G20 protester claims police took prosthetic leg

An Ontario man alleges he was roughed up by police, stripped of his prosthetic leg and detained without charge during the G20 protests in Toronto late last month.

Complaint follows Toronto Police Services' order that summit policing be reviewed

A protester is arrested by police officers at Queen's Park during the G20 demo in Toronto on June 26. ((Adrien Veczan/Canadian Press))

An Ontario man alleges he was roughed up by police, stripped of his prosthetic leg and detained without charge during the G20 protests in Toronto late last month.

John Pruyn, 57, of Thorold was among the thousands of peaceful demonstrators in downtown Toronto as part of the People First March on June 26. He was with his wife and daughter to protest the G20's "agenda of the super wealthy."

After a four-hour march along University Avenue and Queen Street West, Pruyn was sitting on the lawn of Queen's Park in front of the Ontario legislature with his daughter and two men at about 6:15 p.m. ET. They were approached by police and told to move, he said.

One of the many cells that police used to detain people during the G20 summit in Toronto in June. ((CBC))
Pruyn, an above-the-knee amputee who uses walking sticks to get around, started to rise, but lost his balance and fell back, and then police responded aggressively, he said.

"'Get the four of them!'" Pruyn recalled a police officer saying.

"One of them put a knee on my head, and pinned me to the ground [and] my arms were underneath me," he said. "And one of them said I was trying to resist arrest, but I wasn't… I couldn't move."

Police then "yanked" his arms out from underneath him, tied his wrists together behind his back with plastic ties, and ordered him to get up and walk, he alleges.

"I said I couldn't. So then one of them grabbed my artificial leg, and yanked it off and then they ordered me to hop."

When Pruyn told police he couldn't hop, they picked him up by his armpits and dragged him across the ground, scraping his elbows on the rough pavement, he said. His glasses fell off at some point during the altercation and were lost.

Day-long detention

Police took Pruyn to a police van, where he sat without his leg for more than an hour, he said. He was later transported to a temporary detention centre in the city's east end, given a wheelchair and put in a cell, he said.

Police refused to give him back his prosthetic leg for fear he would use it as a weapon, he said. He didn't get it back until he was released — 24 hours later — at 9 p.m. on Sunday, and without charge.

"I was never processed," Pruyn said. "As far as I know, I wasn't arrested for anything. I was never charged with anything. I was not accused of anything."

Almost two weeks later, Pruyn says he is still recovering from injuries he suffered that day, including to his head, shoulders and right elbow.

"I couldn't believe it at first, especially their being so rough," Pruyn said Tuesday.

"If they wanted to arrest me, that's fine, but … to be so rough about it and to drag me over," he said, trailing off. "I mean, obviously they knew I was an amputee."

His wife, who was also at the protest but was not detained, did not know what had happened to her husband or daughter, who was also detained, since they were separated during the protest.

"Nothing's going to happen," Susan Pruyn, who is a pacifist, recalled thinking before the protests. "We're peaceful."

Toronto Police Services said it would not respond to allegations or individual complaints.

Kormos calls incident 'shocking'

Peter Kormos, the Ontario NDP's justice critic, told the online news website Niagara at Large that Pruyn's story "is one of the most shocking of the whole [G20 summit] weekend.

"John is not a troublemaker… he is a peacemaker," Kormos told the site.

The Toronto Police Services board on Tuesday ordered a review of the tactics used by police during the G20 summit. 

The Pruyn family plans to make a formal complaint, and wants the incident to be reviewed by the independent inquiry. But Pruyn is not optimistic the review will have lasting implications.

"To me, the police had a duty to look after the people, not only protect the businesses in the area but protect the marchers and the protesters," he said. "And I think they let a lot of people down."

In the days since the G20 summit, the body that oversees complaints against Ontario police forces has received more than double the usual number.

The Office of the Independent Police Review Director said it received 164 complaints the week of June 27 to July 3. The average number is about 80 complaints per week.

With files from The Canadian Press