Testimony #5 from the G-20-Reports from witnesses and subjects of police actions
TEXT ON SCREEN: The following is testimony of people subject or witness to police actions during the Toronto G-20.
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JULIEN L., G-20 DEMONSTRATOR: Okay. So I guess we got downtown at around two in the afternoon. We caught up with the big march (the original big march that had left from Queen’s Park) at Dundas and University, roughly. Followed along just for a little bit. We’d been out on Wednesday and Thursday as well, and the marches on Wednesday and Thursday were definitely a lot smaller, but they were more condensed, they were better organized, they were louder. So, yeah, at first it looked very calm. The march was—it was very quiet; it wasn’t as energetic as the previous days, although it was very big. And then we didn’t get far, ’cause that’s when we started walking down Queen. And then all, like, the confusion and the traffic happened at Queen and Spadina. And a large portion of the march continued north on Spadina, and we kind of stayed in the corner. There was kind of a logjam. And then we were waiting for a while, like, not exactly sure what happened. And that’s when all the initial incidents happened with the black bloc. And believe me, I don’t want to harp about the black bloc too much, so I’m not going to go about it too much. But kind of scattered—like, the space is empty, and the cop car pulled up, and it was left there. And then they started running and smashing everything. And we were there, and the police at this point were—they were trying to control everything, but they weren’t being too bad, they weren’t being overly intimidating at this point. So we continued. We went back east on Queen. At this point the streets were not empty, but a lot emptier than they had been. And we proceeded east to Yonge, to Queen and Yonge, and went south down Yonge. And then for about an hour and a half we were just kind of randomly walking around. And I’m not going to name specific streets, but they were basically at every corner. The horses came in at some points. It all seemed like what the police were doing wasn’t very organized, it was kind of just random, and they were intimidating a little bit, but it really didn’t seem like there was any specific process. So we went for food for a couple of hours and then heard about what had happened at Queen’s Park, the convergence of some of the labor people and some people that had just gone back to Queen’s Park, the designated free-speech area. I wasn’t at Queen’s Park, but I heard, numbers-wise, there were about 4,000 police, and the people at Queen’s Park were essentially surrounded and teargassed. From there, that crowd moved north to Bloor to get away from the chaos and started going east on Bloor, got to Yonge, went south on Yonge. We had been kind of running around in circles looking for them. We had been headed towards Queen’s Park, but they were moving, actually, quickly enough that we kind of ran around in circles. Ended up going back down south and met up with them roughly at Yonge and Dundas. At this point it was more of, like, a motley group of people—random, like, shoppers and people who weren’t really protesters from the beginning had joined in. So it was lively, but there wasn’t anyone really marshaling the rally or leading it. And then, yeah, at this point it got very disorganized. It started zigzagging, kind of, like, Wellington, Adelaide, Bay, like, the downtown core and through commercial parks. We got, at one point, to one of the commercial parks that was fenced in right at Wellington, right where the fence was and commercial park. We went down some stairs, and there were cops on both sides, but they were still quite far away and slowly, slowly marching in. So people were kind of down in that area; some people were higher up on the stairs. And then, when they got closer, everyone decided to move back up to Adelaide. And then at that point we got cornered on both sides. I’m not sure exactly what happened. We heard something get fired. I’m not sure if it was teargas or if it was rubber bullets, but they essentially shot from one side, and then on the other side they came, intimidating, smacking the batons and the shields. And for a good while they had us cornered. There was nowhere we could go. Everyone sat down with peace signs. And then that lasted for a while. People were a little bit panicky, but for the most part people were sitting down and just not doing anything. And somehow—I don’t know exactly what happened, but we were able to negotiate a hole through the cordon, the riot police cordon, and they let us through. And then back down on Yonge, or maybe a little bit east of Yonge, and ended up on Front for a little bit, and then marched on Front, got to Front and Yonge. And they weren’t stopping us from going on to Yonge, but they were at Yonge on the west side of Front, blocking us from going further down Front. So we sat