On Saturday, June 27th, 2010 after hearing of several police clashes throughout the city, my friends and I decided to make our way back to the designated ‘free speech zone’ at Queen’s Park. We did not expect to see lines of riot police on foot and horseback in front of the outnumbered protesters. We decided to go around and make our way to the centre of Queen’s Park and watched from a distance. People in general were quite peaceful, some even eating sandwiches and sleeping on the lawn; obviously not suspecting that something would happen. Suddenly from a distance I could see three of the cops on horses raise their hands and suddenly people in front of us began running, and so did we. We looked back occasionally to see what was happening and police had run towards the crowd, including those on horseback, who did not seem to mind if people were in their paths. We took shelter behind a tree until it calmed down. Reinforcements came and protesters came back, initially quite, then started a slow clap, which instigated another round of police attacks. Time and time again we were pushed back further out of the Park and onto side streets. By the time it was over, we had been successfully pushed out of our free speech zone, the area designated for us to protest. We did not see any unruly protesters. Sure some were loud and may have been yelling chants about various G20 issues, but nothing to provoke the ambush that we witnessed.
On Sunday, June 28th, 2010 my friend and I made it out to Jimmie Simpson Park, where a small group of peaceful protesters would gather and walk in solidarity to show support for the release of those that had been unlawfully imprisoned the day prior. Organizers were very clear that this was to be a peaceful march and presence in front of the Detention Centre, and we complied. No one there wanted any trouble. Our reason for protesting had changed drastically from the previous day, from one of G20 issues, to those regarding democratic rights and police brutality. We stood, chanting ‘let them go’ and sang songs, cheering as people slowly trickled out of the Centre. Suddenly, 2 vans pulled up from behind police lines and ran into the crowd. People freaked out and were pushed against the walls of the buildings and up the street. Cops told us to move, but we were surrounded and could not. Eventually they pushed us along the wall towards the other side of the street, where the crowd was now dispersing. More police joined the lines. We regrouped, wanting badly to showcase that we were there on peaceful grounds. Some of us sat and held out peace signs chanting ‘peaceful protest’. But suddenly we were being ambushed again. I dropped my bike in the midst of it. I felt bad that it had become an obstacle for protesters trying to flee police violence, but too fearful to go back and retrieve it. Eventually it had been picked up and thrown back on the road by a cop. I moved back with the others. And as we retreated, two cops moved ahead with large weapons and began shooting into the crowd. If ‘targeted arrests’ are what police were using to justify the crowd ambushes, I don’t know why weapons were used, firing into a crowd of innocent protesters. We fled and moved up the street, holding our hands up in peaceful measure and fearing we’d be surrounded and taken in one by one like had been the case in the previous day.
The violence that I witnessed over the weekend was disgraceful. Police used force and intimidation to instill fear and force onto groups of peaceful protesters. Whether or not there were ‘planted anarchists’ in the group is up for debate, but it does not in any way justify the trampling over and shooting of weapons into crowds for which peaceful protesters became recipients. I cannot believe what I have seen this weekend and justice needs to be served. There are so many other stories that I have heard from friends and witnessed on video from others about this type of police brutality, but I am just stating those events for which I witnessed first-hand.