Sunday, June 27, 2010

Terrifying police raid wakens couple at 4 a.m.

Men in black brandishing guns were seeking anarchist living in apartment below

A Toronto veterinarian says he awoke around 4 a.m. Saturday to the sight of a gun pointed at him by a black-clad police officer standing at the foot of his bed.

Then, says John Booth, he was told to keep his hands visible and to produce identification, asked questions about a man named Peter he had never met, detained on his lawn in handcuffs for half an hour, and informed he would be charged with the crime of conspiracy to commit mischief — before being released by apologetic officers who belatedly realized he had no connection with the alleged anarchist organizer they were seeking.

“There was a gun in my face. I’ll never forget that,” said Booth, 30, of an incident he and his wife described as exasperating, traumatic, and at moments terrifying.

“I woke up to two people in the hallway opening Finn’s room,” said Hanna, 31, who was sleeping in a different room to be close to her 6-month-old son. “And I didn’t believe they were cops, even when they showed me their badges. I thought, ‘That looks official, but how could a cop be in my home?’ Not ringing the doorbell — they’re in my room. I’m in my panties and a tank top, my kid’s screaming his head off, he’s so scared, the tension in the house — it was just the most horrible and absurd thing.”

The officers, John Booth said, were apparently unaware that his three-storey High Park-area house is split into two apartments. Booth, a vet at the Richview Animal Hospital, lives in the upper apartment with Hanna, a vet on the Toronto Humane Society board of directors, and their son. Organizers with the Toronto Community Mobilization Network, which is assisting G20 protest groups, live in the lower apartment.

The TCMN organizers were hosting several other activists. Peter Hopperton, described by police as a leader with the Southern Ontario Anarchist Resistance and by TCMN as “an organizer of G20 Childcare as well as other community projects,” was one of them.

Hopperton was arrested Saturday morning and brought onto the lawn with Booth. He was charged with the same offence over which Booth was temporarily detained.

John Booth said the officers, who entered through an unlocked door, sidestepped repeated requests to show him a warrant. He said they alternately promised to produce it later, claimed to have showed it to someone else, or simply said no.

“At first I actually said, ‘This isn’t a joke, right?’ Because I honestly couldn’t even understand where this was coming from,” he said. “They understood, as the interaction went on, that it was looking less and less likely that I had anything to do with what they were talking about. They were inadvertently discovering — ‘Oh, okay, thanks for telling us that there’s two apartments,’ like that was so enlightening. Yeah, well, you should’ve known that before you came into my house.”

The Booths say they will not sue. But they have filed a complaint to the province’s police review office in an attempt to hold the planners of the raid accountable; John Booth said he does not blame the junior officers who conducted it.

“The problem with the whole thing was that it was a very poorly researched and very poorly executed plan. . . A little due diligence on their part could’ve avoided the whole situation.”

The summit’s Integrated Security Unit has not yet responded to a request for comment made early this morning.

Including Hopperton, four people in Toronto were arrested on the mischief charge.

Toronto Star

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