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While G20 leaders met behind a steel cage and a 1-billion dollar Fortress Toronto operation, we witnessed an unprecedented coordinated police operation in the city of Toronto. Police brutality against protest participants, journalists, legal observers, medics, and random passersby came in the form of indiscriminate arrests, beatings, pepper spray, rubber bullets, police horse charges, illegal searches and seizures, and extended arbitrary detentions. While in custody, people were forced into steel cage cells with up to 40 people per cell; made to sleep on concrete floors with open bathrooms; denied food, water, toilet paper, and sanitary products; subjected to sexual harassment, threats, humiliation, and intimidation; and refused access to medical attention, phone calls, and legal counsel.
Many were beaten and brutalized, leading to serious injuries and hospitalization. According to an article authored by resident physicians of the Toronto Street Medics, “All of the serious injuries we treated were inflicted by the police. While violence against property received a great deal of coverage, violence against people -- broken bones, cracked heads and eyes filled with pepper spray - has yet to feature prominently in any mainstream media. Our teams of medics witnessed and treated people who had been struck in the head by police batons, had lacerations from police shields and had been trampled by police horses.”
Over the weekend, there were 1090 arrests, of whom 113 were released without charges on the street, 714 were held for breach of the peace and released within 72 hours, and 263 released with pending charges.
Around 20 people still remain in custody. While the exact numbers and charges of some of those still being held in detention are unclear at this time, we know that 17 people are facing a variety of trumped up and politically-motivated allegations including conspiracy.
*At the time of writing (July 9), four have been released with stringent bail conditions including house arrest; one was denied bail; and others are awaiting bail hearings over the next 1-2 weeks.*
These seventeen people are our friends. They come from towns and cities across Ontario and Quebec and are respected and committed activists for a multitude of causes such as environmental justice, women’s rights, economic justice, antiwar, Indigenous rights, queer and trans liberation, and migrant justice. They envision and embody worlds rooted in love, justice, freedom, and self-determination. They are also known in their communities as legal workers, students, animal lovers, childcare providers, and academic researchers. Many were targeted and arrested, including at gunpoint, in pre-emptive raids before the protests even began.
We remain steadfast in standing by our friends. Targeting organizers is intended to weaken our thriving social and environmental justice movement, to isolate effective and vocal community activists, and to criminalize dissent against the violent policies of the G20 that perpetuate environmental degradation, militarization, labour exploitation, theft of Indigenous land and resources, and misery for the world’s majority. This escalating attack on certain individuals and groups is intended to intimidate and silence us all in our various movements and communities across Canada. Make no mistake, if these politically motivated charges against organizers are not defeated, police will seek to use them against organizers in all sectors of our movement.
A recent Toronto open letter against police state tactics with prominent signatories calls for a full campaign to defend the civil rights of those facing excessive charges. The Asian Canadian Labour Alliance – Ontario Chapter is demanding the immediate release of all detainees still being held, and an end to the persecution and daily criminalization of Indigenous, migrants, and marginalized communities.
We encourage our allies to build on this growing solidarity within our diverse social movements to free our friends and demand that charges be dropped against all G8/G20 arrestees, and to keep organizing for liberation for all people, especially those who daily bear the brunt of police, state, and corporate oppression.
They cannot jail our hearts.
- Direct Support Committees of G20 detainees still being held at Maplehurst Men’s Detention Centre and Vanier Women’s Prison in Ontario.