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G8/G20 Communique: They cannot jail our hearts

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Civil liberties are one of those things that you like to think you have but you don't find out if you actually do until you find out that you actually don't.

Toronto found out the hard way that we actually don't.

The Toronto Police Service -- a part of a bigger $1.3 Billion security budget which operated the Integrated Security Unit -- schooled Toronto good.

We collectively had our civil liberties taken from us during the G20 Summit when Toronto the Good looked more like Toronto the Police State. In some parts of downtown Toronto, it was as if a foreign army of black clad riot cops had occupied our city; but with an external occupying force at least you know the enemy is not taking its orders from the same government that is supposed to protect you.

With the G20 Summit over in Toronto, activists and citizens speak to the weekend of demonstrations -- June 25-27, 2010 -- in varying levels of disbelief and trauma. We nurse it like a deep, painful bruise. Video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yd5K-TfEeyU&feature=player_embedded

I know for myself, I am very wary of unmarked vans after seeing the police use them during the Summit protests as snatch vehicles:  one would suddenly pull up, undercover police officers would jump out, rush the crowd and snatch someone, dragging them back to the van before driving away. Video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ryvwbSo7nVs&feature=player_embedded#!

So ya, I admit that I've got this thing about unmarked vans right now. You can't believe the terror of the crowd after such a snatch occurs until you actually see the look on people's faces as it happens and after. It's as if the entire crowd begins to tremble in unison, united by anger and fear; eyes scanning the parameter of the protest as a desperate self-defense mechanism.  

There is also a kind of polite yet palpable rage from Toronto the Good when the police were illegally demanding to searching everyone's bags and person, forming checkpoints through out the city and detaining/arresting anyone who refused. Video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RjVtsuoPlzk 

It know that these kinds of conditions gave activists a good glimpse of what life is like for people who live under the power of an occupying government and/or army; hopefully broader support for global issues will be part of the good we are all hoping will come out of these protests. 

Nurturing more of the good, coming off the heat of hearing our Police Chief admit that the 5-metre G20 security rule never existed and the Province of Ontario dismissing any need for an inquiry into law enforcement's actions during the G20 Summit, we heard today that the Ontario Ombudsman will investigate the introduction of a regulation that gave police broad powers to search and arrest people within and without Toronto's G20 summit perimeter.

Quote: "(Ontario ombudsman) André Marin told CBC News in an interview that "we're looking at that regulation, how it was passed, why it was passed, what was the genesis for passing such a regulation."

"And the second question is how that regulation was communicated to the public. And what effects did it have on the public's constitutional freedom of expression and association?"

**

The occupying army of G20 police may taken off their riot gear and left the city if they were bussed in from other areas, but the impact remains.

Over the weekend, there were 1090 arrests, of whom 113 were released without charges on the street, 714 were held for breach of the peace and released within 72 hours, and 263 released with pending charges.

17 people still remain in custody. While the exact numbers and charges of some of those still being held in detention are unclear at this time, we know that 17 people are facing a variety of trumped up and politically-motivated allegations including conspiracy.

These activists and organizers are MIA of sorts, like someone has taken a knife and violently punched holes into the fabric of our community.

This is one of the reasons Torontonians are rallying on Saturday at Queen's Park at 1:00 pm; with a nation-wide rally planned for July 17, 2010. We will be marching to demand freedom for our incarcerated friends and to demand that the government that took away our civil liberties stand to account for its actions.

**

Free Our Friends! Community Update on G20 Detainees

While G20 leaders met behind a steel cage and a 1-billion dollar Fortress Toronto operation, we witnessed an unprecedented coordinated police operation in the city of Toronto.

Police brutality against protest participants, journalists, legal observers, medics, and random passersby came in the form of indiscriminate arrests, beatings, pepper spray, rubber bullets, police horse charges, illegal searches and seizures, and extended arbitrary detentions.  While in custody, people were forced into steel cage cells with up to 40 people per cell; made to sleep on concrete floors with open bathrooms; denied food, water, toilet paper, and sanitary products; subjected to sexual harassment, threats, humiliation, and intimidation; and refused access to medical attention, phone calls, and legal counsel.

Over the weekend, there were 1090 arrests, of whom 113 were released without charges on the street, 714 were held for breach of the peace and released within 72 hours, and 263 released with pending charges.

Around 20 people still remain in custody.  While the exact numbers and charges of some of those still being held in detention are unclear at this time, we know that 17 people are facing a variety of trumped up and politically-motivated allegations including conspiracy.

*At the time of writing (July 8), three have been released with stringent bail conditions; one was denied bail; and others are awaiting bail hearings over the next 1-2 weeks.*

These seventeen people are our friends. They come from towns and cities across Ontario and Quebec and are respected and committed activists for a multitude of causes such as environmental justice, women's rights, economic justice, antiwar, Indigenous rights, queer and trans liberation, and migrant justice. They envision and embody worlds rooted in love, justice, freedom, and self-determination. They are also known in their communities as legal workers, students, animal lovers, childcare providers, and academic researchers. Many were targeted and arrested, including at gunpoint, in pre-emptive raids before the protests even began.

We remain steadfast in standing by our friends. Targeting organizers is intended to weaken our thriving social and environment justice movement, to isolate effective and vocal community activists, and to criminalize dissent against the violent policies of the G20 that perpetuate environmental degradation, militarization, labour exploitation, theft of Indigenous land and resources, and misery for the world's majority.

This escalating attack on certain individuals and groups is intended to intimidate and silence us all in our various movements and communities across Canada.  Make no mistake, if these politically motivated charges against organizers are not defeated, police will seek to use them against organizers in all sectors of our movement.

We encourage our allies to build on this growing solidarity within our diverse social movements to free our friends, and to keep organizing for liberation for all people, especially those who daily bear the brunt of police, state, and corporate oppression.

They cannot jail our hearts.

- Direct Support Committees of G20 detainees still being held at Maplehurst Men's Detention Centre and Vanier Women's Prison in Ontario.

To donate to the legal defence fund in Ontario: http://g20.torontomobilize.org/

To donate to the legal defence fund in Quebec: claclegal2010@gmail.com

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