Revisited: “How I Got Arrested and Abused at the G20 in Toronto, Canada”

On Friday, the CBC’s The Fifth Estate broadcast “You Should Have Stayed at Home,” about police tactics at the 2010 G20 Summit. Among those appearing in the documentary is Toronto playwright and director Tommy Taylor, whose harrowing account of his arrest and detention appeared on his facebook page (log-in required) within hours of his release. We first published it on backofthebook.ca on July 1st, 2010. It has since been translated into seven languages and republished in 21 countries.

As the Canadian Civil Liberties Association calls for a full public inquiry into the “rights abuses” at the G20, we once again bring you Taylor’s extraordinary piece of reportage, below. A stage adaptation will premiere in Toronto later this year.

***

tommy-taylor_wcap(Editor’s note: On Tuesday, June 29th, 2010, Toronto resident Tommy Taylor published, on his facebook page (log-in required), an extraordinary account of being arrested and caged at the G20 for 23 hours. At the time of his arrest, he and his girlfriend were watching a group of peaceful protestors, and had joined in as they sang “Give Peace a Chance.”

Below we reproduce, with permission, the post in its entirety, including the images originally used by Taylor. I find it hard to imagine a more important piece of journalism being written this year. – FM)

By Tommy Taylor

I’m going to start by saying that at no point in this note will I be exaggerating, bending the truth or lying in any way. I can also say I’ve never felt this angry, violated or betrayed.

Black Bloc left alone to create carnage and photo ops.

Black Bloc left alone to create carnage and photo ops.

Second, to those who are disgusted with the violence and vandalism — I agree. It was disgusting, but happened to property, by a small group. You can see the photos everywhere of the few individuals who did that. They were also allowed to by police, who parked the cars and left. Everywhere else there were organized riot police in the thousands. They left Yonge Street alone – why? Just read more than the headlines and photo ops — http://2010.mediacoop.ca/.

 
I’m not going to wig out in a conspiracy theory way, just read for yourself. The Black Bloc caused so much distraction and carnage. It happened to me and I still find it hard to believe, I don’t want to believe it. My country broke my heart.

So here is what happened.

PART ONE: Grandmas, Idiots and High School Reunions.

I was home during the day on Saturday June 26th until around 1:00pm when I went over to Allan Gardens Park (which is literally across the street from my apartment). Hey, if Mayor David Miller was encouraging people to get out and do things in the city, why not? There were a few tents left over from the Tent City, which slept there the night before. Various groups were getting signs still, ready to march over to the ‘Free Speech Zone” at Queen’s Park — far away from all things G20. I met a group of grandmothers who were marching on behalf of grandmothers in Third World countries who have adopted millions of children whose parents have died of AIDS. (To all those who are speaking out against the violence in the streets of Toronto and damning the protesters — where were your voices of outrage at this? Or do you only care when the irreplaceable Starbucks has its window smashed? g20-grandmothers-stephen-lewisWhen it’s on your front doorstep you cry and give the rest of the world your apathy — why are you only upset now?)

I walk with the grannies and arrive in Queens Park. There are thousands of police in all kinds of riot gear, mounted police units (people chant of “Get those animals off those horses” made me laugh). There were students, seniors, media, everyone, thousands! And it was so peaceful and a tremendous sense of community. The riot squads were quite scary, but people were chanting “You’re pretty, you’re cute, take off the ugly riot suit!”, which also made me laugh, and many of the officers in the riot gear laughed too, one of them quipped “I wish, this thing’s hot.” Cool, this was fun. Good messages, free speech, the grannies along side the burly boys of the Steel Workers Union. Someone gave me a marker and bristol board. I made a sign “Apathy Will Kill You.” After a while of awesome speeches, interesting people and wasted money (1.2 Biliion…?) I give away my sign and head home to Jarvis & Gerrard. Like on the way there, cops are lined up everywhere, watching everything — no holes anywhere. Strange absence of cops at Yonge and Dundas Square . . . they were all over it earlier . . . .

At home I soon read about the violence happening along Yonge . . . what? Where are the cops? It’s guys in ALL black, easy to see. Why are they just running along with no one to stop them . . . there were cops there. Ok. Weird. These guys suck for doing this, because this is all anyone will see and read about. And now it’s justification for the gross amount of force and money spent. Then comes word about the police cars parked and abandoned, they even rolled down the windows before leaving. What? No radios or any equipment inside the cop cars? No police in sight? Arrest these idiots before they ruin any chance at — oh, too late. So then the media starts to assemble the evening news with the fiery money shots of Yonge St and the burning cars. Vandal assholes taking the bait and acting in a predictable destructive way. Idiots.

Watch an account by a photo journalist who followed them:

 
Argghh! But, hey, at least things were cool in the “Free Speech Zone”. My girlfriend Kate gets home with her co-worker Ben and their friend Simon at around 7pm. She asks if it’s ok to go out and see what’s going on. I said sure, the Free Speech Zone is awesome, there’s all kinds of causes, we can go take a look. So, off we go along College Street. There are people on sidewalks and taxis and cars, all very normal. We got to Bay and College when around 20 mini-vans full of riot cops honked their horns and went flying through the intersection — I had never seen anything like it, it was crazy. We arrived at University Ave to find it completely blocked off by riot cops in full gear. The “Free Speech Zone” was completely blocked in. The cops wouldn’t answer any questions, wouldn’t move, wouldn’t look at you. Nothing. Then rows of riot police form on College behind us, start banging their shields and march in, followed by a rows of mounted horse units. Then out of nowhere two young guys are pepper sprayed nearby, everyone runs, nothing is said by police, no announcements. People help the guys and pick them up, they don’t know what happened or why.

Up on the steps of a building I see a friend from high school, Derek. We head over, catch up — he came down to see what was happening, but was blocked off from Queen’s Park on all sides. Shortly after some homeless people threw on arm bands and had extending night sticks and tackled people standing around and dragged them behind the dense line of riot cops and dragged them away. Secret under-cover homeless police — oo la la. Still no messages from the police and no violence to be seen except from them. I remember on JackAss when Johnny tried being tasered and peppered sprayed and said the spray was the worst thing he’s ever had done to him and never again, poor dudes on the ground. Nothing happened. So, guess the day was over and police didn’t want the protest getting any bigger (is what we thought). Derek went back to Mississauga and we decided to head home and Simon went to a bar.

blue-slushiePART 2: A Blue Raspberry Slushie and the Lost Tactical Squads — A Saturday night in TO.

Now 9pm. Kate, Ben and I were thirsty and I remembered reading a story about the ice cream truck guy that parked at City Hall at Queen and Bay and how G20 was killing his business, and I like blue raspberry slushies. So down we went, he was up front with his feet on the dashboard. I was very thirsty at this point, so it was great. The streets seemed a little empty, but people were around, walking, going places to eat, taxis and cars driving around. Seemed like the oncoming rain and shut-out from the police killed the protests. We said “All people will talk about is the violence, too bad.” Then things changed around us. It was now just after 9pm, all the violence from earlier in the day was long over and the vandals who committed it, gone. Vans and buses of riot police and tactical teams were swarming. We couldn’t see any protesters, but the streets were filing with cops, cars tried backing away and had to jump the curb, people were getting confused, and no cops were saying anything.

We thought it best to head east and get home right now, who knew what was happening. The guys in green tactical gear were pretty scary and shouting to each other “We’re in the wrong place, go west! Go west!” They got in their vehicles of all kinds (from armored personnel carriers to Budget panel vans), big gas guns, crazy gear. Kate needed a bathroom desperately, nothing was open now and there were quite scary police squads everywhere — now very confusing as to what’s happening. We see two construction workers peeking their heads out of the door of a store. We run over and Kate talks her way into the bathroom. We talk to the guys, it’s confusing, but no signs of violence. The workers wish us well and head back inside.

We’re now at Bay St and King St, trying to head east. The sky opens up and the rain pours on down. Heavy. We see a group marching AWAY from the fence, away from G20, they get blocked in by police, but are then let go and told to move east — great, towards home! It’s a crowd of maybe 200 people, all kinds. Some flags and signs lead the group. The free speech zone was shut down, so I guess there was nowhere else to go. We live in Canada, so before you say that everyone should have gone home, no. Is that the country you want to live in? Where you can’t speak up? One day you’ll have to actually face an issue of injustice that will make you actually stand up and go outside and use your freedom, use your voice — and you’ll be glad you can. Imagine if you couldn’t? What country does that make you think of? So, with no instructions from the surrounding police I ask someone marching in the street and they seem to think it’s back to Allan Gardens Park, perfect! We live there!

g20-novotel-arrestPART 3: Tommy Taylor, You’re Under Arrest.

