For a year and a half prior to the G20 Summit in Toronto, undercover police infiltrated protest groups planning G20 demonstrations.
In Kitchener-Waterloo and Guelph, two undercover officers, a man and a woman, started hanging out with activists and were quickly accepted by the community.
Anti-poverty activist Julian Ichim became close friends with the male undercover officer until he was arrested on June 26, 2010 and charged with conspiracy to commit mischief.
Shortly thereafter, Ichim realized that his “friend” was really an undercover officer.
Although the charges were later dropped, Ichim was never able to publicly speak about how it felt to be betrayed by the officer he considered to be a close personal friend, his alleged brutal arrest on June 26 and being persecuted for his Marxist political ideology.
So he decided to start his own blog in November 2011.
“This blog is my attempt to set out my side of the story, not just about the g20 but everything in general,” wrote Ichim.
Last December, the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) asked Ichim to remove one of his posts where he referred to the undercover police officer, that he said betrayed him, by the alias used by the officer.
He refused and was charged by the police with three counts of disobey court order. The officer's alias was protected by a court ordered publication ban. The ban was temporary and has since been lifted.
His preliminary hearing is September 18.
“They want to shut down our ability to tell stories,” said Ichim at press conference last December on the steps of Old City Hall prior to his first court appearance.
“Our crime is our ability to organize and resist.”
In April, Ichim filed a notice of claim against the Toronto Police Services Board, the Crown and the undercover male officer (who went by the name Khalid Mohammed) for general damages in the amount of $4 million for false arrest, false imprisonment, assault and battery, malicious prosecution and various Charter violations.
“This lawsuit is to highlight the criminalization of political people such as myself as well expose the violence of the state,” said Ichim in a June 13 press release announcing his intention to serve the police on Monday, June 25.
“The state has attacked me and criminalized me simply for trying to tell my side of the story on my blog.”
On Monday morning, Ichim arrived at police headquarters on College Street in Toronto to officially serve the papers to the police.
He wore a Rage Against the Machine apparel t-shirt with a photo of Che Guevara, the Argentine Marxist revolutionary, prominently displayed on the front.
Rage Against the Machine is an American rock band that uses its music as a channel for its social activism.
Given all that Ichim alleged he's suffered, he felt the only recourse he had was to sue the police, the Crown and the undercover officer.
With this lawsuit, he hopes to eventually find out what really happened in the year and a half leading up to the G20 and since.
Political repression isn't new to Canada. In 1970, many activists were rounded up because of their political ideologies during the October crisis.
“Nothing has changed,” said Ichim. “We’re seeing a lot of the same tricks happening today.”
By taking a stand, Ichim is looking forward to holding all parties involved in the G20 Summit arrests and detentions accountable and to raising the issue of the criminalization of dissent.
Ichim is also planning to sue the OPP and the undercover police officer who went by the name of Khalid Mohammed.
“I believe he went beyond his call of duty as a police officer,” said Ichim. “His role was to find out whether or not people were planning violence. Obviously people weren’t.”
Ichim made it clear that money is not the motivating factor behind his decision to file the lawsuit. He wants truth and accountability.
“Any type of settlement that silences that is unacceptable,” he said.
At the time of his arrest, Ichim’s mother was dying of cancer. Even today, he finds it difficult to talk about how the undercover officer used his mother to get to him.
Ichim said the officer knew she had leukemia. He drove her to doctor's appointments and looked after her.
“He knew the impact my arrest would have on her,” he said. “Yet he chose to give false information that led to my arrest.”
For the last two months of her life, she constantly worried about would happen to her son after she died, which left her little time to put her affairs in order.
“He stole the last few months of my life with her,” he said. “So screw him.”
The 32-year-old former University of Waterloo student has been involved in social activism for over a dozen years. During that time, he started one of the first youth-run youth drop-in centres in Kitchener.
Working with city funded groups, he assisted in creating youth harm reduction programs in Stratford.
When he lived in Inuvik, a town in the Northwest Territories, he coordinated on-the-land field trips, addictions programs and anti-poverty initiatives.
In Guelph, he helped run free food programs.
“That's most of the work we do,” said Ichim. But that garners little if any media attention.
He's proud of what he's accomplished and isn't ashamed of anything he's done.
Even tossing chocolate milk over Stockwell Day (his only conviction) during a speech to students at the University of Waterloo in October 2000 to protest what Ichim called anti-immigrant, anti-poor and homophobic policies.
He insisted that his dedication to social causes means he's willing to pay whatever price for his beliefs and won't be intimidated. He's been arrested dozens of times only to have the charges dropped.
“The fact that I have a jury trial for a blog posting and I'm probably going to jail,” he said, “shows that it's not my history of activism that's in question. It's the history of the police and the police response.”
After his arrest in June 2010, hours before the Summit even began, Ichim said he never received the police synopsis (police version of what happened and why he was charged) or told where or when he counseled or conspired to commit indictable offenses.
Following the press conference, Ichim's sister, an articling student with Denis Grigoras Law, served the Toronto Police Services Board on behalf of her brother and her law firm.
“I'm very happy that this lawsuit is under foot,” said Ichim, in a closing statement outside police headquarters.
The undercover officer, the Crown, the OPP and Maplehurst Correctional Complex still have to be served.
“It's important that people refuse to back down, take a political stand and not be intimidated by the political repression that we're facing.”
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