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Testimony #7 from the G20-Reports from witnesses and subjects of police actions

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

NEIL D., CITY OF TORONTO WORKER: I live in the Pickering area. I work in the city every day. My profession is I clean bus shelters for a living around the city of Toronto. I’m a working citizen. I came out on the weekend of the G-20 Summit ’cause I wanted to have a peaceful protest where I got to voice my concern over a lot of the issues in the world right now. I also had a lot of problems with the spending of the summit in general. Saturday was—a lot of chaos went down, but all went good for me; I didn’t get caught up in anything. I decided I wanted to come back on the Sunday, so I did so. I came down with a partner of mine from work. We marched with the people up Bay Street towards Queen. We were blocked off by a bunch of riot police, so we were forced to go westward on Queen toward Spadina, where we were greeted by another police barricade on bicycles. At that point, the crowd I was with of protesters, which was easily a few hundred people, we decided to hang out on the corner and engage in a peaceful protest where we sat down on the street corner. We were there for, I’d say, approximately about an hour or so, when suddenly the bicycle police were suddenly replaced by riot gear police. The sound cannon was driven in. It was not ever once used to shout out orders or anything of that nature. One of the officers in the beginning of the line began shouting out to the crowd—he didn’t have a microphone or anything, so nobody was able to clearly hear him. I got the drift that he was telling people they had to clear out, because I saw people frantically getting up and moving northbound on Spadina, which was the only access of passage to escape which wasn’t blocked off by riot police. So I got up and I started to ensue with everybody else and get out of the area, which they asked me to. As I was removing myself from the area, I was barricaded in by a line of riot police. My partner was fortunate enough to get on the other side of the line. I was detained in a small group of about 50 to 70 people. All four corners around me was riot police. The crowd was only chanting peaceful things, such as “peaceful protest”. We were singing the national anthem. And all of a sudden the police from all sides came in and started pushing us into an even smaller crowd, pushing me against protesters behind me, pushing me into the riot gear behind me. I was being shoved and pushed around. It seemed like the shoving that was going back and forth led to the police situation getting escalated, and they just started opening up the barricade to grab people, detain them, and start ripping out the pile that I was in, outside the line, and zip-tying them. Police were doing this in a pretty violent manner. I saw several people get their property damaged. The girl had her bike and I saw it flung completely with disregard away from the area. I saw people violently thrown to the ground and zip tied. I realized when I saw everybody else in my circle getting arrested that I was probably in line to getting arrested, and it appeared that there was no way out of the barricade other than to be released from the barricade in custody. So police asked who was next to go, and I volunteered. I stepped forward and I said, I’m next to go. I put my hands forward like this. Rather than simply restraining me with a calm, professional manner, I’m not sure if it was one or two officers—’cause it was from my back—grabbed me by my shoulders and my back, threw me to the ground violently. As you can see, I have a giant mark on my face, ’cause when I was thrown to the ground, I was kneed in the back of my head by an officer. He then proceeded to put the full force of his weight on my head, driving it into the pavement, which, as you can see, I have a pretty noticeable scrape on my face from right now. And the whole time, he kept chanting to me, “Quit resisting arrest, quit resisting arrest,” which I was completely baffled by, because I willingly came forward and volunteered to be taken away like everybody else in my circle was. And I was unable to see the riot police or officer’s face who abused me, because as soon as I was zip tied, I was taken outside the line and immediately handed off to a female officer who was outside the barricade line and did not actually see the whole event take place. So she did not even know what she was arresting me for. The riot gear officer told her—I guess “obstruction of justice” was the term that they used to detain me, even though, to my apparent knowledge, I had done nothing wrong and was only peaceful and in an orderly civilized manner all day. The female officer took me outside the barricade on Spadina Street, up against the wall of one of the storefront windows, I believe, strip-searched me, took my belongings, placed them in a plastic bag. My shoes were removed from my feet, put in a plastic bag as well. At this point the rainfall started coming down pretty horrifically. It was not just me who was getting arrested; it was several—dozens and dozens if not a hundred or so other people were getting arrested at the same time as me. I was taken; my shoes were put in a bag. It was about an hour of me standing on the street where they were rounding everybody up before they got everything organized enough for people to start being loaded on the coach bus that they had, as well as court service vehicles. I was walked about 200 meters, 100 to 200 meters, in the downpouring rain with no shoes on, just my socks, down Spadina Avenue to the bus. At no point in time—as I was transitioned from the zip tie from the initial riot police officers to actual handcuffs from the female officer, neither one of them at any point read me any of my rights. I wasn’t even 100 percent sure as to what the actual charge was. I had heard her say something about obstruction of justice. Several other people in there on the wagon also had a similar charge, or breach of peace or conspiracy. I was taken to the detention center at Eastern and Pape. This was about two hours, probably, after my initially being arrested. I was then left in zip ties and thrown into a cage of about 15 to 20 gentlemen such as myself. In this cage it was pretty bad conditions. There was only a bench and a port-o-potty with no door. The ground was concrete that was chipped and dirty. I removed my clothes because they were soaking wet, and as cold as I was, I was warmer with my clothes off than I was with them on. I was detained in the cage that I was in for about eight or so hours. I was informed when I first came in that I would be allowed to make a phone call at some point in time. However, during my whole eight hours in there I was not granted access to a phone at any point in time. I was fed a cheese sandwich, one glass of water, and one cup of orange-juice water, and I was forced to share styrofoam cups with three other inmates and myself, because they ran out of styrofoam cups partially through the night. Eventually, at about four o’clock in the morning, 3:30 to 4:00 in the morning, I was talked to by a police officer. He asked me, finally, if I even knew what I was being charged with. I told him I was not 100 percent positive. I told him my story about my arrest. I told him I hadn’t done anything wrong, that I wasn’t violent. He informed me that he didn’t believe me, but he told me that he would look into it. He then came back half hours later and he told me that I would be released with zero charges because they didn’t have any grounds to hold me on anything. So finally I was photographed on the way in before I got on the bus. I was then escorted from the cage through a maze of other, similar cages to my own of people. I was then taken, photographed. I was granted release. I didn’t have to sign any papers the whole time I was there, maybe because I didn’t have any rights read or I didn’t have any rights whatsoever. And I was informed that—even though I was being released with no charges, I was informed by the sergeant that if my face was seen downtown at any protest at any point in the future, that I would be withheld by the police for obstruction of justice. So I felt particularly threatened, when I left the facility, to even be allowed to attend any protests anymore, which to my knowledge is completely allowed in our Charter of Rights and Freedoms. I was finally released at 4:30 in the morning. Thankfully, there was a bunch of protesters and previous detainees that were outside, waiting for me. They gave me a ride to work the next morning, so thankfully I didn’t miss work. But the whole experience was just one of the most horrific experiences of my life, being detained, held without reason, having all my belongings searched and confiscated, and also the manner in which I was arrested and the police brutality which ensued. It was absolutely something out of a movie. It was nothing that I would expect to have seen in Toronto, in my own city, which I work all the time. You know? So this whole experience has stirred me up quite a little bit. And I wasn’t exactly crazy about police before, but it’s unlikely now that I will ever have any kind of confidence or trust in them or the system again after this, you know?

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