Compared to some of the horror stories I have heard over the past few days of how people have been treated by police, I feel as though my story is not extreme enough to warrant my anger. However, my most basic charter rights were violated and I am outraged – for myself and my fellow protesters brave enough to speak up. Yesterday (Sunday, June 27), my girlfriend and I participated in a peaceful and relatively small protest that ended at queen and spadina. Peaceful protesters were sitting on the streets, singing, chanting, and talking about what has been happening in our city. At this point, there were two lines of police officers with bikes blocking off the south and west exits of the intersection. Suddenly, I noticed several busloads of riot police arriving and being unloaded at the south side of spadina. At this point, my girlfriend and I stood up and tried looking for a way out as the situation was getting tense. That was when I noticed that we were already blocked in from all four corners and there was no way out. As everyone started to realize they were blocked in, people started to wonder what was going on and what we were supposed to do at this point. That is when as a collective we started to sing our national anthem. As soon as we finished singing, the police ran at us squishing us all together with no room to move. Myself and several other people started to gather on the stairs of some stores looking for safety. This is when the riot police infiltrated the crowd and started yelling at us to get off the stairs or be arrested. There was one elderly woman at the top of the stairs who had left her wheelchair at the bottom of the stairs and her wheelchair had been moved by police when they moved in on the crowd. As the police yelled at her to get down because we were all under arrest, the woman tried desperately to explain that her wheelchair had been moved. Several people stepped in for the woman and tried to explain the situation only to be yelled at by police wielding batons and rubber bullet guns to “shut the fuck up” and get down because we were all under arrest. I was pushed out of the way and do not know the fate of the woman needing her wheelchair. Riot police now stood at the top of the stairs pointing guns at the crowd with one police officer videotaping every single person there. There were other police officers on the front lines videotaping the crowd as well focusing on everyone’s faces. The situation was extremely tense and the crowd did not dare speak up or god forbid sing our anthem. The situation was eerily quiet. The rain started pouring down and many in the crowd were wearing nothing but shorts and t-shirts as we were not expecting to be held outdoors against our will. As people were getting soaked and starting to shiver, the police came into the crowd and started picking people off one by one, targeting those taking pictures of the event before anyone else. I luckily managed to take some pictures and videos as inconspicuously as possible. One of my fellow protesters asked a police officer why we were being detained and if we were arrested to which the officer replied “shut the fuck up you’re all under arrest that’s why you’re here”. We waited, freezing in the rain for three hours as the police would occasionally enter the crowd and violently take out one protester at a time. This is when my girlfriend and I decided that if we were under arrest anyways, we would rather just get it over with and be taken out of the freezing rain to some sort of shelter to be processed. This is when we approached the riot police at the north end of the blockage and begged for them to let us out as we weren’t feeling well. At first, the officer told us to go talk to someone else but as we walked away, one of the nicer officers called us back and led us through to talk to the police officers behind the line of riot police. This is when our ID’s were taken, our bag searched, and we were each patted down by officers. The police officers had found a scarf and earplugs in our bags and began to harass us as to why we had these items. I desperately wanted to tell them that I had these items because we were being put in danger by the police and that I must have missed the law where it was made illegal to carry scarves and earplugs but instead, feeling intimidated, cold, scared, and confused I did what they wanted and shut the fuck up. I am still not sure if I was arrested or have this incident on my record as I had been told earlier that everyone in the perimeter had been arrested but was never told anything about this as I was leaving. This is when the police began to tease us saying ‘you guys could have left all along, I don’t know why all of you are staying, we want you to leave’ to which I responded that I had asked to leave several times throughout the ordeal and was not permitted to. He told me this wasn’t true and that people are staying of their own will even though the police wanted them to leave. I thought back to my friends still inside the perimeter and to all the freezing and shivering strangers I had just left behind. I called some friends who were still confined inside the perimeter and told them what the officer had just told me and to spread the word because apparently they were trying to get everyone out. My friends went to the officers on the north end and tried to leave the way we just had but were told they were not allowed to leave and were under arrest. The men and women were separated and all the women were being arrested first. Both of my friends were arrested and released by 10:30 p.m. I still feel angry and confused about what happened to all of us in the perimeter, but even more so, I feel hollow. I feel that I have lost all faith in our charter, which was the one thing I thought would back me up in my attempt to peacefully assemble and speak my mind. This is the damage that can never be undone.
- Joshua – “We cupped our hands as if offering water and said, ‘Peace be with you.’ Shuffling sideways on the crowded street corner I looked again into the next officer’s eyes: ‘Peace be with you.’ ‘Peace be with you.’ ‘Peace be with you.’ ‘Peace be’ – Quick. Cold. Rough. Two police seized me by the arms and pulled me off.”
- Karen – “I’ve never been afraid to go to a public demonstration…But now all that has changed.”
- “I did not see either officer wearing a badge”
Jean-Nicolas – “A police officer with a bicycle placed in front of me, me cria ‘Get back!’ and struck me a violent blow in the belly with the handlebars!…That's when I asked the officer, very politely : ‘Sir, may I have your name and your badge, please.’ Il a répondu en criant ‘Catch him!’…The officer who hit me with his bicycle then addressed to me, looked into my eyes and said a sentence I'll never forget : ‘Now, do you still want my name and my badge?'”
- Dylan – “It was never explained how sitting was a crime.”