Three Toronto residents arrested on January 17 for voicing their opposition to Rob Ford’s 2012 budget won a major victory Thursday, when their lawyer announced that their bail conditions had been lifted through a compromise with the Crown Attorney’s office.
“The bail conditions were interfering with our client’s right to constitutional protest, assembly and other constitutional freedoms,” said Michael Leitold, a criminal lawyer who is representing the accused.
All three defendants’ bail conditions had restricted them from entering City Hall or Nathan Phillips Square since January 17 and prevented Alex Marques, a masters student in urban planning at the University of Toronto, from conducting an interview with a city councillor.
“We’re very pleased that the Crown’s effectively tacitly acknowledged that those terms, as imposed by the police on January 17 after the demonstration, were overly broad and did interfere with our clients’ rights.”
However, Leitold remained concerned about the continued criminalization of people who stand up against the Ford agenda around austerity and cuts to social programs.
“It is troubling to us that the police would have sought to interfere with those rights to protest and dissent, particularly in light of what we see as a context of police brutality and racial profiling in this city,” he said.
Jonah Gindin, Brandon Bruce and Alex Marques still face charges of obstructing police, mischief interference with property and unlawful assembly, following their arrest on January 17 during a rally co-organized by Stop the Cuts and Respect Toronto.
A date for trial has not been set.
“We’re facing charges because we’re part of a movement that has been opposing cuts to programs that we need,” said Gindin, on the steps of Old City Hall at the Thursday morning press conference.
“The role that the police play in this administration is really troubling to us.”
Leitold also said that there is physical evidence that his clients were “mistreated” by the police on January 17.
“I was thrown down on the ground, turned over and two police officers put their knees on my back and my head,” said Marques.
The graduate student had been working on a community economic development plan for Councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam, but his bail conditions have prevented him from attending any meetings at City Hall.
Brandon Bruce, the third defendant, declined an opportunity to speak with media.