June 28, 2010 toronto.mediacoop.ca
Detainees forced in cages with little food and water for up to 35 hours
by Justin Giovannetti and Lex Gill →Toronto News, →Dominion
Stories, →The Co-op
WE ARE CALLING AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL AS SOON AS POSSIBLE. IN THE MEANTIME,
DISTRIBUTE THIS LINK AS WIDELY AS POSSIBLE.
We (i.e., Justin Giovannetti and Lex Gill) are both able and willing to
testify in front of a court of law, tribunal or hearing to attest to the
validity of these statements. Much of this is now recorded on video and we
have some contact information for the victims. We will NOT consent to
contact with any police representatives (municipal, provincial, or
federal) nor will we consent to speaking to other security agencies (CSIS,
Canadian Forces, etc.). We can be contacted at lex.gill [at] gmail [dot]
com, or jackgiovannetti [at] gmail [dot] com.
We just got back to our computers and are frantically writing this
message. It is 4:45 a.m. on Monday morning. We are the only people who
seem to know the extent of this story. Coffee and adrenaline keeping us
going. When we got to Queen and Spadina after leaving the Convergence
Centre raid today, we had already been blocked off by police lines. It was
pouring rain, and we could hear a confrontation taking place further down
the street. The cops didn't care whether or not we were media -- in fact,
we heard that media was forced to leave before we arrived. Police acted
violently and with sheer disregard for the law, attacking peaceful
protesters and civilians unrelated to the protest. Tired, frantic, and
feeling defeated, we came home and posted the message before this one.
We then did the only thing left to do, and headed to 629 Eastern Avenue
(the G20 Detention Centre, a converted film studio), where detainees from
the demonstrations were being taken. We knew people were being released
sporadically so we grabbed as many juice boxes and granola bars as we
could afford and set off with medical supplies. Journalists were basically
absent, showed up only to take a few seconds of video, or simply arrived
far too late to be effective.
It is next to impossible to set the scene of what happened at the
Detention Centre. Between the two of us we estimate that we spoke to over
120 people, most of whom were released between 9:30 p.m. and 4:30 a.m.
Despite not knowing each other, the story they tell is the same. It goes
like this. Most were arrested at three locations: the Novotel on Saturday
evening where the police arrested hundreds of peaceful protesters (look
@spaikan on Twitter); Spadina/Queen's Park all day Saturday and early
Sunday, as people were arrested all over the downtown for many different
(and often bogus) reasons; and the University of Toronto, where hundreds
of Quebecers and others were woken up and arrested at gun point early
What follows is a list, as detailed as we can make it in a blog post, of
what we saw and heard.
People were held for up to 35 hours with a single meal. None seemed to
have received food more than twice daily, the meal they did receive was a
hamburger bun with processed cheese and margarine described as a
centimeter thick. Detainees had to create loud noises for hours to receive
any food at all. All reported feeling more ill and dehydrated after eating
than before. Some vomited and received no medical attention when they did.
Water was not provided with the meal.
Inadequate water, as little as an ounce every 12 hours. Although some
people reported receiving approximately an ounce (a small Dixie cup) of
water every three hours, most seemed to have received far less than that.
They had to create loud noises and continuously demand water, only to
receive it up to an hour and a half later. Sometimes rooms with over a
dozen people were only given a handful (four or five) cups of water and
forced to share. Some reported the water as yellow-coloured and smelling
of urine, which they didn't drink.
Facilities over-capacity.There were many reports of "cages" filled with 40
people, though a police officer told one detainee that they were intended
for groups of no more than 15 to 20. Each cage had a single bench, with
only enough seating for five people. There was only one toilet in each
cage and it was without a door. Women were creating barriers with their
bodies for others to create some semblance of privacy.
Major delays in processing.Many detainees were told that the only reason
they remained at the Centre was due to unexplained delays in processing.
Most detainees seemed to go through a three step system whereby they were
put in an initial holding cell, only to be moved to a second cell after
meeting a Staff Sergeant in a board room. This is where they were told
what they were arrested for. Eventually they were moved to a third cell
before release. This process seemed to take no less than 10 hours. Others
were never told why they were arrested and never signed any documents. A
few were released immediately upon arriving at the Centre and were never
processed. Some were never brought to a cell, only made to wait in a line
to be let out.
Inconsistent charges. Groups arrested at the same time and for the same
behaviour were given different charges, with some let out and others given
court dates. Many felt the police simply assigned a charge or did not know
why they were being arrested. Some charges were changed or dropped before
the detainees were released.
People put in solitary confinement. Most of the openly queer detainees
reported to have been transferred to a "Segregated Zone." In cages built
for one, couples of men and women were held. A lesbian is reported to have
spent nearly 10 hours alone. Another woman said she was kept alone in a
large cell for hours, asking to be moved the whole time.
No pillows or mattresses to sleep. No bedding was ever provided for
detainees, who were told to sleep on bare concrete floors. Detainees were
stripped of all but a single shirt and legwear. Many said they could not
sleep during their day long detentions.
Unsanitary and unsafe living conditions. Many of the floors of the cages
were covered with dirt and the residue from green paintballs used to
identify suspects in crowds. Vomit was also on the floor and no cleaning
of the cages took place.
