I am a twenty-one year old student at McGill University. I came to toronto to protest the g20 as an assistant to a radio journalist for CKUT's Native Solidarity News, and as an environmental and social justice activist. I write this account with the hopes that my experience will reveal the unjust conditions of containment occurring and that those responsible will be held accountable for the unlawful treatment of those arrested during the g20 summit.
I was arrested while sitting peacefully in the designated 'freedom of speech' area at Queen's park on Saturday at around 5pm. I sat with around 6 friends, one of whom was clearly wearing a press pass. At no point was the assembly announced as unlawful.
Officers in riot gear march towards us banging their batons on their shields. When we refused to move they kicked at us, hit us with their batons, and pulled us behind the front line to arrest.
I was taken by 4 officers, my hands zip tied tightly behind my back, and my bag was cut off of my shoulders. I was then put in a small section of a paddy wagon with a friend. It was incredibly hot. We were left in this small cramped space for approximately an hour before being moved into a larger section of the paddy wagon with 4 other women. Some of these women had been beaten, another trampled by police horses.
After several hours, and repeatedly crying out for water, an officer brought over 2 500ml bottles to share between the 6 of us. He was immediately reprimanded by a higher-ranking officer who called out, "What the fuck do you think you're doing? Prisoners don't get water! Prisoners don't get air!", and then proceeded to slam shut the window to our small cell leaving us in incredible heat and discomfort.
From the paddy wagon we were transferred to a cell on a greyhound bus. From the window we witnessed the transfer of a man of limited mobility. He had only one leg and the officers had removed his prosthetic leg and placed it in the area between the paddy wagon and the bus. Visibly struggling to keep his balance, the man was forced to hop unassisted past his prosthetic leg onto the bus.
From the bus I was taken to the detention center at Eastern and Pape. I was put in a cell with approximately 20 other young women. My friend and I waited for over 6 hours. No one had taken our name, photo, or any information.
This was not unusual. During my stay many women had had their documentation lost and were in a veritably bureaucratic limbo: unable to be transferred or released, with no record of their arrest existing.
After repeatedly vocalizing our worry, I was finally processed. After approximately 6 hours in this first cage I was then searched and taken through to a second area. My glasses were removed and I was left with limited vision. I was transferred from one cell to the next, staying in a total of 5 cells during my stay (sometimes being repeatedly shuffled back and forth between those same cells).
There was a clear lack of organization. Many officers were unable to answer questions, responding "I don't know what's going on either, I wish I could tell you something, anything, but I don't know what's going on". Groups of 10-20 officers stood around doing nothing, 'following orders', while people went without food, water, or medical treatment.
It was over 12 hours before I was given any food. The bathroom-less cage where I spent roughly 9-10 hours of my stay was very cold and I was wearing only a tank top and shorts. We were 8 women in a cell 6 feet by 9 feet. We huddled together for warmth, lying cuddled in an attempt to warm ourselves with body heat. Under bright lights, on cold concrete floors, with nothing given to us for warmth but a few pairs of sweat pants, it was incredibly difficult to sleep at all. The lack of natural light and removal of our watches was highly disorienting.
Not only were officers incredibly disorganized, some were also incredibly oppressive and ignorant. I was repeatedly chastised for being "unemployed" and called an "uneducated, unemployed bitch" by another. Officers cat called women, and made snide sexist remarks. Otherwise targeted women of colour, speaking to them in phony accents, ridiculing them.
I was held for just over 24 hours. At no point in this time was I given access to a phone, or given legal counsel. Of the over 70 people I spoke with no one had been given access to a phone.
Many were also denied access to medical treatment. A man in a cell across from me with a reported concussion was denied access to a doctor. It was four hours before he was given a simple glass of water.
When I had finally seen the staff sergeant and was told I would be released two officers escorted me down the make shift hallway. I spoke with them about the troubling things I had seen, about the injustice of the mass arrests. They were sympathetic, stating "it would be too cruel to put you back in another cell". When we arrived at the end of the hallway, an officer stated "there are too many protesters outside, it's unsafe for you to leave at this time".
I challenged his statement, knowing that those 'protesters' were community members there in solidarity, to welcome and comfort me upon release. I was also fully aware of the brutal arrests made at the jail solidarity gatherings earlier that morning.
Due to the supposed danger these people posed, I was placed back in a cage once again. My spirits fully crushed, I could do nothing but sit crumpled on the floor crying in anger and frustration.
Of the horrible things I witnessed, I was heartened by one thing: the strength of the women and men who were also imprisoned. Women literally stood in solidarity, blocking door-less bathroom stalls from the view of male officers. People educated each other about the reasons why they were fighting against the illegitimate g20, sang songs, comforted one another. Many who were arrested were simple bystanders, completely unaware of the g20. They were quickly converted, and many vowed to become activists themselves, fighting against the police brutality we had witnessed.
The arrests made were unlawful and completely arbitrary. The conditions of the detention center were deplorable. Those in charge should be reprimanded, as should those officers who stood by and did nothing for those crying out in need.
I am happy to have finally been released and thank my family, friends and all who have supported me during this trying time. My thoughts go out to all those still being unjustly held.
I encourage all those who have been detained to share their stories. Contact the media co-op by filling out this form.
People who need support/counselling/resources relating to trauma/sexual abuse/police violence etc. from this pastweek can contact: firstname.lastname@example.org. or contact: email@example.com
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