So the three of us follow, on the sidewalk, away from the central group. Occasional clapping on some great slogans chanted. There are regular people on the street watching, who live and work in the area. We get to Front St. continue south to the Esplanade and stop in front of the Novotel. Hrm? Apparently the workers are on strike at Novotel for unfair treatment and some delegates from G20 will be staying there. We are across the street on the sidewalk, in front of The Keg. The marchers sit down and chant “peaceful protest”. And it is. Everyone is calm; it’s actually pretty awesome to see. There are some awful things in this world and when our economic and political leaders gather in one place to decide the world’s solutions and futures (including the government of China), people are going to want to have their voices heard. That’s the Constitution, thankfully.

Then they start singing “Give Peace a Chance”, wow — it’s actually a cliche of a protest! It was a lot of fun, a great thing to witness live instead of stock footage form the 60’s and 70’s when people were changing the way sexuality, gender and ethnicity are treated in North America. Without public protests we would still have slavery and women couldn’t vote. Would you go back and tell those people to go home? No word from police yet, and why would there be? It’s 10:00 at night on Saturday on a small sub-street in Toronto with no traffic tonight. Everyone’s peaceful and out of the way, and only in a number of 200. It actually seemed like just a little whimper from the numbers I saw together earlier, but at least they had heart and spirit. We join in singing “Give Peace a Chance” — how could you not, it felt so great. Then, riot cops show up on the sides of the street. Uh-oh. They’re blocking it off, time to go.

We head towards them to leave; they say “Get Back”, no problem. We turn to leave the other way, more riot cops “Get Back”. Okay, we ask if we can please leave — no response. They haven’t said anything. There are journalists in here, a couple comes out of The Keg and tries to leave, they are told, “It’s too late.” Too late for what they ask, and are told nothing. We ask again (Kate has become quite distraught and upset) if we can please leave and are told, “You should have left when we told you.” Wait, what? When? Everyone is saying the same thing. Then the phone number for legal aid starts making the rounds, people write it on their arms and hands (I already had it on a post-it note). The guy from the Keg can’t believe it. The guy in the wheelchair on his way home is stunned. The confused guy with cerebral palsy is freaking out and scared. A few First Nations people around us say, “Well, this is familiar. Welcome to our club everyone.” A gay couple hugs, in tears. An older lady (the splitting image of Jane Goodall) asks what’s happening. The media with the huge cameras seem at a loss. The riot police have the full gear, shields, helmets, masks down, saying nothing. The leaders of the march ask for a negotiator to get people out of here. No response. They give official media a chance to leave that have badges, but no one else. Not even people who have obvious news camera and photo cameras. Steve Paikin from TVO managed to get out. We all chant, “Let us go!” They begin pulling people out of the sitting crowd and take them away. There was no resisting, they turned around and offered their hands. Then a riot cop with a classic cop mustache announces, “You’re all under arrest. You will all be charged and you cannot leave. ”

We can’t believe we’re about to be arrested. They won’t tell us why we are under arrest, which they legally have to. We were on the sidewalk the whole time. People from the condo above The Keg throw things down at the group. We throw nothing back and a few riot police laughed. The workers in The Keg are all at the window, confused, one of them starts crying and walks away. Everyone is trying to find out why we just can’t go home. Then the riot squads form a half circle around us, shield to shield. People angry, afraid. We were nowhere close to the fence; there was no violence — what was this? People singing a John Lennon song all arrested? Confusing. Upsetting. I want to get out of there with Kate and go home and I can’t. I hate the way this made me feel. I didn’t do anything. Nothing was happening here with these people, whom I was now a part of. Some sat down, many were on dying cell phones trying to call family and friends, some kids trying to call parents and asking to borrow phones, journalists calling their offices for help . . . scary.

The unmoving riot officers had arm badges saying they were from Calgary. Then all at once, they took some pill and took a sip from the tubes attached to their riot gear. It became clear they were a little confused, a supervisor was yelling at them they were in a wrong formation, some of them tripped over each other. I noticed the street was blocked off at both ends, no media anywhere at either end . . . denied access to see what was happening down here. Soon the street was full of buses and paddy wagons and riot cops outnumbered people 5 to 1. Many of the cops behind the semi-circle took off gear and lay down, sweaty on the sidewalk, obviously overworked. One by one, officers would come through the shrinking semi-circle line and take people roughly away. People would turn and offer their hands peacefully, waiting to go.

My new name!

My new name!

Next to us was a guy with a green mohawk, punky looking guy, two approaching arresting officers laughed and said “I want to get this guy right here”, they pushed through the other people, grabbed and spun him around and pushed him away roughly. He didn’t say anything or resist in any way. Jesus. Another male officer says to the gay couple “I’ll go find some lady officers to arrest you boys.” His patch says Toronto. Really? Surely, two female officers take one of them away. We can see people put into paddy wagons, or filling buses. I use Ben’s phone to call my parents, who were out. I call the legal aid number, no answer. I call my friend Chris Legacy (we were going to hang out on Sunday, now maybe not) he is out. I tell his mom, Linda what is happening, she is worried and hopes we’re okay and wants us to call when we can. They push through the crowd and pick out Ben
My evidence bag.

My evidence bag.

(who is in a bright yellow shirt, his work uniform shirt, he’s Brazilian with long black hair and a beard). Kate and I kiss, then they take Kate away and there is not a thing I can do except watch them handcuff her and make her walk away backwards. I hated the feeling I had at the moment, I never felt it before and I hated I was being forced to feel it.

 
I turned and offered my hands, I was handcuffed and made to walk backwards across the street to officers in front of the Novotel. I’m handed over, searched, asked my name — all very peaceful. My arresting officer, Toronto Constable Caesar, asked me if I understood I was being arrested — I said I understood, but I didn’t know why. He paused. “You’re being charged with — ” He stops, talks with someone else, moves me, and says “Mischief”. Another officer comes over with a form and a clipboard, Caesar says “Finally got a clipboard huh?” The officer replies “Yeah, this thing is fucked up.”

Our wristbands.

Our wristbands.

My official arrest time is 12:48am. But they’ve held me since 10:30pm. They search me, take my house keys and a post it note from my pocket (that’s all I had). I give the answers to the form questions and am put in metal handcuffs (hands in front now), Caesar says they need my shoe laces, so sits me down on the curb and takes them off and bags them. He helps me up; I can see Kate with other officers, random people all over, forms being filled out, and handcuffs going on. I see officers in bucket hats, and ask, “Who are those guys with the Gilligan hats?” I’m told those are officers from Saskatoon, an officer then jokes, “Yeah, those hats are gay.” Another adds, “Well most of them are faggots anyway. Except the dykes.” They laugh. Real police solidarity there. Cops everywhere are chugging bottles of Gatorade and water and throwing the bottles to the ground. We all had stickers with numbers stuck on us and pink wristbands with the same number. I was #0106. No one has read me my rights. I hoped I would end up in a wagon with Kate.

 
Here are two videos from some people who were in the condo. Listen to the Rocket Scientist who yells, “You guys are dumb!” then breaks into a Beavis and Butthead laugh. No media was allowed to see what was happening to us, so, here’s what it looked like:

 

 
PART 4: Taken on a Ride.

So, handcuffed and waiting around I see cops on the sidewalk lying on their shields, gulping Gatorade. Kate is put into a paddy wagon. I’m brought over to a different one and put in after a young guy. The back of the wagon has two seating areas, divided by a steel wall. There are no lights; the back wall is angled so you have to hunch over. I introduce myself to my fellow prisoner, he does the same. His story is much like mine. 45 minutes later we now have 6 guys on the bench. The last one in is a photojournalist, the officers toss in his evidence bag (with big fancy camera and case). “That’s my camera!” he yells, they laugh and slam the door. The police’s attitude is very relaxed, casual, many smiling and laughing. I overheard many talking about the confusion they faced in the arrest_vanday and right now. The other guys tell me they never had their rights read either and were all told different reasons for the arrest, “Disturbing the Peace”, “Obstructing Justice”, and so on. No one clear reason we were all there. I can only make out their silhouettes when they lean forward, no lights.

We can hear the guys on the other side of the truck. One of my 6 guys shouts “Tim?!”, “Yeah?” we hear back. Turns out they went to elementary school together in rural Ontario way back when. The ages of the guys in the truck range from 15-47. The only light that comes in is from tiny circles in the metal doors, the glass is dirty, so we can’t make out too much. We drive for 1 minute and stop. They turn off the truck and leave. The truck behind us backs over and stays put, still on. Our truck now begins to smell of fumes . . . I don’t think this was on purpose, as the drivers seemed confused about where to go, we could make out there were many discussions happening between all kinds of officers outside. But diesel fume headaches started in. After another 10 minutes we drove to a large prisoner transfer bus.

Our bus looked a lot like this.

Our bus looked a lot like this.

