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Activist Communiqué

Krystalline Kraus's picture
Krystalline Kraus is an intrepid journalist and veteran reporter for rabble.ca since its 2001 beginnings. She needs neither a red cape nor safety goggles to fly into her latest political assignment. She often live-tweets from events -- almost exclusively First Nations and environmental issues. You can follow her on Twitter @krystalline_k.

Activist Communiqué: Occupy Toronto rallies against police brutality

| July 12, 2012
Photo of Angela Turvey by krystalline kraus

Back on Friday, March 30, 2012, eviction notices were handed out by police to members of Occupy Osgoode Hall, a small encampment of the greater Occupy Toronto created after the St. James Park's encampment was shut down by the police on November 23, 2011.

After receiving trespass notices at the new location at Osgoode Hall, the camp was preparing for next steps. Angela Turvey, working for the Occupy Toronto livestream team, was filming the camp when Toronto police officers arrived to supervise the eviction on that Friday.

Two officers ordered the occupiers at Osgoode Hall to pack up their belongings. In her video, Occupy Osgoode member John Erb, raised his voice in objection to the eviction and was subsequently arrested. Police can be heard in the background mentioning something about "inciting."

Shortly thereafter, Angela Turvey was herself arrested for filming the arrest of John Erb. You can view what her camera caught before she was arrested here.

In this video of Turvey's arrest, filmed by another occupier, you can hear her screaming in pain. As blood poured from her face onto the pavement, she shouted that she was not resisting arrest. In the background in the last seconds of that video, a police officer can be seen tackling another occupier to the ground.

This video shows Craig Poirier and Alice Evonic after they were arrested, while in this video you can see the police carrying away an unconscious John Erb and leaving him on the pavement to wait for an ambulance. The narrator in the last video stated, "If I wasn't militant before, I'm ready to be now." At the end of the clip, a member of the Toronto Fire Department can be seen cleaning up the blood.

At the time of the arrests, these videos were thought to be important as occupiers alleged that police brutality took place during the arrests.

They asserted that this was especially true in the case of Angela Turvey's arrest. Witnesses at the scene stated that they saw Toronto police use their "handcuffs like brass knuckles" across her face. In the second video posted, you can see blood pouring from Turvey's head onto the pavement.

Of the four arrested that Friday afternoon, two were taken to hospital for injuries sustained during their arrests. Angela Turvey was taken to St. Michael's Hospital where she was treated for a broken nose, broken orbital bone, and a gash to the head which took seven stitches to close. She was later released on bail.

John Erb was placed under police guard while he was being treated at Toronto General and later released on bail. The other two occupiers were eventually released on bail, as well.

Toronto police referred to these injuries requiring hospitalization as "minor" despite the fact that bones were broken.

Resulting from the incident, the Toronto police charged the following occupiers:

John Erb, 44, of no fixed address, was charged with:
1. Cause Disturbance
2. Assault with Intent to Resist Arrest
3. Assault Peace Officer
4. Possession of Marijuana
5. Fail to Comply Probation

Craig Poirier, 35, of no fixed address, was charged with:
1. Obstruct Peace Officer
2. Assault with Intent to Resist Arrest
3. Possession of Marijuana

Alice Evonic, 19, of no fixed address, was charged with:
1. Obstruct Peace Officer

Angela Turvey, 36, of no fixed address, is charged with:
1. Obstruct Peace Officer
2. Assault with Intent to Resist Arrest

That night, Occupy Toronto held a march against police brutality in solidarity with Turvey and the other occupiers who were arrested earlier that day.

Eighty activists set up a brief blockade of Dundas Avenue outside 52 Division. They then marched to Queen Street West and University Avenue, holding that intersection for 10 minutes.

While marching up University back to the Occupy Osgoode camp, Toronto police threw a bicycle into the march. One protester was arrested during that evening's march and was denied bail.

The following day -- Saturday, March 31 -- Occupy Toronto returned en masse to the streets. More than a hundred people set up another barricade on Dundas Avenue in front of 52 Division and remained there from 4:30 p.m. until roughly 2:20 a.m. You can view rabble's photos of the blockade here.

Occupiers created a human chain across Dundas Avenue and declared the blockade would remain until their four demands were met:

1. Unconditional release of three Occupiers still being held in Toronto jails.
2. All charges dropped against all those arrested on Friday.
3. A public inquiry into Toronto police violence on Friday.
4. The officers involved must be tried in civilian court.

None of their demands were met, but Occupy Toronto pledged to continue to support the four arrestees and especially Angela Turvey regarding the allegations of police brutality. Media was quick to report on the incident and the subsequent arrests.

On Sunday April 1, 2012, a police spokeswoman told the Globe and Mail that at the time she was unaware of any allegations of police misconduct in regards to Turvey's arrest. Also, there were no indications that the province's Special Investigations Unit (SIU) -- which probes deaths and serious injuries that occur in police custody -- would look into Turvey's case.

