G20 courtrooms swamped in wake of protests
TORONTO - A city courthouse groaned Tuesday following the mass arrests related to the weekend's violent G20 protests.
It was another chaotic day as harried lawyers huddled with bewildered family members or sprinted down the corridor to a hearing while friends and supporters milled around the north-end building.
It was standing room only in one of the courtrooms, except no standing was allowed, forcing about a dozen spectators to wait in the hallway.
The special court set up to handle G20 arrests heard cases in six courtrooms with over 10 Crown attorneys on duty.
Sitting hours were increased to accommodate the dozens of detainees following a session that stretched until after midnight Monday night.
For friends and family, the process was painstakingly slow.
Supporters alternately applauded and tearfully embraced friends when they were released.
Outside, a volunteer stood beside a small stash of granola bars, bottled water and fruit, at the ready for hungry former detainees.
Bill and Kim Winkels called the past few days terrifying as they frantically tried to track down their 20-year-old daughter, Courtney Winkels, a trained street medic arrested Sunday.
"She was just in the wrong place at the wrong time, caught up in a sweep," Kim Winkels said in the hallway soon after her daughter's bail hearing.
A few minutes later, their daughter appeared wearing standard prison issue green sweat suit and was greeted with a big hug by her mother.
"I feel like a human again," Courtney Winkels said, describing sleeping in a portable bathroom at the special detention centre because the concrete floor in the cell was too uncomfortable.
"It was absolutely terrible," she said. "They did not respect our human rights at all."
About 700 people were arrested over the weekend. Many were released unconditionally, although it remained unclear exactly how many faced charges.
Defence lawyers also expressed concerns about the treatment of detainees.
Howard Morton, who represents members of a core group alleged to have organized the violence, said people were being made to wait for long hours in the court building without being properly fed.
He called for more justices of the peace on hand to hear the high number of cases.
"There's no excuse not to assign more justices of the peace," he said after one of his client's bail hearing's was put off for a week.
Irina Ceric of the Movement Defence Committee said her organization had received hundreds of calls for free legal help being offered through the Law Union of Ontario.
About 15 people police accuse of being behind the G20 riots will begin a group bail hearing on July 6, 2010.