One by one we were let out of the small truck and led aboard the bus. The first portion of the bus had sectioned off pairs of seats with plastic and metal cages with their own doors. Inside were female prisoners, two by two. I saw Kate sitting with another young girl. She didn’t see me, she looked so sad. The back section was all open seating. They told us it was two to a seat and move to the back. We filled up all the seats and were left with one extra guy. They yelled at him “Sit down now!”, he told them there were no more seats, they yelled “GET IN A SEAT NOW!” So he sat on the floor. Some girls were asking about a bathroom, as we’ve been in police custody for almost 4 hours now. No reply. “Where are we going?” No reply. “Will we get a phone call?” No reply. Some of the guys had no shoes, some had no laces and some still had their shoes fully intact. The mix on the bus was great. All ethnicities, ages and genders. Protesters, pedestrians, media, the homeless, tourists — but mostly everyone in there was from Toronto. So, with about 12 girls up front and about 20 guys in the back, all in handcuffs, off we went. I tried calling to Kate, but she couldn’t hear me. No one had any phones, cameras, no way to record anything from here on out.

Everyone couldn’t believe what was happening to us. We all talked about our rights, what phone number to call, where we might be headed. The general thought was the new detention centre they built inside the Toronto Movie Studios at Pape and Eastern. And sure enough, as the bus left the St. Lawrence Market area, we headed east. There was a sense of outrage on the bus, but when we got our phone call and legal counsel, this would be exposed for the farce it was. A girl started getting really wild and screaming — it was a bit much, a few guys laughed, and I heard a “Shut-up” — it was unmistakably Kate, she wasn’t into the girl next to her losing her mind just yet. I called out “I love you!”, another guy jokes “Will you be my prison wife?”

We arrived outside of the wet and dark Toronto Film Studio, with its large gates and armored guards and dozens of police cars and fenced off areas. It was creepy. The buildings were huge and grey with red signs with white numbers on them. It was something from a George Orwell novel. Large spotlight pointing down from posts, in the rain. Our bus was stopped in front of a large garage door to one of the hanger-sized buildings. The door rolls open a light pours out from it. We drive inside.

PART 5: Behind the Grey Door.

g20-detention-centre

As we go in there are rows of cages on left hand side. About 12’x20′ and around 10′ high. They were cages. Chain cages full of people. From what I could see they were all young people in these cages, maybe the young offenders. I have never seen anything like this, only in holocaust films, sci-fi films or pictures of Guantanamo Bay (and no, am I not comparing this to those events, I’m just sharing what came to mind and the only things I can reference it to).

There are skids of bottled water and Gatorade the police are drinking from. The men on the bus are talking about how the police cars were abandoned and no police officers stopped the infamous Black Bloc — learn more about that here.

We all agreed that we were the hundreds of protesters left at the end of the day; long after the violence was done that afternoon. But hey, how do you justify to the people of Canada that we spent 1.2 billion dollars? You arrest all the protesters. We thought we might be held for 24 hours so that the streets would be cleared from people demonstrating their right to free speech. I mean, they closed down the “Free Speech Zone” in a public space, so . . . why were we there? Finally an officer comes on the bus and states “Come forward and give your number”. So one by one we go. Outside we are handed off to a Court Services officer, all with “Special Constable” patches. Some have removed their nametags, others have them still on. Some are Barrie Court Services, some Toronto. I’m given to a shorter female constable who removed my metal cuffs and put me in the plastic binds — she had trouble getting them tight enough. “My gloves are too sweaty” she says, a male officer grabs the tie and pulls them — tight. My wrists are already raw from the cuffs; I say they are too tight. “You’ll live” I’m told. Oh.

She asks where I’m supposed to go, no one really knew. Everyone there seemed a little overworked and confused. Someone told her to make sure I read ‘the sign’. She takes me towards an ominous black corridor — it was this pocket of darkness in this hanger that led to another section. Kate had already disappeared inside it. She stops in front of a sign, which states that all video and audio would be recorded in the cells and could be used as evidence, etc etc. She asked if I understood and I said I did. I was actually happy to read that, in case anything in violation of the law happened to me inside. We walked into the darkness . . .

PART 6: Welcome to Cell Block OL 6 in Detention Level 2 Prisoner #0106, or
Come for the cup of water, stay for the condom-ball.

Inside the former movie studio, I almost can’t believe it. I’ve never seen this outside of movies. It is almost unreal. There are no windows to be had. The cavernous ceiling is 200 ft high, I can barely see it. It makes the warehouse from the end of indiana-jonesRaiders of the Lost Ark look small. Hanging down to about 15 ft off the ground are rows of intense florescent lights. Dozens of rows as far as I can see in either direction. Over each cell is a small black pod container, a camera. It appears to be a maze made of industrial shelving, construction office trailers, wooden decks and walkways and cages. The cages are roughly 12′ by 20′ and around 10′ high. There is sheet metal on 3 sides; the front side has a sliding door section that locks. Inside each cage is a porto-potty with the door removed, no toilet paper. It reaches close to the ceiling and is about 4’x4′ around. Those potties — bright orange, with an elaborate art deco style molding. A 1.2 billion dollar porto-potty to be sure. I pass rows of the cages with people bleeding, crying slumped on the concrete floor. Huddled, asking to call family, asking for water, asking what the charge is, wanting to know their rights. All the officers were ignoring them and laughing. Laughing at people. I have never seen anything like this.

UPDATE: PHOTOS FROM THE INSIDE

My officer was asking where to take me — no officers knew. One officer tells her “Who knows? This place just got fucked up. Good luck.” She sighs. Finally it’s decided and I’m taken down a row of cages, I see Kate in a cage with about 30 girls, huddled, still wet and in this place (which I just notice is freezing). She smiles — “I love you!” I call to her, I hear “I love you too!” as I’m brought around the corner. I see the girls have no door on their potty, with mostly male officers around them walking by, looking in. We’re near the wall and I see a cage full of about 35 men. “Cell Block OL 6″ says a white sign on the cage door. In I go. I recognize some of the guys from the bus and paddy wagon. Hello agains are said. We are still handcuffed with the vinyl ties; I now have a cut on my wrist. I see the guy with the green mohawkish cut — he looks troubled.

Like this, but little bigger with one bench and huge outhouse.

Like this, but little bigger with one bench and huge outhouse.

Soon enough, a few more guys are brought. There are no 40 men in the cell. The young, short male officer with spiky orange hair and a shirt labeled Toronto Police jokes to us “What do they think this is, Auschwitz?” This is what he said. 40 witnesses, and the video/audio equipment was right above us. They have since stated this footage would be made public. Amazing, I can’t wait. There is one steel bench in the cell that seats five. There is standing room only. The floor is cold concrete, dirty and covered in chipped splotches of bright green paint — from when the movie studio would use green screen. Anyone who sat was covered in a bright green dust.

 
It was now around 2:00am. I’ve been held since 10:30pm, not read my rights, not explained anything, not yet charged,no phone call. And in an overcrowded cell with no access to water. Every guy had to pee; there was a line around the inside of the cell to piss. Trying to pee with your hand cuffed together was horrible . . . but we all managed . . . the outhouse was messy. No toilet paper. So, here we all were. Ages from 16-78. Three German men asked why the guard made a joke about Auschwitz. They were here from Germany, left a bar, got arrested. They said they had no idea Canada was like this; they said the world thought we were free. They said “Poor Canadians, this is shame.”

The camera -- I hope you're getting all this up there.

The camera -- I hope you're getting all this up there.

The stories from the men in the cell were all very similar. Some were protesters in the Novotel March, one man was having dinner at the Keg with his girlfriend (who was also arrested), there were two journalists, a homeless old man with a big grey bird and long hair with scruffy clothes — he was almost in tears and confused, he said they grabbed him walking on Carlton. He then asked us “What’s a G20?” Sick. The 16 year old kid hasn’t been able to call his parents and now he’s locked up with 39 men. The cage houses all kinds. There’s a young gay couple curled up together. Some men have no shoes, some no laces and some still have both. Wet socks and feet and clothes in this freezing, unending hanger. And now we’re thirsty.

 
Stories are exchanged, we all discuss what to say to our lawyers or legal aid when we call. One guy explains how he was working at a music store up at Ossington, left work, saw his buddy across the street gave him the rock and roll horns with his hand, then a cop saw him and said ‘Don’t give the cops the finger!” while running at him and then tackling him. He was bleeding and his clothes ripped. He was shocked. Still thirsty. We ask why we’re in here. “Because you committed a crime,” quips a Barrie Court Services officer — a tall, bald man with one hell of mean streak. It looked ugly. Some officers were laughing and joking at us. I was feeling the crowded cell growing tense and angry. One black, shorter male Toronto Officer came over as we began pleading for an explanation, for water and for some of us to be moved into another cell. He came over and said, “This is wrong. Guys, I’m sorry, this is fucked up. But there’s nothing I can do. This place is just chaos. I’m sorry.” he leaves. Very thirsty.

