Testimony #10 from the G-20-Reports from witnesses and subjects of police actions
SHERRY G., G-20 DEMONSTRATOR: I haven’t been protesting for many, many years, although I was active years ago. I decided that I wanted to protest at the G-20 not because of any issue that was being brought up, like poverty or the environment or anything else. But I was deeply offended by the police tactics of warning people not to demonstrate, of getting water cannons, of getting the LRAD [long range acoustic device]. That’s what I was going out to protest. I don’t belong to any group. I don’t—nothing like that. On Saturday, June 26, I went to the big demonstration that started at Queen’s Park, organized by the labor movement, and joined in behind Oxfam—it was just random choice. And then they came out, a huge amount of police came out, running down the sidewalk, beating their shields and riot gear, and surrounded the consulate, and came up right to the fence to make sure that Oxfam didn’t invade the US consulate. Then somebody came along and said that you could get down to the fence if you walk down Yonge Street; they were allowing people to go down. And that, I sort of felt, was the whole purpose of being out there. There were no problems. We were talking to the police at the fence. One thing I noticed there was that of a lot of the police officers had no name tags had no badges. So I was asking them why they didn’t have any badges, and I was doing it in a very friendly way. I was saying, “My name’s Sherry. What’s yours?” And a lot of them were laughing. On the 27th we got up and we left the apartment at about two o’clock. We got to Queen and Bay Street, where we were first stopped. A police van pulled up. Officers surrounded my friend in a semicircle. Two of them pushed him against a wall. We had no idea why we were stopped in this fashion, to be surrounded by like that. They threatened my friend. They said, just give me a reason to shoot you; I’m going to break your hands. I said, I’m old, I’m too old to be a rabble-rouser. And one of the cops that were guarding my friend said, well, you are pretty mouthy at the fence yesterday. So, obviously, they recognized us from the fence. Miraculously, they let us go. We were extremely shaken up, obviously. We started walking east on Queen, and we got to Queen and Spadina, and that’s where I was kettled in for 4.5 hours in the rain. That was very frightening, ’cause we had no idea what was going on. I was never given any instructions. I was never told I was to disperse. The only thing I heard was the police at the south end saying for people to go north. But you could not go north: there was another line of riot cops across on the north side. They slowly moved in on us, putting us into a smaller and smaller space. Then they started grabbing people, it seemed to me like arbitrarily. And as the time grew on and on and on that we were standing there and nobody’s still knowing what was going on, the police changed shifts, but they still just stood there looking at us, not explaining anything. There were people there—there was a mother and her child I saw. There was an older couple that had been just trying to cross the road and who’d gotten caught in the middle of it. Nobody there before we were kettled had on a black mask; nobody was even masked before they kettled us in, from what I could see. I have pictures, I took pictures, and I don’t see anybody in black masks. I don’t see any weapons. I see nothing. I saw nothing when I was there. I don’t know where that came from. I’d like to see the video that shows people putting on black masks. I think we were standing in the rain for 3 hours. Most people there were not dressed for it. It was extremely cold. People were giving themselves up. They were too cold and wet, and they just wanted to get in out of the weather, so they were giving themselves up for arrest. They said that we were all being charged with public mischief, but that we were not being booked and we were free to go, and all of a sudden the police to the north just opened up and we were free to leave. It was humiliating. It was very frightening, because you never knew who they were going to come for next. And they were being—they weren’t doing it nicely; they were being very violent about it, shoving people down onto the ground, their heads into the ground, etc. I’m not a big person; I figured for sure, like, I’d be hurt. And as we were walking away, there were two police officers on bicycles, and they looked at us and said, “Have a nice evening,” which was just like putting the knife in and twisting. We got a cab. The cab driver was from Afghanistan. He said if he didn’t have five babies at home he would have been out on the streets with us. He refused the money. He said we were heroes. Since then, I’ve had panic attacks, something I used to make fun of people for having. I used to think, just get over it. I find myself crying and being very nervous when I’m out in public. I try not to go out too much on my own. I have to get to work every day, but—and I manage that, but I’m often on my cell phone talking to somebody to make sure I get there okay. I am extremely afraid that the police will come at any time and pick me up. It’s very frightening. And it’s very frightening not wanting to call the police, because they’re the ones you’re supposed to call if you’re scared, but they’re the ones I’m scared of now. And I just wanted to say one other thing, and that is to people who are told that demonstrating doesn’t work. I was out on the streets in the ’80s. There would be no gay marriage today if we hadn’t been out on the streets. There would be no choice today for women if we hadn’t been out on the streets. Don’t let them tell you it doesn’t work. It does. I was told that. I believed it. I no longer believe it. It does work to be out on the streets. If you’re loud and proud, things change, and that’s the only way things change. Thanks.