On Tuesday, the civilian oversight board for the Toronto police force
agreed to the parameters for
the public inquiry. Victims of the police actions aren’t enthused about any
of the official paths ahead
of them, and are finding their own forms accountability.
JESSE FREESTON, PRODUCER, TRNN: On Tuesday, the civilian oversight board for the Toronto Police announced its terms of reference for its review of police actions during the G-20. It is one of three separate reviews currently being launched. Toronto’s largest newspaper, The Toronto Star, responded with an editorial saying that all three inquiries lack the jurisdiction and subpoena power of a true public inquiry, and therefore won’t be sufficient to answer the pressing questions. As the inquiry processes get started, The Real News caught up with some of the critics of policing during the G-20. Migrant justice organizer Farrah Miranda said she won’t be inspired by any government inquiry.
FARRAH MIRANDA, ORGANIZER, NO ONE IS ILLEGAL: I have no interest in waiting for a legalistic process.
FREESTON: Miranda, a member of No One Is Illegal, spoke outside police headquarters the day after the famous mass arrests in June.
MIRANDA: We were confronted by snatch squads, undercover vans. Unmarked vans swarmed the cab again, took me out, put me into another unmarked vehicle, and drove me around the city trying to intimidate me.
MIRANDA: Being at police headquarters the day after we’ve seen the largest mass arrests in Canadian history, the largest force being used on an unarmed group of civilians, I was incredibly moved to see that thousands of people were on the streets and were not intimidated by the police brutality, the violence, the threats, or even—.
FREESTON: Events like these, she says, are where real accountability comes from.
MIRANDA: What I’m interested in at this point is people coming together to hear stories, to decide for themselves what needs to be done and what accountability looks like.
FREESTON: For some of the people we caught up with, the G-20 brought them unlikely fame, like photographer and university student Natalie Logan.
NATALIE LOGAN, PHOTOGRAPHER AND STUDENT: I started dancing with my two friends to this chant, you know, “You’re sexy, you’re cute, take off your riot suit,” and that became a YouTube sensation, which I found out later, because I was, you know, dancing right in front of the cops, I was so close to their faces but not touching them. I thought it would be really interesting to do portraits of the faces right behind the reflective shields.
FREESTON: Later that night, Logan found herself in a mass detention outside the Novotel Hotel, where people were demonstrating support for striking hotel workers.
LOGAN: You had two options when you were cuddled outside of Novotel that evening. Either you could give yourself up peacefully and say, you know, “I understand the reason I’m going to get arrested. Can you arrest me next?” You could, you know, do the whole peace sign or hands in the air and they would let you out peacefully. Or you could just stand there and wait, and you would be aggressively grabbed out. [inaudible] would just kind of shoot through, grab somebody, and suck them out, kind of like a horror film, right? You’ve got the—you know, everybody’s huddling there, and you don’t know who’s going to be next, and, you know, lots of screaming when that would happen, ’cause everybody was just shouting, like, hey, we just want to go home.
FREESTON: Logan says she spent a total of 17 hours under detention.
LOGAN: In a cell with 20 other women. We had no bathroom door; it was just a porta-potty where guards could see into the porta-potty. So when we had to go to the bathroom, girls would assemble outside of the door to create a body of girls to provide privacy for the person in the toilet.
FREESTON: The Toronto Police gave the media a guided tour of the makeshift prison following the G-20.
FREESTON: Could you explain why there’s no doors on the lavatories?
JEFF MCGUIRE, STAFF OF SUPT. TORONTO POLICE SERVICES: I explained that earlier. That’s a security issue. You wouldn’t want to bring prisoners in, and put them in an area where you can observe them in, and then give them a cave to hide in.
FREESTON: Upon release, Logan exhibited her photos at a gallery in Toronto.
LOGAN: So I had all these photographs up at what’s called the Cell Gallery. It was about the same dimensions of where I was detained. And during my reception, I got cable ties, because during G-20, because there were so many arrests that they did, they didn’t have enough handcuffs for everybody in Toronto, so they used these plastic cable ties around our wrists. I would go up to people in the show and place these on and have them all handcuffed or handcuffed to their group of friends, so as they were going around and looking at my photographs they could experience what it was like to be detained and looking into the faces of these officers. And so the point of the show was, you know, a recreation of that day and night where I was doing portraits of police officers and then later getting detained.
