Being from Montreal
Many Canadians and Quebecois alike came to protest the summit. Feeling that these people were a potential danger, they began arresting everyone from Canada’s favourite city without needing any other pretext.
Due to the fear of “black bloc” tactics, many people were arrested for wearing black, even though many of us wear black all the time and the actual “black bloc” removed all their black clothing immediately at the end of the so-called “riot.” Adam Nobody, a roadie carrying a sign that said “Let Donna Graduate!” was tackled and punched repeatedly because his shirt was black.
The “officer bubbles” incident is now legendary. To be totally truthful, blowing bubbles was not actually the reason for her arrest: she was arrested for having the phone number for legal defence on her arm and possessing a bandana. I deeply apologise for publishing a misleading flyer.
Not Showing ID Fast Enough
Charlie Veitch, aka the Love Police, was imprisoned for a day and released without charge because, when a police officer asked for his identification, he insisted that the officer provide his own identification first. Canadians are not, by law, required to show ID when asked, which is why he was not charged. But why was he arrested and held in solitary for more than a day in the first place?
Planning a Dance Party
The idea was that Toronto is a fun loving city, so, while we resent the redistribution of wealth upward that the G20 represents, instead of a protest let’s have a street party and show the world leaders the freedom and beauty that Canadians believe in. Once the reality of the weekend set in, this became an extremely bad idea and really ought to have been cancelled by the organisers, but was it really justified to grab her with a snatch van? Plain-clothes officers jumping out of unmarked vans is no way to conduct an arrest.
Having the Keys to her Own Office
Lara Mrosovsky, who works in a children’s garden, was arrested for possession of “burglary tools,” which were the keys to her office. That’ll teach her.
Having Dinner at the Keg
A large group was walking along The Esplanade, many ready to call it a day and get some sleep. A police line formed in front of them, just past the doors of The Keg, so they turned to go the other way, but a new police line had formed behind. People asked to leave but were not allowed. At least one couple finished their dinner at the restaurant, unaware of what was happening outside, and were immediately arrested upon stepping outside, told by a cop that “it’s too late.” For what? Charter rights?
Being an amputee
This is probably the sickest one of all. Somebody decided that the Free Speech Zone had to be cleared, so cops charged forward with horses to get people to run, and then formed new riot lines successively further into the park until there was no park left. John Pruyn, a 57 year old amputee, was unable to run, and because he was moving too slow, instead of helping him, they confiscated his leg, dragged him across the concrete and kicked him repeatedly before arresting him.
Singing John Lennon Songs
A large group was walking along The Esplanade, ready to call it a day and get some sleep. A police line formed in front of them, so they turned to go the other way, but a new police line had formed. People asked to leave but were not allowed. So, tired, they sat down and sang Give Peace a Chance. As soon as they finished singing, a cop announced on a megaphone that they would all be arrested.
Carrying eye-wash solution
Many activists and reporters feared excessive force by the police, including the use of pepperspray and tear gas. Some brought eye-wash solution just in case. Police, upon finding it in people’s bags, declared it an “incendiary device” and had them charged.
Emomotimi Azorbo was arrested for not obeying a police order he could not hear. He claims he was trying to cross the street to buy a drink; the order was to leave the area. The unnecessary arresting of young black men is hardly a new thing in Toronto, but did they really have to deny him a sign-language interpreter, insisting that a cop be present when he talked to his lawyer?
Having an Unlikely Name
Picture one man handcuffed on the ground, already beaten by a cop who has now been charged, another man in a uniform standing over him. “What’s your name?” “Adam.” “What’s your last name?” “Nobody.” — at this point, the cop kicks him the face, breaking his jaw, before another officer takes his wallet and realises that really is his name. Again, I have to apologise for being misleading… he would have been arrested anyway, for wearing black. But how has the officer who kicked him not been charged yet? He was handcuffed and on the ground for Christ’s sake.
Writing in Chalk on the Sidewalk
A designer and journalist was so offended by the Toronto Police Service’s conduct during and after the G20 that he felt compelled to write: SHAME ON YOU with charcoal (not chalk! My mistake) on the sidewalk outside Police Headquarters… so he was arrested, cuffed, strip-searched and put in solitary confinement on the charge of mischief.
This is really just part of the “Being from Montreal” reason above. The fact that people spoke French was used to identify them as being Quebecois and therefore a terrorist who needed to be arrested. I was told of one incident where a man was apprehended for speaking French, and released when they found out he was from France, not Quebec.
Wearing a Jester’s Hat
In truth. the jester’s hat was the reason police were able to identify and arrest the man, but their justification was that he was carrying a bottle of vinegar which they assumed was a bomb.
Following Police Instructions
Lines of riot cops arbitrarily shutting down dozens of streets gave conflicting and confusing orders to the crowds. Innocent people who asked the cops how they could go home were told to go to a place where everybody was immediately arrested. This was not one specific incident, but many.
