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Toronto G20- Reports from witnesses and subjects of police action – testimony #1 from Queen and Spadina

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TEXT ON SCREEN: The following is testimony of people subject or witness to police actions during the Toronto G-20.

CASSANDRA J., JOURNALISM STUDENT: So on Sunday, me and my cousin decided to go out to protest. And I was going to go out on Saturday, but then I saw the footage of, like, all the burning [of] the cruisers and smashed windows, and I felt like it wasn’t something that I really wanted to take part in, so I decided we would hold off until Sunday the 27th. And so we were protesting in particular international poverty. So we had signs. My sign said: “Isn’t it time people mattered more than profit?” My cousins had all these statistics about infant mortality rates and things of that sort. And so we went down. At first when we went down, we were on Queen Street and there was nobody there. And then a rally started picking up around Queen and Yonge, and it was heading west towards Spadina, so we joined it. It was completely peaceful. It was completely peaceful. There was nobody—we were actually chanting “Peaceful protest.” And so at first, when we were starting to make our way down to Spadina, we were blocked off by a line of riot police. And then they decided to let us go, so they moved away. There was nothing violent. It wasn’t—like, they decided to let us go through. They actually escorted us down Queen Street on their bikes. And again we were chanting very peaceful things. It was nothing against the cops; it was just about the issues. So finally we got to Spadina, and they blocked off Spadina. And just basically, our only option was to go north, and the people didn’t want to go north, because that was going further away from the convention center where the G-20 summit was being held. So we just kind of sat down. Some of us—some of them were singing “Oh, Canada”. Very peaceful. We had peace signs up. Again, everyone had different reasons to come out, but for me it was poverty. I had my sign up. We were chanting peaceful things. And all of a sudden a line of riot police start coming. So I’m here, and there’s a line of riot police like this, and then a line of riot police start circling over here. So I go up to one of the police, I go up to one of the police and I ask, “Is there any way we can get out? We don’t want to be caught in this. How can we get out?” They never once told us to leave. I’ve been hearing Chief Bill Blair say that they told us three times. Not once did one police officer say, “Leave the premises,” ’cause if they did, I would have been gone. So as they’re circling, I ask one of the of riot police how can I get out, and he said, “Run that way.” So I’m running that way, and then I get blocked off by another line of riot police marching and hitting their equipment. And I said, “How can I get out?” And he said, “You’re all being arrested.” So they had us circled, and we’re all in the middle. We’d have our peace signs up. Even though they have us circled and cornered, and as a human, as an animal, it is our basic instinct to attack when you’re cornered, we were all completely peaceful. We had our peace signs up. They had us circled, and they were taking people one by one, dragging them out of the group, sometimes by the back of their shirts, sometimes by their clothing, and they would put them on the floor. And so when it came to my turn, a woman just dragged me out. She threw me on the floor. She took my hand behind my back, and she was trying to take these off [indicates her bracelets], but she was really hurting me ’cause she wasn’t taking it off, so I tried to help her, and she twisted my arm and put [me] on the floor and kneeled on my back. And so she just handcuffed me with the plastic cuffs. And then a man took me and sat me on the sidewalk. And they told me that I would be not only arrested for conspiracy to commit mischief; they told me that I would also—’cause I had a sign and the end was a little bit pointed, they said I would also be charged with possession of a weapon. So I’m crying at this point because, I mean, I’m a journalism student. I want to travel the world. I know this will not allow me to do so with these charges. So I’m crying, and he’s basically telling me that I was part of the anarchy that took place on Saturday. He was telling me —and I kept saying I wasn’t even here Saturday, I just came today. He was [inaudible] really smart remarks like, “Yeah, sure, that’s what they all say,” and just really not listen to anything I was saying. And then I told him that my—well, he asked me my birthday, and he saw that my birthday was the next day, and he said, oh, that’s nice; you’re going to be imprisoned for your birthday. Things like that, like, just unnecessary. So, anyways, they put me at the back of the paddywagon, which was—it was basically 2 meters by maybe 1 meter, and they put ten women inside. And they had cuffed us in the front, but at this point with the metal cuffs. And this was around 6:30 when I got put in the paddywagon. And then one cop—we were there for about two hours. It started to rain before we actually got inside, so by the time we were in, our clothes were soaking wet, and they had cranked up the air-conditioning in the vehicle. So we were freezing. They wouldn’t allow us to go to the washroom. They wouldn’t allow us to—there’s one woman who started hyperventilating, and they wouldn’t allow her to leave. She was, like—and there’s, like, holes in the door, so she was trying to breathe through there. Then I got moved to another one ’cause one police officer said that’s overcrowded and you can’t do that. Then I got to move to another one, which had the same amount of people in it, ten women to one 2 meter x 1 meter, like, steel cage, pretty much. And there was one lady there who was—she was 59, and she had a kidney condition where she only had a certain percentage of her kidney working, and she told the cops, “Can I please go to the washroom? If I don’t go to the washroom, my kidney will burst,” and they said no. So there was two women, and they ended up having to pee themselves or pee on the floor of the paddywagon. So we were stuck there for, like, three hours with the smell of urine, freezing cold. We asked them if we could just step out for some air ’cause there were so many women, and they would shut the door so it was completely dark. I mean, you couldn’t see your hand in front of—and you’re just trying to huddle with the woman beside you. And they wouldn’t let us even step out just for a quick breath of air. Women were peeing on the floor in front of me, and, like, it was a desperate situation. And the cops were just joking around, making funny remarks at us. It was dehumanizing, completely. And so they finally—I guess they really couldn’t take us anywhere, ’cause they had no space. They were trying to—we’d hear them on the phone trying to, like, see if they could take us to 32 Division or the—Eastern Avenue was completely full, and they had no spot to take us. So they ended up letting us out around 10:30 at night, right where we were detained. We just sat in the back of the paddywagon for four hours for absolutely nothing, and they let us go at around 10:30 at night. And, yeah, that was it. And my cousin actually got taken to the detention center, and the cops were threatening her with different charges, that—. It was a complete power trip on so many levels. Like, they were able to say and do anything to us, and knowing that we had absolutely no power.

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