In police custody for 6 hours now, no water, no anything. We start to get worried. We are still very polite to the guards, “Please, we need water. Please help us. Please help this 16-year-old kid. Please split us up, we can’t even all sit in here.” We look at the camera and beg for help. We can hear people in the other cells yelling and begging for water. We hear a girl “Please! I need my medication! HELP ME!”. I yell “Help that girl, what the hell is going on here!” Other cages begin to yell. I find out later this girl was in my girlfriend’s cell and was way past her medication time. The male officers were laughing in at her and tapping their keys along the bars leering at the girls in wet clothes. Finally two female officers took the girl away. They also had a 17-year-old girl in her cage as well. Still thirsty.

7 hours into custody, the people break. A shout for water breaks into a little riot, all cells yelling water, shaking the cages, and kicking at the doors. People with cracked lips and cracking voices — I’ve been awake for 22 hours now. Luckily a guy in our cell kept a watch. The place is going insane, we are told by guards “We’re working on it!”, some are apologizing, some are obviously lost and confused, others are laughing.

Finally water reaches our cell. They have a blue jug on an office chair, rolling it around with one officer pushing, one with a key, and one holding styrofoam dixie cups. We are told to line up. Many of the men say “Thank-you”. I had to beg for water. BEG FOR WATER. For 9 hours. I hated being made to feel grateful for this tiny sip of water. Many gulped their cup down, some took it slow. “So shut-up now,” said the officer. Well, guess who was starting to get hungry after 8 hours in custody?

An older First Nations man produces a condom and blows it up into a balloon. We all laugh — the water did us good. In fact we all got along really well, making the best of things we could. Quiet guys, big loud guys, punks, well dressed men, journalists, people who were at work, protesters, homeless, gay guys. We all got along, totally united. So, with this condom balloon, we started bouncing it around, like volleyball. We then called it Condom-Ball. The rules were to bounce it with your elbows or legs, and try and catch the tip in your empty dixie cup (as they were tied together, like a volleyball bump already — too easy). Some guys got really into it, some were laughing, some thought it was gross, but funny. We joked about starting a condom-ball league. We’d rent the cages and have teams of 40 guys in each one. I’m looking forward the security footage from our cell — look at these crazy violent protesters . . . . playing games. So, some dude popped the condom with his cuffs, we all jokingly booed him and someone said “Now you’ll have to pay child support, never break the rubber!” Then the First Nations guy pulled out another condom. We cheered. They guy who broke the last one volunteered for blow-up duty. Someone said “When we get out I’m gonna say being in a cell with 40 guys sucked, until we found a condom.” We all laughed our asses off. Soon people tired of the game, as we were wet, crowded and hungry and still didn’t know anything.

PART 7: Awake for 25 Hours, Imprisoned for 10 of them.

It was a weird feeling being locked in a cage like animals. Told by my captors that it was wrong (but also laughed at by others), begging for food and water. Then, down the hall across from my cell I saw this: the bald Barrie officer was dragging in a kid with mild cerebral palsy (I saw him with a friend while they were arrested, he was so scared). He pushed and then they said something to him, his clothes were torn and his eyes red from crying. I guess they wanted his shoes, because he poultry-farmstruggled to lift his leg (his pants were falling down) when the officer slammed his leg down. “Never mind. Stop being stupid.” He laughed at the kid, as did the other officer. Away they went. Heard a door slam.

The guy who took his girlfriend to the Keg tells us how he told her it would be safe out “The violence was long over, and even the Mayor had said to go and enjoy Toronto.” He called out for his girl, “Trudy!?!”, we hear a “Yeah!? Is that you Sean?” he looks happy and yells “Yeah Baby!” she yells back “It’s over!!!” we all start laughing. Later I find out from Kate that Trudy was in her cell and also yelled, “Just joking!” but he didn’t hear because we were all laughing. The laughs were hard to come by. I was still sick that I begged for water and had been here for 11 hours and I hadn’t done a thing. And that I watched helpless as they roughed up a kid with CP. This was like some sick, twisted social experiment. All handcuffed, we ask “What if we have to shit? No toilet paper!” 45 minutes later they push a few sheets through the fence. “We’re bound, we can’t even wipe!” The male officer says “Figure it out boys”. Laughs. We make a pact that none of us will shit. I find out from Kate that the girls had to make a human wall when using the bathroom and help wipe each other. They also had to beg for toilet paper. Apparently they didn’t think girls needed much for the bathroom. So women asked for tampons or pads, the male guards laughed and said, “That explains your attitudes.”

 Haha, cerebral palsy is hilarious. BEG FOR WATER!

Haha, cerebral palsy is hilarious. BEG FOR WATER!

It was 6am, we couldn’t lie down or even all sit. We tried rotating on the steel bench. It was freezing. The Germans missed their flight. Another guy visiting his girlfriend from Manitoba misses his bus. Trudy’s boyfriend tells us she was to be on a bus up north to camp where she would be a counselor to children with disabilities. Good thing those kids are now safe from her, I mean, the woman had dinner at The Keg! Oh no! We hear that one cell contains a lawyer who has stated all our rights had been violated. Another holds a TTC Streetcar Driver in full uniform whose streetcar was caught in a blocked off zone, he left his vehicle and was arrested. What?

 
People are hungry. We plead to the passing guards for food or an explanation, or to tell us what’s happening — even to split us up so we can lie on the cold concrete. They say we will be processed, interviewed, charged and released in about maybe 3 hours — we can also make a call then to legal aid. And food? “We’re working on it.” We ask the guards how they could be a part of this. Some look guilty as hell, some laugh. We get the attention of Toronto Special Constable White, a short balding man with glasses. He comes to us; we all desperately and calmly explain what’s happening to us. White listens, apologizes, admits that it’s wrong and says, “I’m just a pea in a pod. I can’t help.” So, the old “I’m just following orders”, which followers of human right violators have used for ages. Wrong is wrong, whether it’s your paycheck or not. But hey, this is the G20, blood money for all!

White leaves us, apologizing and saying he’s going to try and help. 10 hours, a sip of water, no food, nothing. The gay couple has curled up on each other trying to sleep and keep warm. The man next me says, “I’m jealous.” I say “Me too.” he says, “I’m starting to look for the cutest guy in here.” I say, “Well, when in prison . . .” We chuckle, but it’s an empty chuckle.

PART 8: “Food” for the disillusioned.

You know what smells? 40 guys who haven’t showered in 30 hours with an open door outhouse and wet socks. I wonder what happened to Ben? Tension is mounting in the cell, some guys are getting wild-eyed. Some are starting to freak out. We’ve been in the cage for 10 hours, crammed together. Finally food arrives in the form of a plastic wrapped dinner roll with a slice of processed cheese in it, and slathered in butter. Everyone digs into their food, devouring them. It’s around 8:30am. One guys asks “Why is there so much butter?”, the officer replies “It’s not butter, it’s margarine.” processed-cheeseHe jokes back “I can’t believe it’s not butter!” Some us laugh, some are too into the sandwich to notice anything else.

I suggest we write a message in the chain ceiling with our dixie cups for the people watching on the camera. We all decide “HELP” is the best option — maybe they’ll do something and at least split us up. A quiet young guy in glasses puts it up. Nicely done. I find out that Kate’s cell (Cell Block OL 5) made a peace symbol and that Ben’s cell block (OL 2) made a chandelier from some danger tape they pulled inside, the cups, and the ends of the plastic handcuffs they chewed off. Fancy. I hope the officers on the other sides of the cameras saw the dangerous people they had. Then two officers arrive and take away the green mohawk guy. We ask about the rest of us and we’re told “Soon.” That’s all. We ask about our rights and Toronto Court Services Special Constable # 99257 says, “We can hold you for as long as it takes to process you.” I ask him “Is that the law? What if it takes four years to process, you can hold us?” He says, “Yes.” I tell him he’s lying. I demand to know his name (his name tag was off) and says “Your fault if you believe me”, looks nervous and quickly leaves. Never gave a name. We were told many times about being processed and we’d reach what they called “the Otherside”. What was there? I don’t know. They said that we’d have to wait again there anyways. What was this Otherside? Someone suggested we’d be turned into cheese slices. I said I would make terrible Soylent Green. A few guys laughed emptily.

PART 9: No Help for a Broken Heart.