Misinterpreted and Unconstitutional Secret Laws
Passed in secret and blocked from publication, the Public Works Protection Act did not actually include the powers that Bill Blair, the only person who had access to it, claimed. Police arrested and charged people according to his lies, and then the charges mysteriously disappeared and Blair claimed no-harm-no-foul.
Speaking in the Free Speech Zone
There were a lot of different people giving a lot of different speeches in Queen’s Park. When the police started forcing people out, some didn’t want to be silenced and stayed, and for this they were arrested.
Having Coloured Hair
This is one of several variations on being arrested for looking different. Police grabbed anyone they guessed was a protester, such as Natalie Gray, who was identified as such because she had blue hair and therefore must have been up to no good.
Carrying a Bottle of Vinegar
A police officer saw a protester with a bottle of something, assumed it was a molotov cocktail, and proceeded to arrest and charge the man even after discovering it was vinegar. He was recently acquitted of possessing an incendiary device.
Trying to go Home
This happened to dozens of people. The cops had shut down so many streets and made movement through the city so difficult that anybody unfortunate enough to be outside had a good chance of not making it home. This despite mayor David Miller’s request for us to go out and have a normal day in our city.
Singing Hip Hop
Hip-hop band “Test Their Logik” made an aggressive music video in which they encourage dissent. They were arrested for conspiracy and ordered not to make music together. Yes, the police literally ordered a hip hop group to disband. Good thing they got off.
Being a Legal Monitor
Fearing charter violations, legal monitors were trained to be in the crowds and make sure the police followed the law. As it turns out, the law had nothing to do with the arrests, and the monitors were arrested just like everyone else.
Living in Parkdale
A building in Parkdale was used to give somewhere for protesters to stay. Police cracked down on it and essentially arrested everybody in the vicinity, though it was nowhere near the summit site or any vandalism.
Wishing an RCMP Officer “Good Luck”
Sean Salvati went to a Jays game in the days leading up to the G20. Outside there were a lot of police and he had friendly conversation with them, hoping they would do a good job to defend the city. On his way home, he wished a female RCMP officer “good luck,” so they dragged him out of his taxi, arrested him, beat him and left him naked in a cell.
Giving TTC Tokens to Released Prisoners
A number of people came to support the 1105 prisoners being held in the Eastern Avenue detention centre, and were attacked and arrested for doing so.
Going to a Live Action Roleplay Event
Before the G20, a man was on public transit on his way to a LARP event in Southern Ontario. He was pulled off of transit and arrested because he had chain mail and some de-weaponised arrows (pool noodles attached to the ends by tube socks). Once they figured out he was unrelated and not dangerous, they let him go, but kept his gear, and then displayed it as examples of weapons brought “to attack our city.”
Having the Phone Number for Legal Defence
Fearing that people might be arrested unjustly, a legal defence group instructed people to write their phone number on their arm so that they’d have it, just in case. Police then used this to identify protesters — after all, if you were worried about being arrested, obviously you’re dangerous and should be locked up.
There have been a number of examples of police brutality documented by private citizens at the G20, and there have been a number of other examples for which the documentation has been destroyed (cameras smashed, or confiscated and the files deleted). In some cases, people were arrested simply for trying to document what was going on.
Organizing a Film Screening
Jaroslava Avila, a political science student at the University of Toronto, contributed to the protests of the G20 weekend by organising film screenings. Because that’s almost the same thing as telling people to break windows, she was arrested and charged with conspiracy. Her charges have been dropped because there was never any evidence, just like all the other “conspirators.”
Speaking on a Panel at the University
Alex Hundert, originally arrested before the G20 on charges of conspiracy, was given a bail condition that he was not to participate in any public protests. He didn’t think this would apply to speaking on a panel at Ryerson, and it turns out the judge agreed, but that didn’t stop seven RCMP agents from showing up at his door and arresting him for it. Apparently his ideas are too dangerous for us to hear.
And Many Others!
The events surrounding the G20 are hard to see as anything but the criminalisation of dissent. There are very good reasons why people should be protesting the G20. It’s easy to blame the “black bloc” or the unrelated bystanders who burned the cop cars, but the arrests actually started before those incidents, with late night warrantless raids on people’s houses, dozens of community organisers dragged away at gunpoint and hit with the vague charge of “conspiracy.” Make no mistake: their crime was protesting.
In the days that followed, many others were arrested as well, often for truly absurd reasons, and these are the reasons I have chosen to emphasise on my flyer, because they’re very hard to disagree about. No matter what you feel about the anti-state views of Hundert, Singh, etc (personally, I think they’re noble and worthy of our admiration, but short-sighted in a number of ways and sometimes too antagonistic), you no doubt agree that arresting a man for being an amputee is fucking disgusting. However, these incidents of “innocent” people being caught up took place in a broader context of a crackdown on all forms of dissent, “violent” and otherwise. The police campaign was extreme, brutal, unfair and totally illegal, and there are people who are still behind bars a year later simply because they don’t like the direction our government is taking. Given the unprecedented way they were victimised, how can we now not see that they were right all along? If the government is willing to do this, what else are they willing to do?
In the words of the CSN, “Support the G20 accused, even the innocent ones.”