FREESTON: Of the 1,105 people imprisoned during the G-20, roughly three-quarters were never charged in the first place. Logan was one of these. They were imprisoned under a power called breach of the Queen’s peace, which gives Canadian police the authority to imprison people without charge.
SUPT. MICHAEL FARRAR, COMMANDER OF THE G-20 TEMPORARY JAIL: The number-one purpose for most of the arrests was to reestablish, basically, peace on our streets. And the breach of the peace legislation in the criminal code is designed exactly for that, which is to quell and retain and return the Queen’s peace. So that’s exactly what we did. It was entirely planned and well anticipated that the vast majority of our arrestees would be breach of the peace arrests. That’s what we planned for.
FREESTON: Of those who were charged, most have since had their charges dropped. Staff Superintendent Jeff McGuire said in June that serious charges had been laid.
STAFF SUPT. JEFF MCGUIRE, TORONTO POLICE SERVICE: [inaudible] I don’t know, to be honest with you, but I know there were assaults and aggravated assaults and mischief charges.
FREESTON: Sarah Reaburn is a nurse and an organizer of the Toronto Street Medics, which provided first aid during the G-20.
SARAH REABURN, NURSE AND STREET MEDIC ORGANIZER: The only aggravated assault we saw was from the police.
FREESTON: Who were the victims of aggravated assaults?
MCGUIRE: I don’t know.
MCGUIRE: No. See, we were out there to protect the public as well. I mean, we weren’t just standing there to protect the police. There were citizens that were injured.
FREESTON: Where—do you know any instances?
MCGUIRE: No. Yeah, I do, but—.
FREESTON: Can you give us some examples?
MCGUIRE: No. Can we turn around and—are we going that way? Looks like all my guys in there.
UNIDENTIFIED: This is like Queen and Spadina.
REABURN: It was so interesting that they just kept projecting this idea of the violent demonstrator, where I never saw any violence or any injury incurred by any of the demonstrators from other demonstrators. All of the violence that we saw and all of the injuries that we saw were actually the direct result of police violence.
FREESTON: The Real News has yet to find any evidence of demonstrators harming civilians. According to Reaburn, not only did police harm people, but they disrupted the medics who were trying to treat them.
REABURN: We were stopped multiple times during demonstrations, in between demonstrations. We felt that we were targeted because some of us were wearing medic bags, like, signs that explicitly said “street medics”. A lot of us who are medical professionals were extremely harassed by the police and told that we were unprofessional and that we’re a shame to public services because we participate in providing care to people at demonstrations. And just as a nurse, I was asked, like, does your employer know where you are? Are you—like, aren’t you ashamed that you’re out here protecting these violent people?
FREESTON: Also left out is any mention of the deployment of unmarked snatch squads. Washington, DC, native Lacy MacAuley was a victim of such a technique. She returned to Toronto in August to face charges of assaulting an officer.
LACY MACAULEY, MEDIA ACTIVIST: My hearing was about 30 seconds. I came all the way up from Washington, DC, for them to say the prosecution has no interest in pursuing these charges, and that was that. I’m free.
FREESTON: Also missing from the inquiry is any mention of the attacking and imprisoning of journalists. Nor is there any mention of accusations of profiling French speakers from Quebec, and no mention whatsoever of the misinformation put out by the police themselves, such as the famous post–G-20 weapons display.
BILL BLAIR, TORONTO CHIEF OF POLICE: And the weaponry that you see displayed before you today is just a small portion of the evidence that we gathered of what is most certainly a criminal conspiracy involving not dozens but hundreds, several hundred of people, who came from across Canada to commit crimes in our city. There must be an accountability for that criminal conspiracy, yes.
FREESTON: Investigations by The Globe and Mail newspaper determined that the most dangerous items were seized from people with no connection to the G-20. This included the chainsaw, the crossbow, the medieval chain mail armor, and the bow and arrows. However, a large conspiracy trial is still moving ahead, with a total of 19 community organizers standing charge. In part two we speak with two of the people who police have accused of being ringleaders in that conspiracy.
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