We are thirsty again; it’s been 15 hours in police custody. Still 39 guys overcrowded. Getting very scary. Awake for around 30 hours. Had one sip of water and cheese shit-bun. The 16 year old hasn’t been able to call his parents. We yell for someone to help us, to help this 16 year old kid — for someone to do anything, to please help us. We get the attention of black female Toronto Special Constable Ottey, with short hair and glasses. We tell her about the 16 year old, she writes down his information and says she’ll do something about it. I see her several times in the next few hours, ignoring us as we ask for an update. Poor kid. His poor parents. We see officer White a few more times, he always apologizes. They say they are looking for people they suspect of bigger crimes first — an officer comes by and yells “Islam! Is there an Islam in here?” Nope, no one by that name here.

We start losing it a little bit. Saying to every officer, “You know this is wrong, look at us in here!” We hear from the other cells that some only have 20 or 15 guys. Why is this happening? How is this happening? Some guys start screaming, kicking the cage, and shaking it. We can hear this happening all over the place. We yell for help, some cops are laughing, some look devastated and helpless. I’m so thirsty and I’m screaming for water. It felt like nothing I’ve ever felt before. A prisoner. Innocent. Screaming at my captors for water. Right then my heart broke.

I looked around at the screaming men, the scared kid, the huddled couple, the disgusted Germans, the confused old man, the First Nations man who didn’t seem surprised at all, the guards laughing, the others dismayed. Thought about the g20-tommy-taylor-freedom-tshirtpeaceful things I saw at the park, the grandmothers with AIDS orphans, Kate taken away in handcuffs, the kid with CP roughed up, begging for water, and my heart simply broke. That’s the only way I can describe it. My beloved country, my city. I looked down at my t-shirt — bright blue with a big white maple leaf and in bold, caps letters below: FREEDOM. I kid you not. I was proud to wear that shirt earlier that day. Now it stung. I was so helpless and empty. For those of you who may not think this sounds like much, or is justified, you weren’t there. People from all walks of life were breaking in that place, including police officers. One guy lost it and went into “Fucking pigs! Fucking giving us swine flu! Fuck you!” I always thought people who said things like this don’t appreciate that the police have a hard job and deal with so much crap. But right then, I got this guy and those people. People who have been victims of the police. Are all bad? No. But they give into their own kind of mob mentality. I saw the blood lust in those Riot Cops’ eyes and the disregard from some of these guards. One man yelled “We are people! We pay your salary through taxes!” The officer yelled, “You don’t paying any fucking taxes, look at you!” The university educated, employed man in awe asked “What the hell do you mean?” He walks away laughing.

We yell and scream, beg and cry out. Eventually officers arrive and say “You’ve been in here too long. Sorry, we’ll move some of you,” and take six guys, then another six. I went with the second six.

PART 10: Meet the New Rat Cage, Just Like the Old Rat Cage.

I’m led down to Cell Block OL 2. Across from us are large sections of industrial shelves and we can see into a deck area where 4 trailers meet, they each have a door. The door I can see says “Booking Room 10″ with a red light above it. Cops lean on the railing, laughing, and dancing when people chant slogans from their cells. They think it’s hilarious. Coming on 15 hours in custody. There are already around 15 men in this cell. They tell us some guys got removed a while ago. There are many similar stories in here, and another journalist. There is one guy in an English soccer jersey that tells me he was at a bar, stepped out for a smoke and was arrested. He was a huge soccer fan and was about to miss the big Germany/England match. The 16 year old was now in this cell. Around 10am there was a shift change in officers and we began begging for water again, maybe these guards would help us. I notice the evidence shelves under label OL 6, there are 5 bags — but there were 40 guys in that cell . . . where’s all our stuff?

My mouth was pasty and dry. Some guys mouths were cracked. We were once again ignored and told to wait. More promises of the Otherside. Some try to sleep on the concrete and share the single metal bench. Officers wander the hallways aimlessly, some calling out names, asking each other what happened to certain prisoners — confused. Several officers repeatedly pass our cell asking for the same names and numbers. Why don’t they know where they put anyone? There were hundreds of officers in this place. Why so slow to process? What was the charge? Where is our phone call? I beg for more water. I’m getting dizzy and have been up for 31 hours. The lights never dimmed, no blankets. The majority of everyone I’ve met so far lives in Toronto.

Another cheese sandwich arrives. My mouth was so dry I had trouble swallowing. Some guys used theirs as pillows. One man asks a guard if he has any kids, the guard says he does and so what? The man says that his two kids have no idea where he is and were expecting him two hours ago. The guard writes some info down and says he’ll see what he can do. I’m seeing some spots and getting woozy.

PART 11: Lights Out, Tommy Taylor.

The next thing I know, I’m outside the cell, surrounded by a few guards. An older female guard with short dark hair and glasses is offering me a cup of watered down Tang and instructing my binds be cut. I’m given a second cup of juice and new, looser cuffs. They ask if I’m ok, I’m so confused about why I’m outside the cell and ask “What’s going on?” They ask if I’m alright, and I say “I guess so” then they open the cage and put me back. The guys make room on the bench and sit me down. Asking if I’m ok. “What happened?” I ask with a now splitting headache. “You passed out man!” they tell me. Timber. Over I went, boom to the ground. They yelled to the guards for help, the officers wouldn’t come in to get me so the guys had to pick me up and take me to the door. I was then up on my feet and being given juice . . . so the blanks were now filled in.

I passed out. After begging for water. I passed out and fell over in jail. What was happening to me? No sleep, no water. The men went nuts. “Is this what it takes, a guy passing out! Christ!! What’s wrong with you monsters!” My head kills, they ask for medical attention for me, I second the motion and we’re told “Not right now”. Guys slump to the floor in defeat. The female officer who helped me aids in bringing some watery orange Tang to all the cells. We line up, quietly and broken, for our drink. I find out from Kate that this same female officer broke down and cried with the women at their cell. She was sobbing and apologizing, “This is wrong, you shouldn’t be here. This is all so wrong.” Their own officers couldn’t handle it, she was worn down by the injustices she was being ordered to do. This happened in Toronto.

Across from our cell Special Constable C. Smit, a short white female officer with blonde/brown hair, stands guard. We nicely talk with her through the cage. “Please tell us how you can do this? We are begging for water in here. This guy is only 16 and this guy passed out. Your co-workers laugh. They are joking to us about our rights and laughing at a disabled kid. You know this is wrong, what’s happening?” After too much of this, with tears in her eyes she breaks. “I don’t know anything, no one here knows anything! I’m not even a cop . . .” She then leaves in a hurry. Madness.

PART 12: Live from Cell Block OL 1, it’s Test Their Logik!

So, from out of the blue, in the cage next to ours, a rap starts. About the G8/G20. It’s awesome, and holy hell. It’s the rap from a video I watched about a rap duo appearing at the party supposed to happen Saturday night. And holy hell, those rappers, Test Their Logik are in jail. And now they are singing live in prison. Every cage joining in the chorus “G8, G20, they few, we many!” They do the whole song, the place gets pumped and they finish with everyone singing. Then when it’s over we all clap, yell, cheer and rattle our cages. It was so awesome; it reminded me of when the prisoners hear the opera song in Shawshank Redemption. Brilliant moment for all of us in detention hell. The song is “Crash the Meeting”, see it here:

 
PART 13: See you in the Parking Lot, Special Constable Milrod.

The “fuck the pigs” guy is loosing his damn mind. A young guy on the new officer shift, with reddish hair and a goatee seems ready for a fight. He says to the guys in our cell “I want to see all you guys outside in the parking lot, then we’ll see what’s what. I’ll take you down.” Wow. He walks away laughing. I inform an actual Toronto Police Officer of what he said and his name. Next we saw Milrod, his nametag was gone and he didn’t look at us or speak to us. It’s on camera Milrod, with 30 witnesses.

The cops are still searching for random names. They claim processing is taking long. One officer says, “We had to arrest 1,000 people, so wait.” We theorize that we’ll be held until just before the legal 24 hours they can hold without charging, which coincides with the end of the G20 Summit. Spirits are broken, guys lying all around. Two are removed for processing and they tell us they are clearing our cell next. Finally. It’s almost 3pm we’re told, when we ask for the time.

The only evidence I can see that it’s the day is a tiny hole 200 feet up with light on the outside. I wonder if anyone knows what happened down at the Novotel or what’s happening in here? We’ve only seen officers — no lawyers, medics or media (other than the ones in cages). It’s getting close to 24 hours in custody. I haven’t slept in 40 hours and new prisoners are being brought in. We’re told they are trying to process the women first, as they are out of room for female prisoners. I find a silver lining in that, hoping Kate might have gone home.

PART 14: Time to rush and time for rain.

So, they tell us they’ve doubled the staff and will be moving quickly. Some guys have pulled their hands out of the plastic cuffs. Some are too tight. Some guys are still in metal cuffs. 22 hours in cuffs. Bloody wrists. My head is in hell, my elbow hurts, and my wrists kill. I pull my one hand finally out. Finally I can stretch my arms, after 22 horrid hours. Rub my wrists, but it stings. I guess I always saw people rub their wrists in movies after removing handcuffs — that’s bull, it hurts too much. The guards don’t care that we’re doing this. Why were we all in handcuffs if we were already locked up?