there for maybe 20 minutes, half an hour, chanting, sitting down. It started raining. So until we got there it had been maybe 300, 350, and we lost maybe a few dozen people when it started raining. We got up again, and at this point there were a few people marshaling the rally, so it was a little bit better organized. But somehow—I’m not exactly sure how this decision was made—we headed south down Yonge, and then, like, shortly thereafter, at Esplanade, we went left down Esplanade. When we got to Esplanade, I knew that it was kind of a tricky situation, ’cause the Esplanade was very narrow, and I knew that probably we were going to get cornered off. And then we proceeded to go in front of the Novotel. I’m not even sure at this point—I haven’t clarified this—people were saying that—well, some of the Novotel employees definitely were on strike, and someone said that there was someone in the crowd who had the idea to go stand at Novotel in solidarity with the Novotel workers, which is a little strange, a little out of context. But anyway. And then other people were saying that a lot of the G-20 people from the summit were actually staying at the Novotel. Anyway. So timewise, like, I don’t remember exactly. We got sealed off, like, fairly quickly on both sides, chanted for a while, sitting down with peace signs again, just trying to not instigate anything. Eventually, one of the chief guys from the police side came over to talk to us and asked us specifically if any of us were Novotel employees, if we were striking, if the strike had anything to do with Novotel, and then they went away. The person leading the rally with the megaphone asked everyone if there were any representatives from Novotel or if anyone had anything to do with that, and we said no, responded back to the police, and invited that same police officer or someone different to come back and to negotiate with us as to what we were going to do. And at this point we were definitely cornered, and it had been a while. Presumably, people would have left if the police had let us leave, but we were totally sealed off and there was absolutely nowhere to go. And on a couple of occasions they told us, leave, go home, which was very hypocritical because, yeah, we had absolutely nowhere to go. And from there, yeah, they didn’t come back to negotiate again. And then, slow process, they started moving in, but they were really taking their time, like, moving up a little bit, waiting five minutes, smacking batons and shields, and really making it as intimidating as possible. A lot of people—like, a lot, probably a lot more than half—collapsed into the entrance of the parking garage of the Novotel, and a group of us, maybe about 50, stayed in the middle, still maybe a couple of chants going on. And then at that point they just started snatching people and disappearing them behind the police lines. And then that small group was taken up quite quickly. The people that were initially detained were treated very roughly, like, dragged around. Kind of the corners of the original group were collapsed by the shields just trying to close us in as much as possible. They were just being very rude, like, telling us to look at the ground, like, pushing our heads. And, yeah, so, I won’t go on too much more about that. Aside from that, they were very disorganized; like, the process seemed like it had no sense, and it took them very long. We were sitting on the bus for about an hour and a half before we actually started moving. And from what I heard, from what I understand, the rest of the group that had collapsed into the parking garage, they surrounded them as well and left them there for about an hour and a half, two hours, before they even detained them. So those people were just sitting there with nowhere to go for two hours. Anyway. So we got to Eastern Avenue, to Queen and Pape, into the big parking garage. There were four cells in there. It didn’t take that long until we were taken off, put into our cells right away. Yeah, it was very chaotic. Like, everyone was yelling. Anyway, so to proceed now with, I guess, the time spent in the first cell, me and most of the group, like, about another, like, seven or eight of us, stayed in that cell for 12 hours. Of course, like, as the repeated stories, none of us got phone calls, none of us got contact to legal aid, despite asking for it several times. The cops were very aggressive, very rude, not acknowledging us, ignoring us, most of the time not even answering our questions. Conditions-wise, it was very psychologically confusing, I guess. Like, the floor was very cold, concrete floors very cold in the room itself. The bright lights were constantly on. We had no idea what time it was. So it was a very strange atmosphere. We got water after a few hours, but a very small portion, again, like, despite asking several times. And food, again, was very scarce, and we had to ask for it several times. So those were the conditions there as well, I