Here is my account of my experience in the G20 detention centre.
On the night of Saturday June 26th I was involved in a peaceful demonstration (in the form of a dance party!) outside the temporary detention centre at Eastern and Pape. I was acting as police liason and over and over again was assured by the police that as long as we complied with their conditions no one would be arrested and we would be allowed to continue with our party. We were there to show our solidarity with our friends and family who had been brutalized and taken hostage by the police. We were also there to show that we were not afraid, despite the terrifying police tactics that we had all seen that day. We were there to show that extreme police violence could not keep us from doing and saying what we wanted in our own city. I acted as police liaison and was assured by the police that we would be allowed to have our party as long as we complied by certain conditions (move our vehicle, remain on the side walk, etc.). We complied with every single thing they asked of us. And, yet, after about an hour and a half of peaceful demonstration we found ourselves surrounded by riot police, blocking every exit from the area. The police then warned us that, for our own safety, we should leave the area. Then they said “this is your second and final warning. “We have reasonable grounds to arrest you and may use force”. There is video evidence of this at this address: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T7Ue64fOuak. Eventually I was able to persuade the officer acting as liason to allow us a way to leave. He PROMISED he would not arrest anyone if they left. I helped arrange the exit for all those who wanted to leave and had considered staying behind as was my right, but decided that given the violence of the day, it was not worth it. I and several others left at the tail end of the group, making sure that everyone got out safely. An independent reporter who was covering the event wrote about the event here: http://oncampus.macleans.ca/education/2010/06/27/on-the-front-lines-at-the-g20/ We lingered briefly, less than a minute to make sure the independent media folk got out of the blockade, and then continued home. About a block and a half down the road we were met with a new crew of riot cops. We were once again quickly boxed in and prevented from leaving the area. At this point we were quite obviously on our way home. The police told us that we were all under arrest and to put our hands on our heads.
We were arrested without violence, a fact for which we are both lucky and an exception to the norm. We were cuffed with zip ties and placed in the transport trucks. Despite being across the street from the detention centre we were left inside the trucks for over an hour, in sweltering heat. When we were finally let out of the trucks we were placed in cages in the room where vehicles entered the building. There were maybe four or five cages in a row, each about 20’x10’. Our cage had about 25 people in it at all times. I heard of others who had up to 45 people in a cage. In the corner of each cage was a port-a-potty, open in the front. Anyone who tried to go to the bathroom was watched and jeered at by the guards. No toilet paper was ever provided. When we were placed in our cage people who had been picked up at Novatel, Queen’s Park, or elsewhere, many of whom had not even been protesting, complained they had already been in there up to ten hours. They were pleading for water. At that time I sstill somehow assumed we would be given water, a phone call, access to a lawyer and released in a reasonable amount of time. Why I was so naive is beyond me.
While inside that first cage it came to our attention that one of the men inside was a minor. He was seventeen and cold (it was freezing in there) and terrified. For three hours we tried to get one of the guards to let him phone his parents, or to phone his parents for him. They never did. Anyone who tried to find us while they were inside was never able to. There was no record anywhere of us being in there. My partner was told by the police that she’d have to file a missing persons report if she wanted to be helped at all. The whole time in that first cell we were trying to get food and water. IN the whole 20 hours I was inside we got two of those now infamous cheese sandwhiches and three cups of water. I saw grown men on their hands and knees begging to be fed and given water. Our requests were met with laughter, stonewalling, or threats of violence.
After about 10 hours in the first cage, while we had to watch the complete incompetence and heartlessness of guards either would not or could not help us (or both), we were finally taken from our cage. We assumed we were now going to be processed, given a phone call, given access to a lawyer and released. NOPE. They marched us through the processing room, past a bank of phones into another room full of cages and placed us in one. They split up the group I had been with and found ourselves now in a cage of about 30 people. Included in that cage were two people who obviously needed medical attention. One, a man in his thirties who explained quite calmly that he didn’t have his meds, and that while he knew they wouldn’t get his meds for him, regular cups of water might help. We were denied food and water for the next eight hours. The other fellow in our cage was a diabetic. He was already sick when he joined us, but he was clearly getting worse by the second. We literally watched him fading away in front of us. For four bloody hours we tried to get medical attention for him. I yelled until my voice was hoarse. A few times a guard would come over (E. Guertin, badge number 90264) and snicker, then walk away and laugh with one of his buddies. One time he looked at him and said “pfff. He’s not going to die. Shut the fuck up.” It wasn’t until our friend could no longer stand up on his own that a guard finally came in and took him to see the medic. Five minutes later he was brought back, cuffed again, and put back in the cell.
The list of terrifying, infuriating, dehumanizing behaviour of the guards goes on and on. They did everything they could to humiliate us, break us, and rob us of our dignity and humanity. I would like to see EVERY SINGLE GUARD working in that detention centre brought to justice. We were never given a phone call. We were never allowed to speak to a lawyer. We were never processed. We never spoke to a detective. We were simply caged and humiliated.