Taiva Tegler – “I saw many injured detainees with arms in slings and faces bruised and swollen being led quickly with their ankles chained”

I joined with a jail cell solidarity group in front of the film studio on Eastern Ave around 11pm. We remained across the street on the designated sidewalk and cyclist path – not on the road. We were dancing, singing and chanting to encourage and support our friends on the inside. At first there was very little police presence, however as the night wore on more police began to show up with riot gear. They began to block off the exit streets and communicated with our police liason that we were to leave the area. The majority of us stayed to continue support, we remained on the sidewalk and in the bike lane. The line of riot police quickly blocked us in from all sides and announced a first warning that we should leave or we would be in danger of getting hurt and/or arrested; however, many from the group tried to leave and were not allowed through the line of riot cops at any of the exits. After the second warning we negotiated for us to be allowed to leave through the east exit and began to slowly file out. I was near the back of the line ensuring that the independent media managed to make it out as they were slower carrying all of their equipment. A gap grew in our exit line and the police quickly moved to detain us blocking approx. 15 of us from exiting. We were now trapped. We were told to put our hand on our heads and after a few minutes we were all arrested. This was approximately 1am. They did not read my rights nor did they read the riot act at this time. My arrest consisted of being handcuffed roughly by the officer and my bag being searched. The officer came up with many charges (such as carrying a dangerous substance when he found vinegar, yet I ended up only with ‘breach of peace’. We were placed one by one in the pack of the police truck and set off for a drive around the block and ended up parking inside the converted film studio. We remained in the van for about 45min to an hour waiting to be led inside where we were told that we would be processed and charged. My handcuffs were changed to be tied in front of my body and I was led into a cage in the containment center with approx 15 other women. Inside the center consisted of many varying sized cages with metal sheeting on the back and sides, all facing in one direction so as not to have detainees looking at each-other. We were told that we would be processed soon and allowed to have our phone call. This NEVER happened, no one that I was with was processed. I did not receive a phone call the entire time of my detainment. The room was very large and very noisy with lots of shouting and banging. The cages were set on a gender binary system, with some cages packed to overflowing point while others with a solitary occupant. I was in a cage with 12 other women, which was incrased to 28 after the first few hours.

The Police

The police were in a state of confusion the whole time. The bureaucratic nature of the system was very obvious, with courthouse clerks communicating to us and police on step higher rarely in communication with the detainees and so on. The clerks switched shifts every 8 hours or so in my section, and sometimes could be nice and attentive or unresponsive. Their only authority was to open doors and relay messages, thus utterly useless in getting pertinent concerns passed on to the decision makers. This was an obvious tactic to dissolve accountability. They lost documents and possessions constantly. A friend of mine in the same cell was not documented at all while anothers’ documents were unaccounted for. A woman I met in another cell had her shoes taken away as evidence and many others could not leave until their belongings were recovered.

The police would generally ignore our requests, only some officers took the time to listen and occasionally to act on our questions or demands. I was deeply worried when our calls for a medic were repeatedly ignored. I was also very concerned about the level of safety for marginalized and injured detainees.

I overheard one cop say to a young woman, “you’re going to pay for every step you took” (when she stepped away from him) and “you did that on purpose to piss me off” (as he ripped down the hood that she had placed over her head).

I saw many injured detainees with arms in slings and faces bruised and swollen being led quickly with their ankles chained, they only received attention from the detention center medic and not a hospital.

The Detainees

The atmosphere was very tense and many people were anxious, upset, frustrated and confused. We received mixed messages if any at all and were not listened to. One young woman – 17 years old – was placed in a solitary cell on the basis that she is a minor. This experience was very traumatic for her, she was often crying loudly or yelling at the cops to have a phone call to her mother – which was always denied. She also did not have any support in her cell from other women and did not have anyone to block the open doorway of her toilet when she had to use it, all the while male police were walking by.

One woman in my cell was arrested walking by the Novotel hotel while there were protesters inside – she was not in the protest. Another young woman was arrested along with her boyfriend and friend as she walked to a corner store at 5am.

Another serious case was a woman in my cell who was not brought her medication for a very long time and after the one time they informed her that they had lost the medication in a mix up with shift change and that they would continue looking. She only received them upon exit from detention.

Another woman in my cell had infected blisters on her feet and was given the choice between walking to leave and getting medical attention. She ended up walked with the cop tugging her arm to move faster.

We were crying, often yelling in frustrating, kicking and banging the doors and trying in vain to get information from the cops.

The Conditions

It was freezing cold in the containment center and they informed us that they had run out of blankets and sweatshirts. In the cell there was one bench (could seat 4) and a port-a-potty with no door. Not all cells had washrooms and we constantly heard the call from detainees to be taken to a washroom. We were only sometimes provided with toilet paper and only when we begged our immediate guards.

Also, we were detained IN HANDCUFFS for over 15 hours in the cell before they we finally convinced one officer to loosen them enough for us so we could slip them off our wrists. He was kind enough to do this and other officers argued with him not too.

We lay on the freezing cold concrete floor and the majority of us in the cell ended up very sick with a cold and fever due to lack of sleep and the cold conditions. I am currently very sick with a cold and a fever and exhaustion.

Finally, the psychological impact of being held in a detention center without access to legal counsel or support from family and friends, and in conditions that were making us increasingly sick were very hard on us. Many people would cry periodically and at other times yell and bang the fences. My mother (Ellen Woodley, who has filed a complaint with the OPIRD) continuously called the police to find out information and was blatantly lied to. They told her that I had indeed been given a phone call and they also said that I needed to prove that she was my mother in order to have access to information.

We were held for over 21 hours without access to a phone call, adequate water (only two small cups) and food (two “sandwiches” slices of white bread with processed cheese). The whole process was humiliating, degrading and dis-empowering.

I was let out of prison at approximately 11pm on Sunday June 27th. I was moved from my large cell to a small cell for 30minutes to wait for a sergeant to read a group of us the riot act. I was photographed, handed my belongings and let out into the rain.

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