Oh, I am handicapped? Thanks for pointing that out, Officer, I'll return to feeling useless and living in my hole in the ground. My sincerest apologies for trying so hard.
But please Officer, do not remove me from this demonstration because you fear it will get tumultuous and I might get hurt. I am just a humble journalist trying to do her job.
These types of exchanges make ‘sense’ in my mind and police and other authorities can feign concern for what they see as a liability to their policing. Frankly, it is my dis/ability and thus my presence at this rally or that sit in that makes them nervous.
Nervous enough for Officer Mr. No Visible Badge to press his hand into the centre of my chest, nailing me to a wall. I became a syren of sorts, alternating shouts that, “I am an accredited journalist, I’m media, you’re hurting me, you can’t do this to me, I fucking hate you” as he said he needed time to explore my media pass (from rabble) while also saying it was too dangerous to be out there in a sit in when arrests started to occur.
You see, they aren’t trained for this kind of shit.
Firstly, if an activist, journalist or bystander sees, hears or processes information differently, there is the added stress on the police (nevermind how these individuals feel) on how to communicate to the public while already under intense pressure since in Toronto, we have police force that seems to believe everyone should be able to speak and communicate in English.
This pressure can easily boil over in frustration, leading to escalation by the police force and sometimes even arrests for no compliance to police orders. This is most likely an attempt by the police force to employ the tactic, “arrest now and sort it all out later.”
But when things get more physically dangerous and demanding of attention, that's really where civil rights can hit the fan.
For it seems that the Toronto police have no problems yanking and pulling and dragging the bodies of demonstrators who physically resist arrest. This is bad enough to watch.
It would be a completely different shit show if a police officer were to drag my already damaged body across the pavement. I’m not saying this as a threat to the police, but the victory of one more canaille in custody would bring to bear an eventual call for an ambulance and then a stream of physicians and other medical staff who could bear witness any the evidence of any police misconduct.
We all were a gasp when word was known throughout the crowds demonstrating against the G20 Summit of a man who had had his artificial leg pulled off by police officers while he was being kettled at Queen’s Park back in June 2010.
The 57-year-old Ontario resident, John Pruyn, went down to the G20 Summit – as his civic right – with his family to the Queen Park safe demonstration zone that had been advertised by the City of Toronto. Let me note here that John Pruyn has an artificial leg.
In an account told by his daughter, Sarah, and formally noted in a later Canadian Civil Liberties Association report, the police officers in question were unhappy at the pace to which John Pruyn was moving (out of the supposedly safe protest zone area as the mounted unit drove their charges through the park and struck demonstrators with batons) though they were told that John Pruyn was moving “as fast as he could”.
Well, this was not good enough for the police, who eventually moved in to detain/arrest Pruyn and pulled on his leg so hard as they wrestled to the ground that his artificial leg came undone -- to the horror of the officer left holding onto only a leg.
You can read about the minute by minute account from Niagara At Large here.
Sarah gives her accounts of the arrest: “As Sarah began pleading with them to give her father a little time and space to get up because he is an amputee, they began kicking and hitting him. One of the police officers used his knee to press Pruyn’s head down so hard on the ground, said Pruyn in an interview this July 4 with Niagara At Large, that his head was still hurting a week later.
Accusing him of resisting arrest, they pulled his walking sticks away from him, tied his hands behind his back and ripped off his prosthetic leg. Then they told him to get up and hop, and when he said he couldn’t, they dragged him across the pavement, tearing skin off his elbows , with his hands still tied behind his back. His glasses were knocked off as they continued to accuse him of resisting arrest and of being a “spitter,” something he said he did not do. They took him to a warehouse and locked him in a steel-mesh cage where his nightmare continued for another 27 hours.”
(Terrible) mistakes in judgment on how to “deal with” or “include” people with dis/abilities also happen across the police lines on what we would perceive as safe ground.
I know the first thing said will again be about people trying to make the best decisions they can when under extreme stress. Yes, people’s brains can kick into hyper gear when pressured and stressed but that is not an excuse in itself.
Moving back the G20 Summit demonstrations, when I was helping to organize the First Nations Day of Action for Thursday June 24, 2010, Indigenous activists and allies met in a central downtown location. We smudged before each meeting and had the prayers and council of elders ever present. That comfortade me and made me feel at peace.
The date for the march was fast approaching. People were getting more and more nervous speculating about the nature of the police conduct marchers would face --with minds and spirits respectfully drawn back to Dudley George -- so there was palpable concern.
I know the issue had come up that I would have my drum with me during the ceremonial march that followed First Nations protocol, gender roles and use of Sacred Objects and Medicines. All the marchers were to keep inside a Two Row banner that formed the shape of a turtle. I don’t remember exactly the words spoken when I expressed what would happeb if the march was moving far too fast for the elders or people with medical needs?
An individual who I will not name, brushed off my concern noting he thought that was not a group campaign. When I pressed, he bluntly told me to “well, just don’t show up then.”
And with his words, I got kicked out of not only the organizing committee but also from participating in the demonstration at all - lest I be a burden.
I left crying, so hard I banged into a wall I thought I was the door. There was utter silence behind me as I struggled to climb the stairs to the ground floor (the agency we met at for weeks did not have an elevator, so I struggled up and down those same steps week after week and participating in the organizing only now to be told I was basically not wanted at the march.
Sure, some women stopped me before I jumped on the street car and urged me to talk to them first before running off, but the damage had been done. I cried the whole street car ride that literally took me from the Regent Park to Parkdale. I didn’t march that Thursday with my community. How could I when I knew people thought me a burden. It took me a lot time to get over what happened. Part of it was pride. Part of it was confusion. And Part of it was the lack of supports of people who truly understood what was going on.
End of Part 1