the entire time, and people   in mine and neighbouring cages were continuously banging and shaking   them, demanding to be let out. We begged the guard to bring us sweaters,   but they had already run out of them a long time ago. Finally after it   was obvious that people were going to get sick, we were given a total of   three t-shirts and a couple of pairs of socks. We all took turns   creating barriers in front of the bathroom so that we could each use the   toilet with some level of privacy from all of the male cops walking   around We were handcuffed the entire time, and some peoples’ handcuffs   were on so tightly that their hands were going numb and fingers turning   blue, but most of the guards refused to loosen them. We were given a   styrofoam cup of water every couple of hours, and two sandwiches with   cheese and butter inside them. I asked if I could have just a slice of   bread because I’m lactose-intolerant (I’m actually vegan but wasn’t   going to get into it) and they said no and told me to shut the fuck up.   Most requests for anything, even just basic needs like menstrual pads,   blankets, and medication, were either completely ignored or ridiculed.   By the morning, after the Novotel mass arrests, 17 more women had been   added to our cage, making it a total of 27. They included everyone from   university professors to media reps to people who had just been walking   down the street and got caught up in the mess.
On   Sunday around mid-day, they finally started to process us. At this   point, the entire prison was packed full of hundreds of tired, hungry,   and understandably frustrated people, some of whom had been there for   over twenty four hours. They had absolutely no grounds for holding us   that long, and it was clear that we were being detained as political   prisoners so that we couldn’t participate in any further actions on   Sunday (and also so that they could fill their arrest quotas and justify   spending absolutely absurd amounts of money (OUR money) on all of this   and look like heroes etc etc.) Probably the most inspiring part of the   entire bleak and incredibly dehumanizing process was the solidarity and   support I received throughout, especially when walking past all of the   other cages full of people while being led in handcuffs to the   processing room. That is basically where I got the strength to keep   going through this extremely nightmarish ordeal. While being processed, I   was asked if I was aware why I had been arrested (NO), and told that I   was going to be released without any charges, but also that if I was to   protest again at the G20 I would be criminally charged.
I   was then moved to the “catch and release” area of the prison and told   that my right to use the telephone was being negated since I was going   to be released soon (which didn’t happen, and despite making it very   clear in the subsequent hours that I deserved to make a phone call, I   was still ignored). The “catch and release” area is where I witnessed   the most despicable treatment by fellow human beings that I have ever   experienced in my life. The abuse of power on the part of the police and   court officers was unlike anything I ever could have imagined.   Instances of blatant racist, sexist, and homophobic abuse were severe   and ongoing. I do not even wish to repeat some of the demeaning and   frankly horrifying things that I heard some officers say to myself and   to other people, especially to women. The constant mockery of detainees   and systematic downplaying of the pitiful nature of our circumstances   made me realize how morally bankrupt and disconnected from reality and   from humanity these cops actually are. I kept getting moved around from   cage to cage and kept getting lied to about getting released soon. I   eventually ended up in a cage by myself across from a cage with about 35   men in it. These particular men had been denied food, water, and   answers for many, many hours. When desperate pleas for water were made,   the police replied by converging right in front of their cage and   chatting while drinking their own bottled water. There was one “juvenile   offender” in there, a 14 year-old boy, being treated in the exact same   way as everyone else, including being denied a phone call to his parents   or to a lawyer. There was also a man in there in critical condition,   almost without a pulse, and it took me literally screaming at the top of   my lungs to get someone to finally pay any attention to him.
I   was also completely appalled at the sheer incompetency and   disorganization of the police force. I couldn’t even count the amount of   times I heard one officer say to another “I have no idea what is going   on.” Nobody had any answers to any questions, whether they were our   questions or their own questions to each other. If I ever hear another   police officer say “We are working on it” or “We are trying our very   best” I think I am going to lose it. This was the standard response to   absolutely EVERYTHING. Many police officers even had the nerve to say   things to me like “Trust me, I’m equally as frustrated as you are” or   “I’ve been on my feet all day too so I know how you feel” or “I got   woken up and called in to work in the middle of the night- this   situation is unfair for everyone” or “It’s not that cold in here, you   just FEEL cold because you’re tired” or “You wouldn’t be here in the   first place if you weren’t so fucking violent!” The majority of them   were just wasting time walking around trying to figure out what the hell   they were supposed to be doing. They had no record of where anyone was   in there, so every time they were looking for a specific person, they   had to go around to every single cage and ask for them by name. Anytime I   said anything to them (eg. “Why is the catch and release process all   catch and no release?” “How many times are you going to walk by and   pretend like you’re doing something?” “Why do I know more about the law   than you do?” “Does your billion dollar budget not include FREE tap   water?”), I feel that my release process became slower and slower. I   realize these things may have been mildly insulting to them but they are   all true and pale in comparison to how incredibly insulted I was to be   locked up in that place.
Finally at almost 8pm   on Saturday evening, my photo was taken again, my belongings returned,   and I was released. At one point they had said that one of the reasons   it was taking so long was because there had been a riot outside and the   prison had been on lock-down. I think they forgot about the fact those   of us inside actually know a lot of the people who were outside and have   now been informed that there was no such riot and no such lock-down, so   it was just another lie added to the long list. I am incredibly   thankful that I had friends that managed to find out that I was in there   and were waiting to take me home when I got out.
It   is utterly reprehensible that something of this magnitude and level of   injustice could occur in our city. Many peoples’ fundamental rights have   been brutally violated and many people experienced much worse things   than myself. This is but a microcosm of what occurs on our streets and   in our prisons every single day. I will continue to refuse to be   criminalized for expressing dissent against criminal and illegitimate   institutions.
*A similarly peaceful   demonstration had been held outside the holding facility the night   before, in support of our friend Emomotimi Azorbo, a deaf black male who   had been arrested on Friday for crossing the street at Yonge and   College after police had verbally instructed him not to (he is DEAF). On   Friday night we were simply trying to convince an ableist and   shamefully ignorant police force to allow an ASL interpreter inside the   facility so that Emomotimi would be able to communicate with his lawyer   and with police investigators, as any hearing person would be able to.   The police denied these pleas, effectively denying him of his basic   rights under the Canadian Charter. Support is now pouring in from deaf   communities and allies around the world.
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