Water is a basic human right; not a weapon
On Tuesday, June 22nd, days before the G8 or G20 summits had started, or any “black bloc” tactics had been used in Toronto, I decided to head to the Queer Theme Day of Resistance’s Kiss-In. As the event was based around kissing, an action so instinctively tied to love and peace, I hardly thought I should expect anything too confrontational. Arriving at the corner of Bay and Queen proved otherwise, as a line of police officers on bicycles held the street.
Nevertheless, I decided to continue down Queen Street to join my friends at the rally.
While walking along the sidewalk, a police officer on a bike suddenly swung dangerously close in front of me, and before I could react, at least two other officers were tackling me to the ground from behind.
They forced my head into the ground, and ripped my arms behind my back, forcing me into handcuffs. A previous cut on my chin was opened in the process, but the officers cared little about my pleading to be gentle, as blood spread on my face.
They also tossed away books I had picked up earlier from the University of Toronto — suggesting they realize education is one of the most powerful weapons we have against them.
As they forced me to my feet and dragged me into a stairway leading underground, I heard the powerful chanting of my friends behind me: “LET HIM GO”… I love you all for that.
They brought me down and sat me on a stairwell to question me, doing a pat-down search and removing everything from my pockets.
I had a water bottle slung around my shoulder, hanging underneath my unzipped hoodie, clearly visible what it was, but they claimed that this was probable grounds to arrest me for possession of a weapon. They also noted that when they approached me, I reached for said water bottle, which they believed meant I was reaching for whatever weapon they believed me to be carrying.
I still fail to understand when in the process of being forced to the ground, having my hands forced behind my back, and being placed in handcuffs, I could possibly have reached for my water bottle.
I asked if I was under arrest, and they said that I was, but failed to notify me of my rights, and I forgot the first rule: to ask for a lawyer and not say anything. I answered their questions about where I was from, how old I was, etc. though refused to give information about what I was doing or who I was involved with.
When I insisted on speaking to a lawyer, one officer laughed at me, asked me how old I was, then said I watched too much TV, too much Matlock, which I found ironic as he should have assumed from my age that Matlock was quite a bit before my time.
After further questioning and intimidation tactics, including teasing that I was about to cry, a tactic I remember being used by elementary school bullies, they brought me underground, through the Queen Subway station (I believe), and out at a different location.
There, they released me without charges, returning my possessions, including the school books they had previously thrown away, though failing to return my bank card which they had taken, and failing to give me a chance to clean myself at all, instead letting me loose on streets of a city I do not live in, disoriented, with blood down the side of my face.
I walked away, but soon realized my bank card was missing, so returned to the officers to ask for it. They did not have it, and searched alongside me, where I had been questioned, to see if it was there. It was not.
I decided to try to find an open bank to put a freeze on my card, though that was impossible given how the downtown core has been shut down. Given my appearance at the time, I presume I would be considered too unsavoury to access a bank if one had been open anyway.
As I continued this search further and further away, a group of four police officers on bicycles stopped to question me. I explained my situation, that I was looking for a bank, and had just been arrested and released without charges, and they continued to question me, putting particular emphasis on where I was staying in Toronto. I refused to tell them, but did tell them that I would be returning home (not in Toronto), as soon as I had put a freeze on my bank card.
They patted me, searched my pockets, though did not handcuff me. I asked if I was under arrest, and they told me that I wasn’t, but that they remembered me from Monday’s march, which they reaffirmed to me was peaceful, but told me that because of my participation there, they were detaining me until I told them where I was staying in Toronto. After quite awhile of holding me and questioning me, they decided they knew where I was staying; believing there was a group of violent anarchists staying in a church basement somewhere. One officer also made threats of ratting me out to this cell of anarchists, saying I sold them out, and that I should get out of town because they (the police) wouldn’t even need to hurt me after these “anarchists” found out about what I’d done. The same officer also warned me about returning for any other actions, saying he knew my face now (I do have visible stitches in my face, so am noticeable) and that if he saw me again, he would take pleasure in hurting me, making the cut on my chin just get bigger and bigger, and making up whatever charges he wanted against me.
In a sense, they won. I left town. I am not in Toronto; however, it was more that having had this contact with the police, and having visible injuries/identifying features, I could be targeted by the same police if they saw me, I did not want to put anyone I am associated with at risk.