So, bags of evidence are rushed around as officers call out names, holding photographs of some guys, looking around. They mostly just call numbers. My wrist tag is pretty worn out by now, but I remember my number, 0106. The crazy “fuck the police” guy has exactly 12 stickers on his body with his name. Looks like the police had fun with him. I hear them say “Santos!” That’s Ben’s last name! A few minutes later I see Ben taken down a hallway with his evidence bag. Awesome I think. See you soon buddy!

We’re told we’re being taken straight outside. No processing, no interview, no phone calls. We’re leaving. The officer who was there when we first arrived and made the Auschwitz joke comes back in for his next day of work, sees us and says, “Holy shit, you guys are still here? What the fuck is going on here?” and walks away. A few more guys are taken from our cell, we’re all calling each other brother now, pounding our handcuffed fists and reminding each other of how we’ll stay in touch and to tell everyone what’s happening in here. Then there is a loud steady booming. A rainstorm. The sound fills the entire chasm. Sounds like heavy rain. They finally take the 16-year-old kid.

As time passes I think about what to do when I’m out. Then I hear my name. I almost can’t believe it. 23 hours. Was it over? I answered questions about my date of birth and address. They opened the door and led me away. Around the corner, back through another area to the fabled Otherside.

PART 15: Break on Through to the Otherside.

So, just after the G20 was officially over, just before the legal 24 hours they could hold me, I was being rushed out. Convenient. They found a way to keep 500 legal protesters from their Constitutional rights. In this country. Canada. My shirt feels dirty. When I make it to the Otherside I see signs that let me know I was a Level 2 Detainee and I was heading into Levels 3 & 4.

Inside this hanger, more cages and metal detectors. The L3 area housed small groups of men and women, looking battered, some bleeding. They all made peace signs and told me to tell everyone about them. Down another hall, rows of single person cells. These look like leaders, organizers, many bloody. I see the green mohawk guy. He says “Adios”. I’m then put into another cage with some former cellmates. They tell me not to worry; they are taking us out one by one from here. There is a younger black guy with an awesome baseball cap; an officer asks, “How’d you get to keep that hat?” “Because I look good in it.” he replies smoothly. We all laugh, including the officers. I’m taken out, cuffs cut off and put against a wall to have my photo taken again.

Against the wall I’m told that I was arrested for “breach of peace”, I will not be charged, but if I am arrested for this or a similar crime again, I will be charged and appear in court. Do not join any more protests and assemblies during the G20. “Do you understand these terms?” I said I did. He then said “And the bad news is it’s raining cats and dogs out there. Take him out.” Then, I try to take my jacket from my evidence bag, but am told to head out, don’t stop.

I’m out in the pouring rain, it’s around 9:30pm, still a little light. I’m told to cross the parking lot. There are large gates with a turnstile to the side. GO through the turnstile riot cops tell me. Out I go. A crowd across the street under tarps and umbrellas cheers for me. I see a basket of apples, I eat 4 and gulp a glass of water. Pats on the back. My mind is ablaze, I can’t focus. I don’t see Ben or Kate.

PART 16: Scream.

The detention centre was at Eastern Ave. and Pape. I have no money, no wallet, no phone. My head is aching, my wrists raw, body sore and awake for 43 hours. I walk up Pape to Queen. I have a long walk home to Jarvis/Gerrard. My keys and shoelaces are in a bag. Some people didn’t get their shoes back. Standing in the rain. No shoes. The angry is whelming up inside, my brain is exploding, tears are filling my eyes and I scream and punch the construction wall next to me. How did this happen? Where are my friends? What did I do? Who was in charge in there? I’m crushed, lost and might as have been hit like by a truck.

I make my way finally to a pay phone by a bar. It’s raining and dark. I make a collect call home, Kate answers. She was out around 4pm and told nothing about myself. I have trouble speaking when she asks if I’m okay. I can barely keep it together. I tell her I’m fine. I’m not. She asks if they beat me — I don’t know. I’m standing soaking wet in the rain on a collect call on a payphone with cars whizzing by. It took everything not to fall to my knees. She says take a cab, she’s called my parents and the Legacy’s are worried. Come home. She hasn’t heard from Ben. He’s not answering his phone. I finally hail a cab and fall into it.

PART 17: Homecoming.

I arrive home at 11:00pm. Kate’s waiting outside. We hug and kiss. I’m starving, soaked, thirsty and sore. We go inside, I call my family and my friend Chris. I can’t talk long, I just tell them I’m home and safe. Ben’s mom hasn’t heard from him, he’s not answering his phone. We finally hear from him at 1:00am. They detained him and accused him of being Black Bloc. He was still in a bright yellow shirt from work. Horrible things happened to him and Kate. I peel off my soaking wet Canada Freedom t-shirt. I throw it on the ground and get a lighter. I want to burn it. I don’t. I drink juice, we eat. We’re so sad. Our lives have changed. I was shivering and couldn’t form sentences. A shower. I couldn’t sleep. I had 38 emails. Where are you? My production team for the show I’m directing at SummerWorks wonder where I am, we have things to do. I send brief messages, make a note on facebook. I also notice how many people are raging about the protesters on facebook. Of course, the news is all about burning cop cars and broken windows. Things went exactly as I said when I saw those photos the previous afternoon. Jesus, it worked. Everyone got spoon fed a justification for the 1.2 Billion spent.

NOW:

That’s all true. Think about it. Is this Canada? Do you think this is right? You don’t want to live in a country where this happens. It’s changed my whole outlook and attitude on life. My responsibility to every human being in this world. Plato said, “The Price of Apathy towards public affairs is to be Ruled by Evil Men.” I used that as a tagline for a play I co-wrote and directed in the 2006 Toronto Fringe, called Lifeboat. Back then I felt pretty good that I explored these issues in my theatre work. Now I know it has to be a part of my life. The World needs you. Educate yourself. Your comfort is shame; your looking away kills people. You’re not small. You’re not helpless. You can do something. You have a voice, don’t let them silence you before you even try to speak.

This guy, Dan, was in my cell, he’s gay and was segregated by homophobic police:

 
Think this is bullshit? Fine, stick with the mainstream media, but look what they say:

Read what happened to others in The Toronto Star.

Read what happened to National Post photographers.

The truth is tough from the violence:
http://www.prisonplanet.com/peaceful-protesters-attacked-arrested-while-cop-car-arsonists-left-alone.html

Or is it like this?
http://toronto.mediacoop.ca/blog/oshipeya/3966

Watch an account from a prisoner, jump to 2:20 minutes:

 
Read all the news you and be your own judge:
http://2010.mediacoop.ca/

Welcome to Canada, Randy Quaid

randy_quaid_canada

randy_quaid_canadaBy Frank Moher

Dear Randy Quaid:

I hear Canadian authorities have decided to let you stay in Canada, and, indeed, that Canadian citizenship is now in the works for you. That’s because your wife’s dad was Canadian, so she was able to get her citizenship earlier this month, which means you can now get yours (though I don’t know why I’m telling you these things; I expect you already know).

Anyway, welcome. We’re glad to have you here. Frankly, I’ve always liked you better on screen than your little brother, who’s, well, let’s face it, a bit of a pretty boy (and, let’s face it — you’re not). Giving you refuge is in keeping with our best traditions — ones we seem to have lost touch with lately. And I think you’ll find we’re inclined to give you and Mrs. Quaid, and what some would call your wacky conspiracy theories, the benefit of the doubt.

First of all, if you’re crazy, it’s definitely craziness of the vulpine variety, as your now victorious campaign to stay here shows. But I think you’ll also find we’re more likely to believe you that there’s something fishy going on south of the border, that you might be in danger if you ended up in jail in Santa Barbara, even that there’s such a thing as star whackers. And not just because we’re pretty sure that 90% of Americans carry a gun.

We know that your country — your soon-to-be former country — is pretty messed-up right now, and has been since 9/11. That there’s a big gap down there between official reality and the real thing, and that a lot of people have a stake in making sure that gap isn’t closed. (We have similar gaps up here, but ours don’t matter nearly so much.) For all that we are much more deferential to authority in Canada, we are also less propagandized (at least for now), which means that we will not necessarily believe what we hear on FOX or MSNBC (or TMZ, for that matter). And besides, our longest-serving Prime Minister used to use ESP to communicate with his dead mother, so we’re completely down with the whole “offbeat” thing (which also explains William Shatner).

So welcome to you, Randy Quaid, and also to your resourceful wife, Evi, our prodigal daughter. Now, can I pitch you some movie ideas?

