Maximilian Pacheco – “It is important to note the horrid conditions in the jail. The cells, which were over-glorified dog cages, were often over-crowded.”

Hello, my name is Maximilian Pacheco, I am a 20 year old Political Science and History student at U of T. I was born and raised in Toronto. Below is a detailed account of what happened to me:

Myself, along with my two friends, Jamie and Danny, were attending the peaceful protest at the Novotel on the Esplanade when, along with hundreds of other people (protestors, journalists/photographers and simple onlookers), we were arrested around 11pm. At first our path eastward was blocked by a number of riot police. Though they were blocking our protest from moving away from the thick of action (in the downtown core), there was no indication of the coming events. Then without warning, two buses full of riot police moved in on either side of us. The riot police were deployed on both sides of us in such a way so that we couldn’t escape. This happened, in my estimation, in less than two minutes. When I and the other protestors asked if we could leave, we were denied. We asked police if we were getting arrested: one replied that if you didn’t do anything wrong, you were not getting arrested. They also pointed into the middle of the street saying there was an exit for protestors to leave: of course no such exit existed. Whether the officer honestly thought that there was such an exit or if it was an attempt to corral us into the middle of the street is unclear. The riot police started their mass arrest operation by employing their intimidation tactics, then by opening up gaps in their line in which a handful of riot police would run into the crowd and grab individual protestors. This persisted for roughly 10-15 minutes, until it became clear to everybody that all of us were not leaving anytime soon and it was probable that we were all getting arrested. The situation was confirmed by one police officer who informed us, via microphone, that everybody was under arrest for breach of the peace. It took approximately 45 minutes to an hour for everybody to get individually arrested. When I was finally personally arrested, I was not read my rights or informed of my charges. We were taken via paddy wagon to what turned out to be the Eastern Detention Centre. We were made to wait in the extremely uncomfortable vans for approximately 20 minutes. When we were taken out, my metal cuffs were replaced with plastic, and I was transferred to a cell with approximately 20 people, of which all were male. I stayed in this cell for hours (we had no way of actually telling time) until I was moved to a second cell, in which I stayed for an hour. After this, I was taken to be processed. Initially during this process, I was told by a female court police officer and a male police officer that my charges were being dropped. When I was taken into the makeshift office to get formally processed, however, I was told by a female and male Toronto police officer I was being charged with not only breach of the peace, but mischief as well. I was never informed of this up until that point. When I made this clear to the police officer, she told me in an aggressive manner “well know you have been informed.” After this process was completed, I was moved on to a third cell, where I would spend the remainder of my time in the detention centre. It is important to note the horrid conditions in the jail. The cells, which were over-glorified dog cages, were often over-crowded, as is the case with my second cell in which there was between thirty and forty people. Other than a little bench, there was nowhere to sit except on the concrete floor. The air-conditioning was at an unreasonably high level. We were seldom given food and drink: when we were it was awful sandwiches and small, styrofoam cups of water. If your guard was nice, he would let you drink it quickly and poor you another one before he came back in 2-4 hours. If you were lucky enough to have a cell with a bathroom (which luckily all of mine did), there was no door. In addition, you had to ask for toilet paper, and often guards would take long periods of time to bring it. In addition, there was no consistency in the handling of the protestors in there. Some were cuffed for the entirety of their duration, such as my friend Jamie Murray. I had my cuffs removed when I was processed. However, my shoes and glasses were taken away from me for the remainder of my time in the detention centre. I had been previously allowed to keep them, and other people had been randomly allowed to keep their belts, glasses, watches, shoes while others were not. The loss of my glasses for the remainder of my time was very traumatic: not being able to see for an extended period of time really starts messing with your head. Repeated requests for phone calls and lawyers were denied. Eventually, guards came to our cell and took individuals to either make a phone call or see the Duty Council: we were made to make a choice. They said this was done so that everybody could be accommodated. However, on my way to see the Duty Council, I was brought through the centre where the phone calling was happening, and I saw a number of empty phones. When I finally saw the Duty Council, all he did was take down my basic information, asked if I had any priors (which I didn’t), asked me for contact information for next of kin, and then informed me that the police would most likely pursue the charges against me, and I would probably be made to sign some document upon my release agreeing to a set of release conditions and to show up at court on a certain date. He then informed me, in what I felt was a suggestive manner, that if I plead guilty, I would probably only get limited community service and no criminal record. But how could I get a criminal record from a breach of the peace charge (which was one of my charges) which was a non-criminal charge? Surely a lawyer should know this, especially one who was Duty Council at the centre for the detention of protestors. I told him I would not be pleading guilty, and he informed me that though this was my right, it could be risky if I lost. My encounter with the Duty Council lasted for no more than 5 minutes. I was brought back to my cell where I awaited my release. When I was finally released, I was cuffed to another cell mate who was also being released, and was moved to a waiting cell for under two minutes, where we were promptly un-cuffed, given our property bags and were being marched to a door. I was asked if I preferred to go with or without socks, and before I could really answer, I was out the door into the torrential rain. I was then escorted out the front gate: I was not informed of the status of my charges (I found out the next day that they were dropped when I called the Toronto Police), or told anything for that matter. I was released between 7:30 and 8 pm approximately. As a final act of police cruelty, I was not allowed to put my shoes or glasses on before exiting the building. I found out the next day that my friend Jamie’s parents, who Jamie had managed to contact in the time before we were all individually arrested, had got a lawyer, Peter Hatch, to come look for Jamie, Danny and myself. When he came to the front of the Eastern Detention Centre and told them he was representing the three of us, he was informed that they did not know if they were holding us and that regardless, he was not allowed to come in and look for us. I feel my rights were violated in the nature of our arrest, both in the uncompromising and illegitimate nature of it, and also because I was not read my rights or fully informed of my charges. I also felt that the conditions in the jail ran contrary to the provisions of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms that protected against cruel and unusual punishment. In addition, my rights to legal representation were ignored: they did not let my real lawyer see me, it took an unreasonably long time for them to provide me with any legal help, and when they did, it was very inadequate (to say the least). I was also denied a phone call at anytime, less I wanted to surrender my constitutional right to a lawyer. The injustices of the past days must be rectified.

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1 Response to Maximilian Pacheco – “It is important to note the horrid conditions in the jail. The cells, which were over-glorified dog cages, were often over-crowded.”

  1. marnai says:

    reading this story speaks to me considering we are the same age, and imagining how i would feel caught up in this cruelty… i can’t believe they would take your glasses? This is horrible what happened. Thank you for sharing your experience, because this information would never spread otherwise.

    -marnai
    vancouver

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