I was arrested at the protest in front of the Novatel Hotel on June 26th 2010. Below is my recollection of events.
The protest march stopped in front of the Novatel Hotel. The march was peaceful and was surrounded by a crowd of sympathetic onlookers, journalists, and the curious, myself included. The main group of protestors sat down in the middle of the street.
Riot police first arrived on The Esplanade from the intersection to the east about 9pm. They set up a line quite far back, close to the intersection, and did not move. Shortly thereafter two buses arrived from the west and police set up a second line at that intersection. At the same time the east flank moved closer to the protestors, holding the line within 5 meters of the pack of individual sitting on the street. The mood remained jovial.
The west flank moved closer with little ceremony but remained well back. An officer approached the main pack of sitting protestors and asked if the group was officially affiliated with the Novatel labor dispute. The protestors responded that they were in solidarity with the workers but that no official representatives were present that night. Further invitations by the protestors to negotiate the immediate outcome were not responded to.
The west flank moved closer at this point with noticeable theatrics by rapping their batons against their shields while shouting ‘move, move, move’. To the best of my knowledge there were NO commands or cautions to disperse at any time. The only communication between the police and the protestors was the aforementioned inquiry regarding the Novatel labor dispute.
The two flanks were now about 30 yards from one another with approximately 250 people between. The situation began to get tense as we were clearly trapped. The main pack of protestors remained sitting in the street with the onlookers having stood back along the sidewalks, including in the outdoor lobby of the Novatel where I was standing. I attempted to leave at this point by speaking and signaling to the police that I wished to cross the line and leave. Many others did the same. It was indicated to us quite bluntly that any contact with the officers (including shields) would be taken as assault.
The arrests began at this point. Again, there was no statement to disperse. Small groups of officers – three to four – stormed the middle ground to remove single individuals and return through holes in the police line, which would quickly reform. The first few arrests involved protestors sitting in the street. By this time many of the onlookers were clearly panicking and some crying after realizing the situation they were in. Snatch squads continued picking people off one by one. Arrests were very indiscriminant. Onlookers began to be arrested, myself included. Four officers grabbed me while standing in the entrance of the hotel and pulled me behind the east line. I was held against the wall and searched for sharp objects. At some point during this time I sustained a black eye though I do not remember this actually happening.
My wristed were cuffed to the back with flex cuffs (that an officer later acknowledged were far too tight when removing them with difficulty) and ankles in steel shackles. I and approximately 20 others knelt on the street as per police commands. I shuffled my feet and kneeling position over the next 20 minutes to keep my lower legs from becoming sore but stopped when a petite but extremely aggressive TPS officer screamed that I would be face-first into the road if I didn’t sit still. Eventually my arresting officer (Name: Brown, Rank: DC, Badge: 9366, Unit: D43) searched my person, catalogued and bagged my personal property, had my picture taken, and loaded me onto the waiting prisoner van. Flex cuffs on wrists exchanged for steel handcuffs cuffed to the front.
Brown wrote on my arrest sheet that my offence was breach of the peace despite numerous cautions to evacuate the area. As noted above, there were no orders to evacuate the area given by the police. The only communication between police and protestors was in regard to the Novatel labor dispute. More importantly, officers did not allow anyone to leave the area if they wished (though YouTube videos of the incident show police allowing some to cross the line and leave).
My police photo indicates the time of arrest to be 9:56pm.
Upon being loaded on the bus the plastic flex cuffs were exchanged for steel handcuffs (cuffed to the front). Leg shackles remained in place. We were transported to the detention center shortly after 10pm. Upon departing the bus in the detention center the leg shackles removed and the steel cuffs exchanged again for plastic flex cuffs (cuffed to the front). The garage contained 4 20 foot by 10 foot cages. Two of these were at capacity. Most of the people on bus I was with put in remaining cages. I was with about 28 other men at this point (women detained in separate cage). Cages have outhouse toilets with no door or toilet paper. Further detainees trickled in overnight in vans and court services trucks but no major loads like ours. Guards repeatedly said that we were being processed at which time we would see a staff sergeant for the charges, get an opportunity to make a phone call, and speak to a lawyer. It was quite cold overnight with vehicles entering and leaving through the large garage door nearby. Some people slept on the concrete floor, which was cold and drafty.
Two small cups of water approx 5 oz. served overnight. One cheese and butter sandwich served at 4am Sunday morning.
We remained in garage cages until about 10am Sunday morning (11 hours). At this time we were moved to a cage of equivalent size in the main detention center. We were 26 in this cage. Guards repeated that we would see a staff sergeant and get phone calls and lawyer at that time. Two more cups of water were served between our arrival in the main detention center and our eventual release about 9pm Sunday, June 27th. One cheese and butter sandwich served about 3pm.
Guards came to take our names and ID numbers at about 5pm Sunday, June 27th. Shortly after shift change at 6pm a new officer came and said they didn’t know where our paperwork was but they were working on it. Flex cuffs removed by 7ish. By 7:30pm one or two from our cage were released. I was perhaps 4th to be released of our 26. I was given my property bag and escorted to a cage near the exit where approx 10 others were being held. This cage and the individuals held in it were referred to by officers in the area as the ‘catch and release’. We were read a statement by an officer stating to the effect that all charges were being dropped but if we were arrested under the same or similar provision in the next 24 hrs we would immediately be charged with a criminal offence. We were individually asked to vocally indicate our agreement or choose to stay and face the charges on file. This was recorded via CCTV for evidence. We were individually walked to have our photo taken and escorted to the door. A different officer escorted us from the exterior door to the turnpike at the sidewalk and released.
At no time during the detention was anyone in my cage allowed to speak with a lawyer or make a phone call.
Time in detention: 22hrs.
Food: two small cheese and butter sandwiches served 3am Sunday and 3pm Sunday.
Water: 4 small cups.