This despite the fact that Saturday's blockade occurred right outside 52 Division, where the police officers responsible for arresting and injuring Turvey's were assigned. Plus the fact there was ample video evidence documenting the arrests of the four occupiers on Friday. The videos from fellow occupiers were presented to the police as evidence.

On Monday April 2, 2012, both the lawyer for Turvey and the SIU announced they would be looking into Angela Turvey's arrest. When someone is seriously injured while in police custody, this is supposed to normally trigger an automatic SIU review, not only after video evidence from the public and witnesses step forward to demand one.

Further, under the Police Services Act, "A chief of police shall notify the SIU immediately of an incident involving one or more of his or her police officers that may reasonably be considered to fall within the investigative mandate of the SIU, as set out in subsection 113 (5) of the Act. O. Reg. 267/10, s. 3."

In fact, according to reports from the Toronto Sun, SIU spokesperson Monica Hudon said the unit only "learned of the incident through media reports. ...[The] unit made special note to mention that it was not called in to conduct this investigation by Toronto Police but was responding to media reports of the incident outside of Osgoode Hall where four people were arrested and two taken to hospital." [It is not know whether the Toronto police were disciplined for not immediately contacting the SIU.]

The SIU went forward with the investigation relying on evidence obtained through testimonies by Constable Ong (referred to as the "subject officer" and not by name in the official report), a forensic investigator, six police witnesses and fourteen civilian witnesses as well as a CCTV video.

Occupy Toronto would later learn that video not included as evidence was any video shot by occupiers at the scene, including the video Turvey took herself as she was being charged by police. The SIU also did not include as evidence any subsequent videos uploaded to Youtube of the arrest.

Thus, despite evidence submitted as evidence under the assumption it would carry equal weight as any CCTV camera footage, the SIU choose only to include evidence from a CCTV camera, while not stating what type or quality of camera or its location in proximity to the arrests.

On July 3, 2012, Ontario's Special Investigations Unit (SIU) issued a press release stating that it had cleared Toronto Police Constable Rhoel Ong of any misconduct in the arrest of Angela Turvey back on March 30, 2012.

Regarding the arrest itself, while witnesses at Osgoode Hall stated that Turvey's arrest was due to her attempt to film Toronto police arresting fellow occupier John Erb, Director Ian Scott stated that Turvey's arrest was due to, "her very close proximity to the officers and her refusal to back away from the arrest of another protestor that in my view gave the subject officer the lawful grounds to arrest her".

Regarding Turvey's injuries, described by witnesses as the result of Toronto police officers (specifically Constable Ong) using their "handcuffs like brass knuckles", Scott said that, "it is unclear whether the force used was excessive" and thus the SIU could not "form reasonable grounds to believe that the subject officer committed a criminal offence".

Of the only video submitted into evidence, the SIU stated that the CCTV, "video shows her swinging her arms twice at the officers". Footage from the CCTV camera has not been released to the public, which angered both Turvey and fellow Occupy Toronto members.

At the news of Ontario's SIU dropping the case against Constable Ong, a quickly assembled rally was organized for Tuesday July 10, 2012 at 7:00 pm at Osgoode Hall - ironically a location where Turvey herself could not gather due to the bail conditions related to her charges.

30 occupiers and supporters met at Osgoode Hall briefly before moving to Toronto City Hall where Turvey could join them without breaching her bail conditions. A few individuals in the crowd shared similar stories of alleged police brutality by the Toronto Police Service.

The group then collectively decided to march first to 52 Division (where Constable Ong is stationed) and then to Toronto Police Headquarters.

While Angela Turvey herself only spoke briefly at the rally to thank those who came out to support her, she did release the following statement regarding the SIU's investigation, "they relied solely on the CCTV camera, our footage (shot by fellow occupiers) wasn't good enough. I think it didn't show them what they wanted to see."

Rally organizer Darryl Richardson reminded the crowd of supporters before the march, "what happened here isn't entirely the fault of the officers who attacked them, beat them or killed them. This is a systemic problem. This happens all over the province. This happens all over North America.

What we need as a community as a whole is for the people to rise up and say ‘we need change. This is not right. This is not appropriate. This is not fair,'" he said.

 

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Comments

The hallmark of a democratic policing is the restrained way in which they handle public protest. With that said, police brutality is something not to be tolerated on either side of our borders. For information on how (and why) to improve police, take a look at my new book, "Arrested Development: A Veteran Police Chief Sounds Off About Protest, Racism, Corruption and the Seven Steps Necessary to Improve Our Nation's Police." My blog is at http://improvingpolice.wordpress.com/ where I discuss these and other current police improvement issues. Good luck and may we all experience great policing!

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