Police intimidation of released detainees. With many of the detainees
released and standing across the street from the detention centre, getting
food and water from community volunteers while waiting for friends, police
stood menacingly across the road. Almost all the detainees were frightened
by the police presence and feared an attack. The police used the
headlights of rental Dodge Caravans to light up the crowd, citing a need
to "keep them visible."
Non-stop light exposure/loss of natural light rhythm/sensory deprivation.
Detainees emerged with a broken day/night cycle, being deprived of all
connection to the outside world or any other time-based events (ie. set
eating times). While in their cages, detainees were subject to constant
Exposure to extreme cold.Detainees complained of the air conditioning in
the building being very high. Many of them said that they were frozen and
asked for blankets, a request which was always refused. Due to having only
a single layer of shirt and sleeping on concrete floors, the cages were
Sexual harassment of women and Queer people. We heard many first-hand
accounts of cat-calls and crude sexual comments directed at women from
police officers at the Centre. Some women faced inappropriate sexual
contact (including one girl who was forced to endure a police officer
covering her body with detainee number stickers in order to touch her),
and rough handling from police officers. Openly Queer boys were told to
"straighten up," and there was at least one completely nude strip search
preformed on a young woman with no reasonable explanation. It is unclear
whether the strip searches that took place were consistently conducted by
members of the same gender. It is also unclear as to whether any
Transpeople, if detained, were put in cells of a gender of their own
determination or in cells of a police gender assignment.
Youth as young as 15 in adult cells. Youth (under 18) detainees were held
in the same cells as adults, some of whom had not been charged at all (and
thus it could not be justified that they were being held on adult
charges). A 16-year-old was held in an adult cell for at least 12 hours,
the police were fully aware of his age, and his parents were at no point
Denial of legal counsel. When detainees asked to see lawyers they were
told that they would receive legal counsel at a later time or at the time
of processing. Often, these times went by and no legal counsel was
provided. Those released without charge were told to avoid contacting
lawyers. Most detainees said they were never informed of their rights.
No phone call. About only one in ten of the detainees we spoke to had been
given access to a phone. Others were promised access at a later time and
never received it. There was a father waiting outside for his 20-year old
son who had been arrested Saturday afternoon or evening, and had yet to
receive a call. Many of the detainees were told that only 20 phones were
available in the building, holding over 500 detainees at the time. The
offices of legal counsel also had no landlines.
Belonging stolen/damaged.Most detainees reported that at least some of
their confiscated belongings were not returned to them, including
passports, wallets, credit and debit cards, money, cellphones and
clothing. When detainees were escorted outside the Centre, many were made
to walk on the street without access to their shoes (sealed in thick
plastic bags only returned at the limit of the Centre's property). Some
shoes were missing entirely. At least one extremely visually impaired
detainee's glasses were put with his belongings and were severely damaged
when he recovered them (ie. broken in half).
Threats of assault/harassment.Many detainees, but especially French
Canadian detainees (who were not served in French), were taunted and
threatened with assault. Homophobic slurs were used by guards and one was
told that if he was ever seen again in Toronto the cop would attack him.
Other degrading comments were made, including telling detainees that they
"looked like dogs."
Obviously illegal civilian arrests. Some civilians who were completely
uninvolved in the demonstrations were arrested while exiting subway
stations in the downtown core. Some were arrested after illegal searches
of cars turned up "dangerous goods" (like books about activism and lemon
juice). One fully-uniformed TTC streetcar driver was arrested for hours.
He had been ordered out of his streetcar by riot police and was
immediately arrested. We wish we were kidding.
No access to medication or medical treatment. While doing medical support,
Lex met at least two people who had been denied medication. The first was
a woman who said that she was pre-diabetic and needed medication for
nausea and dizziness. She was denied access to medical treatment, despite
the fact that by the time Lex found her she was extremely faint, barely
conscious, and had difficulty sitting up. The second was a young man who
was prescribed anti-psychotics and had missed several doses (he did not,
however, have an episode at the time Lex met him). We heard stories of at
least one person with Type 2 diabetes inside the Centre who had been
deprived of insulin and fell unconscious. Many stories of a man handcuffed
to a wheelchair, missing a leg (and his prosthetic) came from the released
detainees. One recently-released detainee had four extremely poorly done
stitches on his chin and was uncertain as to what shots (whether tetanus
or anesthetic, or both) he was given. He was given the stitches at the
time of his arrest and the wound was still bleeding badly (we had to
sterilize it and applied gauze).
AbandonmentDespite all of the above mentioned crimes against detainees,
most notably including medical issues, the Toronto Police had no plan for
the detainees after they were released. They were simply escorted off the
property and told to leave. Many had no idea where they were, had no
access to a phone, had not eaten in a day, had no identification or money
on their person, and were nowhere near mass transit. Had community
volunteers and fellow released detainees not been present to assist them,
we fear that some could have faced life-threatening medical emergencies or
We will be continually updating this blog over the next few weeks. Please
share this with everyone you possibly can. People must know what has
happened in Toronto. For those of you attending the Jail Solidarity rally
tomorrow, please distribute this link widely.
Justin Giovannetti and Lex Gill