Stories from G20 detainees

G20 detention centre. (Amber Hildebrandt/CBC)

By Amber Hildebrandt

amber-hilderbrandt-52.jpgAs evidence of the G20 Summit's presence disappears from Toronto streets, stories continue to emerge online and in the media from those who participated in or were caught up in the mayhem.

An estimated 1,000 people were detained during the summit weekend, Canada's largest mass arrest, in a makeshift detention centre in the city's east end.

Below are a few of the many stories from those who were arrested and spent time in the centre.


Tommy Taylor holds his wristband and bag of personal belongings. (Courtesy of Tommy Taylor)

Name: Tommy Taylor

Age: 29

Organization/cause: None

Where were you when arrested? On The Esplanade, near Hotel Novotel

What happened? The Toronto theatre director and playwright's colourful and detailed 10,000-word Facebook note has been making the social media rounds. He says his arrest happened around 10 p.m. on Saturday while out on The Esplanade with two friends after a day of wandering around town. After joining a rendition of "Give Peace a Chance," the trio got caught up as riot police began blocking streets. When they asked to leave, they were told, "It's too late."

Tell us about your detention.

Taylor says he was in a 12x20 foot cell, with about 40 men aged 16 to 78. Seven hours into custody, "a shout for water breaks into a little riot, all cells yelling water, shaking the cages, and kicking at the doors." Nine hours in, he says, his cell got water.

He says they weren't given toilet paper initially. Later, officers gave prisoners a few sheets, but going to the bathroom was difficult in handcuffs. His girlfriend, Kate, says the girls made human walls when using the bathroom and helped wipe each other.

It was freezing in the old film studio, says Taylor, and prisoners said they couldn't all lie down or even sit at the same time.

At 10 hours, food arrived: a wrapped dinner roll with a slice of processed cheese slathered in butter. About 15 hours in, Taylor says he was taken to the booking area and gets transferred to a new cell with 15 men. They ask for water again. "My mouth was pasty and dry. Some guys' mouths were cracked. We were once again ignored and told to wait." Another cheese sandwich arrives but he says he finds it difficult to swallow.

Later on, after asking for water, he passes out. Someone calls out for medical attention, but are told it's not available. An officer, who helped Taylor, began bringing orange Tang to all the cells. He says some were still in cuffs after 22 hours, resulting in bloody wrists. He manages to finally pull his hands out of the plastic cuffs.
Twenty-three hours later, just before the legal 24 hours a person can be held without charge, Taylor is released. His plastic cuffs are cut off, he is told that he was arrested for "breach of the peace" and will not be charged, but could be if arrested for this or a similar crime again and is warned not to join any more G20 protests. He's sent out into the pouring rain at 9:30 p.m. Sunday. He says he was never given a phone call.

For Taylor's complete account of the night, see his Facebook note. Taylor says he plans to file a complaint with the civilian-staffed police watchdog, the Office of the Independent Police Review Director.


(Geoffrey Bercarich attended the Community Mobilization Network's  Healing and Legal Consultation event at Christie Pitts in Toronto on Tuesday June 29. Kim Fox/CBC)

Name: Geoffrey Bercarich

Age: 26

Organization/cause: Joined the Bike Bloc

Where were you when arrested? He was riding around the city as part of the Bike Bloc on Sunday around 2 p.m., when an officer punched him off his bike near Avenue Road, in the Yorkville neighbourhood, he says.

What happened? He says an officer rode toward him, Bercarich swerved to avoid hitting him. Then another officer punched him in the face, causing him to fall off his bike. Bercarich says they put him on top of a police bike, then three officers were on top of him while seven others created a perimeter around the scene. He said he didn't fight back, but officers beat him and hit his private parts. They handcuffed him and "drilled his face into the concrete," then held him there for 30 minutes.

Tell us about your detention.

He says he was taken to the detention centre, where he was left in plastic handcuffs for 10 hours. He was the first in the cell, by the end of the night there were 25. Bercarich says he received a cup of water after five hours and was given a stale cheese sandwich, that made him vomit. He asked for medical attention but was refused, he says. At one point, an officer upon finishing his apple, threw the core at the cell and people grabbed at it in hunger. He was released by midnight. "Before I left an officer said to me 'We'll be watching you all. If you show up ay another protest we will snatch you up.' That's still in my head. It's intimidating," said Bercarich. No charges were laid and he never got the opportunity to make a phone call.

Bercarich says he's thinking about filing a class-action lawsuit.



(Emily Berrigan attended the Community Mobilization Network's  Healing and Legal Consultation event at Christie Pitts in Toronto on Tuesday June 29. Kim Fox/CBC)

Name: Emily Berrigan

Age: 24

Organization/cause: None.

Where were you when arrested?  Queen's Park in the designated protest zone

What happened? Around 7:30 p.m. on Saturday, Berrigan said she and seven friends headed up to Queen's Park to get their bikes before heading home for Berrigan's birthday dinner. Berrigan says they didn't expect many people to still be at the legislature, but started worrying when she heard passersby talk about getting trampled by police horses. They saw a group of officers on horses charging into the crowd. The area with their bikes was blocked off, so they veered west and went down an alley toward their bikes, but half were cut off by police. When dozens of officers started coming at the remainder of the group, Berrigan sat down. "I'm glad I was arrested in the end. I saw things that I never would have seen, and heard things I never would have heard."

Tell us about your detention.

Around 9 p.m., Berrigan was taken to the detention centre. She would be released 7 p.m. the next day. During that time, she was fed a cheese sandwich and around 5 a.m. she was offered a cup of water. Berrigan says she was fingerprinted, strip searched and placed in small 6x6 footcage with four other girls. She believes someone who had been peppersprayed was there before them, leaving some on the cage, because several of them began noticing burning sensations on their body and face. Later, upon request, she was taken to another cell. At 1:30 p.m., she was taken to court and charged with obstruction and unlawful demonstration.

She has not filed a complaint because she is seeking legal aid first.

Berrigan has begun to record accounts from the G20 weekend in a blog called G20stories.

With files from Kim Fox.

Related: What are your rights?
Related: G20 detention centre: Photo gallery