Oda and da machine

oda-and-the-mob

oda-and-the-mobBy Montreal Simon

Oh. My. Mafia. I hear the Con mob in the PMO, now known as the Oda Gang, are desperate.

The new boss is now claiming she couldn’t have whacked KAIROS, because she has an alibi. She was out of town. So even though she owes her current position to the fact she knows too much, she doesn’t know ANYTHING eh?

So it must have been da machine.

“According to new information, senior CIDA staff sent a memo to Oda, recommending the government provide funding for KAIROS. However, Oda did not agree with the decision. But because she was not in Ottawa that day, it was left to her aides to handle the paperwork.

‘They, with the minister’s authority, applied her automated signature, which is used when required because a Minister is unable to personally sign a document, and indicated her decision on the memo by clearly indicating that she did NOT approve the funding application,’ government officials said in their memo.”

While the Prime Minister is said to be in a safe house, in case he has to leave the country in a hurry.

harper-singing

And trying to keep the lid on this sordid scandal, the only way he knows how.

But then who can blame him eh?

Didn’t that former PMO operative spill the beans the other day?

Didn’t he testify that If Oda didn’t approve of the application all she had to do was tell the aide da machine NOT to sign it. I thought so.

And surely those Cons aren’t suggesting that KAIROS was just another dossier on a busy minister’s desk.

In a briefing note distributed to Conservative MPs over the weekend, they said, “Hundreds of these internal memos cross ministers’ desks every day.”

When Jason Kenney made it clear KAIROS had been singled out for execution mutilation by the sinister hit men in the PMO, for being disloyal to the state of Israel:

Immigration Minister Jason Kenney has accused Christian aid group KAIROS of being anti-Semitic and disclosed that’s why the group suddenly lost its federal funding.

. . . he was lying of course. But what’s new eh? The Cons lie all the time about EVERYTHING. And they are still lying now.

But fine. Oda recently complained that she was being treated like a character in CSI. So let’s make her fantasy nightmare come true.

Let’s call in the aide, bring in a handwriting expert, and a lie detector. And see who is telling the truth.

But wait. Didn’t the Cons recently decree that aides can’t be questioned by parliamentary committees? Only ministers can. How bloody convenient eh?

And what a modus operandi. Whack or mutilate decent Canadian groups. Intimidate others.

Rule by fear like the mob. Doctor documents, lie about it over and over again.

And when everything fails, blame aides because they can’t talk.

Or blame da machine…

harper-machine

Because it can’t SQUEAL.

And neither can Oda. Or she’ll be flushed. Or going for a ride in a wheelbarrow.

Oh boy. What have we become? The arrogance of power must make them think we’re FOOLS.

Organize, unite, defeat those ghastly gangsters.

Before they whack our country . . .

Best Gaddafi speech one-liners

gaddafi_speech

gaddafi_speechHere, from our Twitter feed, the best one-liners from those watching the Gaddafi speech (and yes, he’s still a murderous despot):

InklessPW Paul Wells
You see how far Libya is from Western standards of democracy when you see how little thought Gaddafi has given to set design.

kady kady o’malley
So, is he going to scrum afterwards?

@roseneath_rd
I have no idea why we all worried about selling arms to this man

@PDuffysGhost
Gaddafi should get a twitter account.

@christineestima Christine Estima
YO GADDAFI IM REAL HAPPY 4U & IMMA LET YOU FINISH, BUT MUBARAK HAD THE BEST DESPERATE DICTATOR SPEECH OF ALL TIME.

@warrenellis
Gadaffi’s speech seems to boil down to “Everyone is on drugs except me. Also I am Batman.”

InklessPW Paul Wells
I’ve heard wedding toasts that were way too much like this.

lizzwinstead Lizz Winstead
Gahafi: Just another asshole who thinks doing Improv is easy.

wmacphail Wayne MacPhail
What does Gaddafi have against tablets? Has he tried the Xoom? Clearly insane.

TurboLiberal
He’s offering Libyans to come into the big, leopard printed tent at the centre of Libyan life.

BorowitzReport Andy Borowitz
After 5 yrs of silence, Clarence Thomas finally speaks: “Gaddafi needs to shut the fuck up.”

TabathaSouthey Tabatha Southey
This is when someone should say “Amazing, #Gaddafi, so interesting. You should start a blog!” and then everyone goes to the bar.

davebrindleshow dave brindle
Guess they’ll add the laugh-track in post-producton.

False news is good for you. Really.

pinocchio

pinocchioBy Frank Moher

The last time Avaaz.org organized an online petition, I wasn’t too nice about it. But when it comes to “false news,” the activist organization is right on money.

What is false news? Funny you should ask. I wondered exactly the same thing, when I first heard the phrase last week. Actually, what I wondered was: “What the hell is ‘false news?'”

Apparently, the CRTC currently has a regulation in place barring broadcasters from disseminating false news, which seems reasonable, yes? After all, another word for it would be “lies.”

But a parliamentary committee, believe it or not, is on the CRTC’s case to change the edict, so that broadcasters would be allowed to spread false or misleading information so long as it doesn’t “endanger the lives, health or safety of the public.” In other words, if the CBC decides to tell you the Prime Minister is a tranny, why, that will be just fine. Not true, mind you, but just fine, since no one could possibly get hurt as a result (unless, of course, his cabinet were to begin cross-dressing, in the interests of job security, and the heels proved too much for them, and . . . oh, but what are the chances?)

False news. While they’re at it, why doesn’t the government legalize “dry water”? Could be sold by the bottle. Nobody’d get hurt. How could you possibly get hurt by a bottle filled with air? Or “penis-enlarging websites”? You’re reading one right now. That’s right. Simply by reading this website, your penis will get bigger. Even if you’re a woman. And if it doesn’t? Well, no harm done.

The parliamentary committee behind this absurdity is apparently concerned that the current regulation contravenes the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Well, I tell you what: leave the current wording in place, and let some news organization come forward and launch a challenge because it feels it can’t conduct its business without lying to us. (After all, SUN TV will need some way to establish its brand.) Then let’s see if the Canadian public really thinks that’s okay.

Meantime, you might want to sign the Avaaz.org petition against the change. Doing so will make you more beautiful and able to leap tall buildings. Really.

Bieberbortion

jbieber

jbieberBy Rachel Krueger

Bye Bieber Bunting rocks the cover of Rolling Stone next month, looking as bad-ass as his infant-face is capable of.  The Stone is teasing out its Biebernterview by releasing all the salacious bits, and the PITCHFORKS ARE A-GATHERIN.  Particularly around the Bieb’s stance on abortion which, though RStone calls it a “solid opinion,” he feels the need to end in a question mark.  “It’s like killing a baby?”

Heedless comments like that are interview-bait gold, and RStone knows how to capitalize on an interviewee who has not yet learned to curb his tongue by asking him about abortion in cases of rape.  Clearly disconcerted, the teenlette stammers, “Um.  Well, I think that’s really sad, but everything happens for a reason.”  REMARKABLY INSENSITIVE THING TO SAY, yes, even when followed by the admission that, never having been in that position, he “wouldn’t be able to judge.”  But what 16-year old pampered boy-child has a well-balanced, reasoned view of rape and abortion?  This is how we develop informed decisions, y’all, by saying really ignorant things and then having someone correct us.

Unfortunately for the Biebling, his learning is done on the pages of Rolling Stone and all the idiotic teenaged remarks that usually go reprimanded by parents are being SLATHERED on the intertubes.  His wranglers need to wrangle him better, because following his abortion comments he goes on to comment on the political situation in Korea.  Come ON, RStone!  That’s like letting a puppy talk about universal health care!  I’m hesitant to call shenanigans on an interview not yet released in full, but perhaps we should be hollering for the Bieber’s education before his blood.

Who is Bev Oda’s Con-sigliere?

politics-kairos

harper-handsBy Montreal Simon

He rose in the House of Commons yesterday like a mob boss defending one of his gang members.

While Bev Oda sat there wearing sunglasses, looking like her tongue had been cut out.

But all I could see was the fear in his eyes, and his pudgy hands.

And all I could think about was this exchange.

Member: “Madam Minister, you just said that you signed off. You were the one”
Minister: “I sign off on all of the documents”.
Member: “You were the one who wrote the ‘not’”.
Minister: “I did not say I was the one who wrote the ‘not’”.
Member: “Who did, then?”
Minister: “I do not know.”
Member: “You don’t know?”
Minister: “I do not know.”

What Bob Rae said.

“Minister Oda could not have made the decision by herself. This does not end with Bev Oda. This has to do with Mr. Harper.”

And since Oda herself, if you read her latest statement carefully, still says she didn’t doctor this document . . .

politics-kairos

Who did? Who was the hidden hand?

