We had just gotten off the subway at Queen & Yonge, and walked towards the sound of the cheering crowd. There was several hundred people gathered at King & Bay, everyone taking pictures. There they were, Canada’s pride and joy,d standing behind a shiny wall of carbon-fibre shields that would eventually, become our prison cell. The majority of the crowd were the typical Toronto pedestrians out on a Sunday afternoon. Some people out for lunch, some for a bike ride, others simply getting out of the house. It was by any definition, peaceful. We quickly bored of the expressionless army of drones, and decided to go north towards City Hall. We turned left on Queen and walked past the Sheraton Hotel before we were finally stopped by a small group of “bicycle police.” They held us there, at King & York for about twenty minutes. A woman on a megaphone asked the police to let us pass, she told them we were peaceful and simply performing our rights as citizens. They eventually agreed, and allowed us to pass. We continued west on Queen Street, clapping and singing and generally having a really fun time. Everyone was taking pictures of each other – it was neat to see that people can just come together that organically. As we moved, streetcars began to arrive in unison. They were lined up, in a neat little row, doors open. The group was feeling a little suspicious, but we continued to move west towards Spadina. As we stepped into the intersection, we noticed the “bicycle police” had formed a line preventing us from moving south. They did not want us to get any closer to the “security zone.” We pooled together in the intersection, a group of people sat down to display our non-violent sunshine-loving ways. We just wanted to be out showing our support for Toronto citizens not buying into the G20’s intent. Shortly after we arrived, the riot police began making their appearance. They look like a mirage from far away, kind of like a black blur of something with this low rumbling drum beat. You can hear them before you can tell they’re people. Or so I hope. They form a neat and tidy line across Queen, blocking our escape south. We continued taking pictures of everyone, smiling and singing. A few people were holding up signs that read, “Everything is OK,” and “GOD KEEP OUR LAND, GLORIOUS AND FREE.” About 30 minutes in, we noticed more riot police arriving west on Queen. There were now blocking both south and west exits. Within minutes we saw huge numbers of riot police being brought in behind us, now blocking our exit east. People were still not really worried, we continued to take pictures, talk on the phone and get interviewed by curious people who wanted to know what was happening. We were all so naive. I could hear another small group of people around the corner, behind a wall of officers. We could’t see them, but we could hear them singing the Canadian national anthem. The moment they finished the last word, we heard screaming. It was really strange, but we couldn’t see anything. My friend and I were in the group beside the CIBC, on the northeast corner. We had riot police blocking us in on all four directions. They banged on their shields as they inched towards us. The group was forced to move together to a point where you were almost shoulder to shoulder. You could see even more riot police being brought in. They kept pushing us closer and closer together and banging on their shields, people starting panicking and yelling out, “Where are we supposed to go?” The media was asked to leave, all the major crews left and the helicopter above disappeared. The sky was getting dark with stormy weather. Every few minutes the wall of police would separate and an agent would dart in and grab someone by the neck and pull them out. You didn’t want to be on the outside, for fear of removal. People kept moving, trying to get away from the edge. It didn’t matter though, they continued to dart in and grab people one by one. You would just hear this quick gasp of the people and then they were gone. It appeared as though anyone making a video was being targeted. Every hour the riot police would preform this really dramatic show, we called it the changing of the guards. They would all grunt, something inaudible, and then the new lineup would form behind them. In once quick movement, they would reverse positions. The new guards would now create the new shield around us, and the others would head back to the bus for break. The clouds rolled in, the rain began to fall. We were entering a severe thunderstorm, standing in the middle of the road, surrounded by riot police… and the girl beside me just stepped on my foot for the eighth time. We stood there for several hours. My friend who was wearing a pair of jean shorts and t-shirt was totally soaked through. He stood there shaking, his hands eventually turned white and his lips were purple. We waited for almost 5 hours, no food or water. People had admittedly urinated themselves, humiliated and degraded not being allowed to use a washroom. Imagine having a child there with you, because there was. There was children who can’t even vote or buy alcohol, being traumatized by this. There was women and girlfriends who had been out shopping during the day, there was joggers with their dogs and people on bicycles. All of us, standing in the pouring rain not being told why. Just the terrifying reality that freedom is a complete illusion. They can box you in when they want, how they want, and for as long as they want. “You are all being arrested for ‘breach of the peace’ and will be detained here until we can process you.” That was the first thing we heard from them in 5 hours, besides “MOVE! MOVE! MOVE!” Many people from the group voluntarily gave themselves up to be arrested, not because they committed any crime, but simply to get out of the rain, to use a washroom, to hopefully get warmer. They surrendered their identification, they were handcuffed and they were brought one by one across the intersection to a lineup, where they would wait for processing. I saw a little girl who couldn’t have been older than 15, handcuffed and standing in the rain for hours. We would later learn a high school student in the group would be held in the prison for almost 24 hours before being released with no charges pressed. He wasn’t allowed to call his parents. He’s a minor. It seemed like the police stopped taking new people for processing. We continued to wait there, until finally another officer came and said that we were all being released. We were never given an explanation for anything. The riot police backed away, and we were allowed to disperse. There was people clapping for us on the streets as we passed.
We’re not looking for commiseration, we are looking for accountability.