TRNN Replay – TRNN’s Jesse Freeston, one of the members of media attacked or arrested at G-20
JESSE FREESTON, PRODUCER, TRNN: Welcome to Real News Network. I’m Jesse Freeston, reporting from the G-20 Summit in Toronto. On Saturday afternoon outside the Toronto G-20 meetings, a group of people dressed in black using a tactic known as the black bloc smashed windows of corporate franchises and banks and burned police vehicles. After weeks of suggesting that the reason for a $1 billion police presence was precisely to stop such groups, when the time came the police were nowhere to be seen. So far there have been no reports of people being hurt by the black bloc. The same cannot be said about the Toronto Police. During a press conference with Toronto Chief of Police William Blair following the black bloc events, Real News senior editor Paul Jay asked about a different confrontation.
PAUL JAY, SENIOR EDITOR, TRNN: On television this morning, before the black bloc tactic was used, the images on CNN and a lot of local television were of what happened yesterday, and there were images of police officers hitting and kicking demonstrators. And I have to say one of our own journalists was punched in the face, and we have video footage of that. My question is: are you aware of the incident, and are you going to investigate it, and will there be some public explanation about why there was that type of confrontation and violence?
BILL BLAIR, TORONTO CHIEF OF POLICE: Unfortunately, Paul, I’m very aware of the incident, and we were videotaping it as well. We videotaped all aspects of that. One of the things the media missed yesterday was a large cadre of black bloc dressed people in the center of that crowd. As it approached along College Street they began to throw things at my officers. It was necessary for my people to put their helmets on, and it was also necessary for us to go into that crowd and arrest some of the people that were attacking them. Thatï¿½all of that was videoed. Now, if your reporter wishes to make a complaint of any kind against the police, there’s a proper format to do that, and I urge you either to contact us in writing and have them do that, or he can call the Office of the Independent Police Review. And I’m not going to comment on [inaudible]
JAY: No, I’m notï¿½I know youï¿½I’m not asking you to, ’cause I know you can’t. But we will also make our footage available to you, ’cause in our footage there’s no view of any kind of black bloc tactic in that incident. But we’ll be happy to share it with you.
BLAIR: I have photographs of that, and, actually, they were taken right from the balcony outside my office. I’ll be more than happy to share that with you and all of the media.
JAY: We can compare tape.
FREESTON: Here’s what happened from my perspective. A few thousand people left Allan Gardens Park for a peaceful march entitled Justice for Our Communities. At some point, order came for the police to put on their riot gear. Minutes later a marcher named Emomotimi Azorbo was detained by police and taken into a nearby Winners clothing store. Police then surrounded the entrance. It was later discovered that Azorbo was arrested for ignoring police orders. Azorbo is deaf. His friends and supporters had gathered around, demanding his immediate release and trying to explain his deafness to police.
ACQUAINTANCE OF EMOMOTIMI AZORBO (SUBTITLED): So then the policeï¿½. He’s completely deaf, yes.
FREESTON: Contrary to the police chief’s statement, there was no black bloc in the vicinity. Then police began to violently clear all people and the media out of the area. I was filming the assaults and clearly wearing my press credentials. I was forcefully removed. As I was being thrown out, the man beside me was punched clear off his feet by an officer. A group of officers then threw me on their bikes and I was punched in the face twice. Immediately afterward, I asked the officer why he punched me.
FREESTON: Is that your orders, to punish journalists in the face? Is that your orders today?
TORONTO POLICE OFFICER: Hold the line.
FREESTON: When I tried to ask the supervisor for more details,ï¿½
SUPERVISOR, TORONTO POLICE (SUBTITLED): Okay, just give him another shot.
FREESTON: ï¿½another officer appeared and snatched my microphone,ï¿½
FREESTON: What are you doing? That’s my mic!
OFFICER: Get out!
FREESTON: Give me my mic! I want my mic back!
WITNESS: How can you attack the media?
FREESTON: ï¿½then kicked it further behind the police line. I was told to leave immediately, while officers jabbed me with their bike handle. Other journalists gathered to demand my mic be returned, and after a few minutes it was thrown back to me.
FREESTON: Thank you. Alright. Does it still work?
FREESTON: More police were then called in to fortify the building. Azorbo was eventually transferred to a jail, and his friends say that he was held in custody for an additional day without independent translation before being released. More than 400 people have been arrested this week, currently being held at an old film studio on Eastern Avenue, including numerous mass arrests of peaceful demonstrations and targeting of community organizers. On Saturday night, police arrested and beat up Guardian correspondent Jesse Rosenfeld. Numerous other journalists have shared his fate. I include my own story here not to draw attention to the fact that I was punched, but to the fact that when police attack journalists, they’re attacking a basic democratic right, the public’s right to know what’s going on.
End of Transcript
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