And could it have been the control freak Stephen Harper himself?

harper-control

Because how else can you explain that every other woman who has ever committed the slightest offence has been demoted and humiliated by Harper. But not Bev Oda.

Is it because he loves her so much? Or is it because she KNOWS too much?

And what was the real motive? Was it because KAIROS was too kind to the Palestinians?

Or was it also something else?

A tale of blood and MONEY?

As a “retired senior CIDA officer” asks:

“What happened in the missing two months? . . . Maybe she had already signed it with a reluctant ‘yes’ but some other ‘very important person’ finally decided it was indeed ‘no’ and just crudely and hurriedly added the ‘not.'”

And who in the PMO would write such a large NOT? With the impudence of power.

Oh yeah. Bev Oda is a Con tool. But don’t be distracted. This case is much bigger than she is.

Because if we find that hidden hand, we will find its fingerprints on the corpse of Rights and Democracy, and so many other innocent victims of the foul Harper Regime.

This isn’t a government, it’s a criminal conspiracy. For the sake of our violated democracy, and our chances in the next election, we need a police investigation NOW.

McLuhan saw this coming

McLuhan

McLuhanBy Dave Brindle

Lost in all of the hum online about Egypt and the CRTC was that 2011 is the 100th anniversary of the birth of Marshall McLuhan.

He was right.

When I tweeted that, my friend Rod Mickleburgh of The Globe and Mail shot back:

@davebrindleshow mcluhan was certainly right when he gave my mother an A on her eng lit masters essay for him, on ulysses…

@davebrindleshow she also had northrop frye as a prof that year…my mom was amazing….she went back for her MA at 46….

See that? That’s how participatory journalism works. A great story in six lines and a click. That’s the sort of thing McLuhan saw coming.

It’s ironic that we’re celebrating 100 years of McLuhan even as Canada has been engaged in an electronic revolt. Two, actually. One stirred up the net — on Facebook and Twitter — so much that Prime Minister Stephen Harper, sensing the will of a young demographic that might rally against him in an imminent election, acquiesced to opposition over the CRTC’s decision on user-based billing.

The second, less noisy, is in response to that same CRTC’s decision to loosen the reins on “false news.” A revision to current legislation would allow for pretty much anything to be broadcast that doesn’t “endanger the lives, health or safety of the public” — this supposedly in reaction to concerns that the current, more restrictive wording wouldn’t survive a challenge under the Charter of Rights.

But as The Globe‘s TV critic John Doyle writes:

“While there is an argument to be made that language of CRTC regulations on ‘news’ and ‘truth’ must conform to the law of the land, there is no authentic need to open up this can of worms.

” . . . What does it all mean? Say hello to the likely rantings and ravings of the upcoming SUN TV News channel . . . . What it means is not that the government has seen the future — the success of a right-wing TV news channel is an unknown — but it has posited the kind of future it would like to see in TV news and punditry.”

Which in turn means that the worms are already out of the can. If the government, through the CRTC, can legislate truth and news on TV, the precedent exists to impose the same on the internet.

That should concern us. The internet is messy. And god knows the perception exists that it needs tidying up. As Langara College journalism instructor Ross Howard is quoted saying in the brand-spanking new thedependent.ca:

“Online is just another form of presenting the same info quicker, more accessibly and with greater feedback and diversity of sources . . . . Unfortunately, the Web by itself provides no answer or relief from this ignorance driven by corporate imperatives and near-drowning in the info-tsunami we’re facing, because blogs and Facebook and Twitter etc. provide extraordinary diversity and interactivity but absolutely no reliability.”

I’d challenge that bit about reliability. Ask the people of Egypt which was more reliable: the regime or the internet? The network is reliable in that it never loses its voice, fluidity, fairness, free expression of ideas and opinions, and sense of justice — the very essence of democracy. And if an open democracy isn’t reliable, what on earth is?

It’s true, however, that the same engine that can organize through disorganization can also be retooled and used to quickly reorganize into factions and agendas. That’s what’s happened in the UBB debate, which has become too complicated and fractured to remain of interest to anyone other than special interest groups and the telecorps. The inherent strength of the internet’s global democracy is also its weakness. The network doesn’t have leadership nor does it follow a plan. That makes it more vibrant than the geezer media, but also a lot more anarchic.

McLuhan warned us this wasn’t going to be easy. As I said: He was right.

Adapted from an essay that originally appeared on davebrindle.blogspot.com

Red, warm, and close to the heart

red_blood_cells

red_blood_cellsBy Jodi A. Shaw

I’ve never been shy about my distaste for Valentine’s Day.   I don’t endorse or encourage celebrating it, I don’t accept Valentine’s Day gifts from anyone other than small children who have an innocent appreciation for the “holiday.” Instead, every year I close my eyes, plug my ears, and wait for it to go away.

Last year, I wrote about how meaningless and sexist the whole event is.  My stance hasn’t changed, but I’ve observed a trend this year that has prompted me to keep my anti-V-Day protests to myself.

Want to make some really special, loving plans? Donate blood. As Dylan promised Brenda all those years ago on “90210,” it’s a gift that’s “red, warm, and close to the heart”:

 
Okay, so maybe it’s not the grand, romantic gesture some of us were expecting at the time, but Dylan was on to something pretty spectacular. Flash forward over a decade later, and it’s nice to see people picking up on the idea.

According to Canadian Blood Services, “Approximately every minute of every day, someone in Canada needs blood. In fact, according to a recent poll, 52 per cent of Canadians say they, or a family member, have needed blood or blood products for surgery or for medical treatment.”

It’s a small gift, really, but one that saves lives.  I even admit I got a bit of that warm, fuzzy feeling about Valentine’s Day when I heard people discussing their donation plans.  It’s an actual gift from the heart. I won’t be able to donate today, but I do plan on calling the Canadian Blood Services (1-800-2-DONATE) to find out when and where I can donate next.

Sorry, PQ, but my BC is multilingual

kids_circle

kids_circleBy Bev Schellenberg

I see the Parti Quebecois are once again hammering BC for our perceived lack of French inclusiveness at last year’s Winter Olympics. Boy, are they going to be mad when they hear about our new language curriculum.

If proposed changes go through, French is about to become just one among a number of language options for elementary and high school students in the province. School districts will be permitted to offer additional languages, such as Mandarin or Punjabi, as well as more immersion programs in languages other than French.

Predictably, this has lovers of la belle langue upset. The Greater Vancouver Language Educators’ Consortium, SFU’s office of francophone and francophiles affairs, and La Fédération des francophones de la Colombie-Britannique have all expressed their concern that French will no longer have pride of place. But as The Vancouver Sun‘s Pete McMartin points out, maybe it’s time we dealt with a few glaring facts — such as the fact that, while only 9300 people in Vancouver have French as their mother tongue, fully 19 schools here offer French Immersion. Or the fact that 51 per cent of Vancouver residents identify as a visible minority, largely from East and South Asia.

We run into this contradiction all the time out here, between Canada’s official reality and our real reality. News from BC RCMP detachments slowed to a trickle recently, after provincial headquarters announced that all media releases had to be provided in both English and French. This may have had something to do with the force’s failed experiment in using Google Translate on its website, but the fact is the local Mounties have only one full-time French translator, who’s swamped. And given that the 2006 census shows that 165,975 British Columbians speak Punjabi as their first language, 134,015 speak Cantonese, 89,885 German, 73,325 Mandarin, and 63,000 French, shouldn’t we be attempting to provide translation to the larger language groups anyway?

Which is more important: demonstrating in as many areas of our lives as possible that we are indeed a bilingual nation, or embracing the full range of languages spoken in our communities? I honestly don’t know the answer.

When my children were younger, we lived in North Surrey, BC, a centre of South Asian-Canadian life. My children spoke English to the neighbourhood kids and the neighbourhood kids answered in Punjabi. It became plain that my children needed to learn Punjabi in order to converse with their classmates, so I searched for a program they could enter, but only French Immersion was available in the neighbourhood schools. So we moved.

Now my grade eight daughter and her friends want to study Japanese in the biggest school of the biggest district in BC, and they can’t. Only French and Spanish are offered, and no online option is provided. My son and his best friend would like to study Spanish, but French is mandatory in grades five through seven. French is the language I studied in both elementary and high school, and later couldn’t speak, other than to say “bonjour” as I traveled through France. I can’t even read a cereal box. And I had good marks in French.

However, I also recall trekking through Europe and Africa in pre-baby days, proudly displaying my Canadian flag on my backpack, and having many a conversation with international admirers who expressed how wonderful it is that Canada is a bilingual country. So I’m proud that we’re multicultural and I’m proud that we’re bilingual. I want to continue to live in a bilingual country, but I also want our kids to have access to other languages in our public schools, and I want the government to spend our money to translate information into languages that are useful to those living in each part of Canada.

I want it all. How do you say that in French?