guess, for that. The cops were really ridiculous, and we were kind of jostling verbally back and forth with them. At one point, one of them admitted being a fascist. We all thought that was very ridiculous. Anyway. So after 12 hours they started calling out our names. They said we were—actually, they didn’t really say much. And we assumed 12 hours. We weren’t even sure if breach of peace was 12 hours maximum detainment or 24, ’cause, again, they never told us anything. So we assumed that we were being released, but they just in fact brought us to another cell. That cell was filled with the jail support that had actually been there for us, which ended up being kind of a positive experience for us, because we knew a lot of them and we got a chance to talk and exchange stories, and even kind of talk and strategize and plan actions for the rest of the week. So that ended up being good. The conditions there in terms of the cell itself were very much the same, except it was a little bit warmer, a little bit more tolerable. But they rammed us in with a bunch of other people, so there were 26 people in this small cell. I don’t know what they are, like, 10 x 10, 9 x 12, like, very small cells, and so most of us couldn’t even lie down, although it was pretty much impossible to sleep anyway, ’cause it was just too cold. Only difference being the officers in this area were even more rough with us, even less responsive. As we were getting in, the last guy coming in took too much time, and our cellmate got pushed in and said something back, and the officer said, “Shut the fuck up or I’m going to beat the shit out of you.” So they were being very aggressive. So, again, like, a very hard time to get food again in that cell and water. No information whatsoever. Basically the same thing. We had a mate in our cell who’s diabetic, and on two occasions he wasn’t doing well; like, his blood sugar was low. They took him out and brought him into the infirmary and gave him a couple of insulin shots, I assume, but always brought him back to the cell. And every time they brought him back, within an hour he was feeling sick, he wasn’t feeling well again. And it got to a point where he was feeling so bad that we were trying to get him water and he was shaking and he was—like, clearly he was losing color. He was not doing well at all. And we were, obviously, calling for attention, yelling out at them at this point for quite a while—half an hour, 40 minutes—until he finally collapsed off the bench. At that point, finally, they got people and brought him out. And we were yelling at them to actually bring him to the hospital, to hospitalize him, and not just to get him and throw him back in the cell again. And that’s what they did: they took him out for about 10, 15 minutes, and threw him back in the cell again. So clearly there was, like, complete disregard for the, like, medical for people. We also had someone in there, an aboriginal man, who had been there the longest out of all of us. He was double-cuffed, treated very badly. And he was also—he was one of the last ones let go as well. And yeah, I guess that’s pretty much it. […] Okay. I just wanted to add a couple more things, ’cause, yeah, information-wise, again, like, we had no idea of anything. We had no idea when we were getting out, how long we were going to be in there—and we’d asked them repeatedly, of course. And what was happening was, yeah, we were getting different information from different officers, and it seemed like the stories were consciously switching up, very inconsistent in their information, and hard for us to know whether that was deliberate or not or whether they were just themselves, like, confused and overwhelmed with the process. But, yeah, it seemed at some point that they were, like, almost doing it to toy with us, to make it more difficult for us. Also, they had this really inefficient system of, like, property bags that they were bringing up to the cells, and calling out names to see if we could be released or moved somewhere else, and literally for about four or five hours coming up to the cell, let’s say once every about 20 minutes, and calling out a name. And there were never anyone from our cell or the two cells that were nearby, so we don’t know if they were even just making up names. But literally there was a list of about five, six names that they came and called out about five, six times. So there was clearly something that they were doing, or really confused with the process. And, yeah, like, it really felt like they were almost, like, deliberately creating a sense of confusion and uncertainty, kind of. So it was a very strange space. And, yeah, just one thing to add with food. A couple of times asking for water and food, specifically with food, they told us this, that the jail was so busy and so overran that they didn’t even have sufficient food for all the prisoners in the jail. So that was interesting also.
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