Saturday, July 3, 2010

How I Got Arrested and Abused at the G20 in Toronto, Canada

By Tommy Taylor

I’m going to start by saying that at no point in this note will I be exaggerating, bending the truth or lying in any way. I can also say I’ve never felt this angry, violated or betrayed.

Second, to those who are disgusted with the violence and vandalism — I agree. It was disgusting, but happened to property, by a small group. You can see the photos everywhere of the few individuals who did that. They were also allowed to by police, who parked the cars and left. Everywhere else there were organized riot police in the thousands. They left Yonge Street alone – why? Just read more than the headlines and photo ops —

I’m not going to wig out in a conspiracy theory way, just read for yourself. The Black Bloc caused so much distraction and carnage. It happened to me and I still find it hard to believe, I don’t want to believe it. My country broke my heart.

So here is what happened.

PART ONE: Grandmas, Idiots and High School Reunions.

I was home during the day on Saturday June 26th until around 1:00pm when I went over to Allan Gardens Park (which is literally across the street from my apartment). Hey, if Mayor David Miller was encouraging people to get out and do things in the city, why not? There were a few tents left over from the Tent City, which slept there the night before. Various groups were getting signs still, ready to march over to the ‘Free Speech Zone” at Queen’s Park — far away from all things G20. I met a group of grandmothers who were marching on behalf of grandmothers in Third World countries who have adopted millions of children whose parents have died of AIDS. (To all those who are speaking out against the violence in the streets of Toronto and damning the protesters — where were your voices of outrage at this? Or do you only care when the irreplaceable Starbucks has its window smashed? When it’s on your front doorstep you cry and give the rest of the world your apathy — why are you only upset now?)

I walk with the grannies and arrive in Queens Park. There are thousands of police in all kinds of riot gear, mounted police units (people chant of “Get those animals off those horses” made me laugh). There were students, seniors, media, everyone, thousands! And it was so peaceful and a tremendous sense of community. The riot squads were quite scary, but people were chanting “You’re pretty, you’re cute, take off the ugly riot suit!”, which also made me laugh, and many of the officers in the riot gear laughed too, one of them quipped “I wish, this thing’s hot.” Cool, this was fun. Good messages, free speech, the grannies along side the burly boys of the Steel Workers Union. Someone gave me a marker and bristol board. I made a sign “Apathy Will Kill You.” After a while of awesome speeches, interesting people and wasted money (1.2 Biliion…?) I give away my sign and head home to Jarvis & Gerrard. Like on the way there, cops are lined up everywhere, watching everything — no holes anywhere. Strange absence of cops at Yonge and Dundas Square . . . they were all over it earlier . . . .

At home I soon read about the violence happening along Yonge . . . what? Where are the cops? It’s guys in ALL black, easy to see. Why are they just running along with no one to stop them . . . there were cops there. Ok. Weird. These guys suck for doing this, because this is all anyone will see and read about. And now it’s justification for the gross amount of force and money spent. Then comes word about the police cars parked and abandoned, they even rolled down the windows before leaving. What? No radios or any equipment inside the cop cars? No police in sight? Arrest these idiots before they ruin any chance at — oh, too late. So then the media starts to assemble the evening news with the fiery money shots of Yonge St and the burning cars. Vandal assholes taking the bait and acting in a predictable destructive way. Idiots.

Watch an account by a photo journalist who followed them:

Argghh! But, hey, at least things were cool in the “Free Speech Zone”. My girlfriend Kate gets home with her co-worker Ben and their friend Simon at around 7pm. She asks if it’s ok to go out and see what’s going on. I said sure, the Free Speech Zone is awesome, there’s all kinds of causes, we can go take a look. So, off we go along College Street. There are people on sidewalks and taxis and cars, all very normal. We got to Bay and College when around 20 mini-vans full of riot cops honked their horns and went flying through the intersection — I had never seen anything like it, it was crazy. We arrived at University Ave to find it completely blocked off by riot cops in full gear. The “Free Speech Zone” was completely blocked in. The cops wouldn’t answer any questions, wouldn’t move, wouldn’t look at you. Nothing. Then rows of riot police form on College behind us, start banging their shields and march in, followed by a rows of mounted horse units. Then out of nowhere two young guys are pepper sprayed nearby, everyone runs, nothing is said by police, no announcements. People help the guys and pick them up, they don’t know what happened or why.

Up on the steps of a building I see a friend from high school, Derek. We head over, catch up — he came down to see what was happening, but was blocked off from Queen’s Park on all sides. Shortly after some homeless people threw on arm bands and had extending night sticks and tackled people standing around and dragged them behind the dense line of riot cops and dragged them away. Secret under-cover homeless police — oo la la. Still no messages from the police and no violence to be seen except from them. I remember on JackAss when Johnny tried being tasered and peppered sprayed and said the spray was the worst thing he’s ever had done to him and never again, poor dudes on the ground. Nothing happened. So, guess the day was over and police didn’t want the protest getting any bigger (is what we thought). Derek went back to Mississauga and we decided to head home and Simon went to a bar.


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