Police actions blasted by social welfare groups
Published Thursday, July 22, 2010 3:47PM EDT
The actions of Toronto police against social activists came under scrutiny Thursday as two different groups held news conferences complaining about police treatment.
Members of the Ontario Coalition Against Poverty gathered outside a downtown Toronto courthouse at about 10:30 a.m. to speak out against the arrest of several protesters who showed up at the Liberal Party headquarters yesterday.
"Like hell we're going to watch people die on the streets again and like hell we're going to watch our people get jailed," Gaetan Heroux, a long-time OCAP activist, said to the crowd outside the courthouse Thursday. "We're going to come out, we're going to fight, we're going to push back."
During Wednesday's protest, about 300 people marched downtown without incident.
However, a small group headed to the Liberal offices on St. Mary's Street, police said. In total 11 people were taken into custody. Two were released shortly afterwards while the remaining activists remained in custody overnight.
"A small group of OCAP members forced their way into the offices and refused to leave," police said in a news release.
Nine people between the ages of 23 and 64 were arrested and charged with mischief interfering with property and forcible entry.
Among those charged was John Clarke, OCAP's founding member.
OCAP officials said in a news release Thursday that the protest was meant to highlight the plight of poor people who have suffered because of cuts to welfare rates. They confronted the Liberal Party because of the goverment's plan to cut a program that pays out $250 million a year to people who are on welfare but have special diet needs.
"Rather than receive this message, the powers that be chose to enforce their austerity measures with police action," the release said.
One woman said she was arrested but was released without charges because she uses a wheelchair. Police issued her a summons for trespassing.
"I was arrested and the police called me ‘a pawn' because I am disabled," said Anne Abbot. "I am not a pawn. Disabled people fight against governments that make and keeps us poor everyday, and we will fight until we win enough money to eat healthy food and pay our rents."
As of Thursday afternoon, the nine activists had been released on bail. Their conditions of release include staying at least 50 metres from the Liberal Party offices they occupied, not possessing weapons and limiting their communications to preparation for defence work, the Toronto Star reported.
A second human rights group held a news conference late Thursday morning, this time about alleged police actions during the G20.
Activists with a group called Anti-Violence Against Women say they will publicly condemn what they say was an "ongoing police assault against women" during the G20 summit that took place in Toronto at the end of June.
Their news conference took place at the Toronto Rape Crisis Centre.
Several women spoke out about how they were treated while in police custody.
The women said police officers asked them if they wanted to have sex and told them they'd be raped in jail.
The group of activists are demanding an investigation into the complaints.
"The Toronto Police is more interested in going on an expensive witch-hunt for protestors rather then hold their own accountable for violence" says Farrah Miranda of the Toronto Community Mobilization Network, referring to a recent police media campaign targeting vandals who destroyed property during the G20 protests.
"The People's Investigation is going to work with Ontario Women's Justice Network and others to look into instances of police sexual assaults and demand that the entire political and police command structure be brought to justice."
The Toronto Police Services Board is expected to accept a proposal during a board meeting Thursday afternoon for an independent civilian review into police actions during the G20.