Saturday, June 26 was a crazy day in Toronto with police cruisers on fire, store windows smashed, mayhem on our streets. Tensions and tempers were high on Sunday. My friend and I were optimistic when we decided to walk from her place near Harbourfront to Lee's Palace for an Esthero concert. Half curious, half on route we went through the Queen and Spadina intersection and saw a crowd of people.
Being the shutter bugs that we are, we started snapping photos:
We tried to head north because the commotion seemed to be down on the west and south side. But as we turned around we saw a line of riot police closing in on the intersection. They hammered their batons on their shields and inched closer. I wasn't sure if I should run towards the fleeing, panicking crowd and risk being trampled or towards the riot police and risk being whacked with a stick.
We decided it was safest if we were against a wall in case there was a stampede. So we went over to the north east corner where CIBC was. There was still a lot of conflict on the south side so we stayed north even though we were right up against the north line of riot police.
View from above (not taken by me, I stole it from Twitter, not sure who took it)
After hours in the pouring rain we found out that they were letting people out on the south side. You had to line up and they cuffed and arrested us one at a time. The charge was conspiracy to commit mischief.
After being cuffed, arrested, standing in the rain waiting to be written up, we were put into a van with 10 other girls. It was stuffy and really claustrophobic. We joked with each other to keep our spirits up but it was pretty hard to breathe in there sometimes. They were going to drive us to the detention center but we ended up sitting at Queen and Spadina in the van for what felt like forever (we took off our watches knowing they'd handcuff us, so we didn't know what time it was) but at 10:30pm they opened the back of the van and let us out 1 by 1. They told each of us we were being released with no charges.
All in all, it wasn't fun, it was very scary at times but on the same token I sympathize with our officers. It's a fine line between protection and infringement of rights. I understand it's against human rights to be detained for no reason and it's easy to say they should have let innocent bystanders go, but how do you pick out "innocent bystanders".
If they let some go and not others because they "looked like" innocent bystanders then we accuse them of profiling.
If something did happen, then we say they didn't do enough. If something didn't happen, then we say the $1.1 billion was a waste of money.
I'm not saying they were entirely right in everything they did, there are many questions in my head. Out of all the thousands of protesters, there were a handful of anarchists, you're telling me $1.1 billion dollars worth of police on the street weren't able to control them and protect businesses from being vandalized? How did they even get close enough to THREE cop cruisers AND have the time to set it on fire.
There are also rumors that the detention center is inhumanely treating those arrested, lack of food, medication, water, etc which police are saying isn't true. Then why not let us see exactly what's going on in there, let us send a TV crew in there, why the media block?
Overall, the police that blocked us in (at least in my little north east corner) they treated us with professionalism. When we joked about wanting to go home and just relax with a beer, they said they wanted that too. They didn't want to be in the rain either. The police officer who watched over me while I was in handcuffs was stern but polite and very helpful she wasn't overly rough and assured me things would be fine. She laughed with me when I asked if I'm allowed to smile in my mug shot.
People are also only looking for the stories with dirt. When we were released, a girl with a recorder asked if she could interview us. Her questions were leading and biased "did they hurt you? were you put in inhumane environments? etc etc" and when I answered that for the most part I felt it was appropriate and professional, that the police that I met had a sense of humor but were also stern, the lady interviewing us was no longer interested in my story.
Just as a few violent protesters taint the image of all those who were peacefully protesting, there are bad apples in the police force too. I sympathize with both groups... I find it hard to pick a side and I missed an Esthero concert!! I've been waiting for months, years for her to play in Toronto again.
Videos I found on YouTube where we're spotted: http://bit.ly/dtO16n (Fast forward to 3:54, I'm wearing green behind the girl in plaid)