Some G20 charges dropped, others put over
Some suspects accused of committing G20-related crimes had their charges dropped Monday in exchange for a charitable donation as several hundred people packed into a north Toronto courthouse.
"There's no admission of responsibility with this. It's simply a diversion," Crown attorney Vince Paris said outside the Finch Avenue West courthouse on Monday about the donation.
But protester Josh Berman asked: "If I'm not responsible, why do I have to pay anything?"
The Crown later said only a minority of accused individuals had their charges dropped. The majority will be back for return court dates in September and October.
More than 300 suspects made appearances in three different courtrooms over the day.
Monday's scene was chaotic at times as the suspects, their families, supporters, lawyers and various other protest groups and demonstrators descended on the courthouse. Busloads came from as far away as Quebec, with one person making her way to Toronto from Washington, D.C.
"I came all the way from Washington, D.C. just to have my case withdrawn because of course they don't have a case," Lacy MacAuldy said.
MacAuldy had been charged with assaulting a peace officer at a demonstration outside the Eastern Avenue detention facility during the G20 Summit.
"Today's hearing was completely ridiculous," said Dominic Palladini of the G20 arrestees' network, during a news conference outside the court. Speaking in French, Palladini said the hearing was a waste of time.
"We had to come from Montreal to Toronto for nothing, to learn the Crown wasn't ready to present evidence, to learn some people from the gymnasium are facing additional charges. That's totally ridiculous, and we'll be fighting that injustice."
Others had their charges dropped on Monday, including Robert Gamble, who had faced charges of disturbing the peace. He maintains all he did was yell "Arrest the war criminals. Investigate 9/11" while outside a friend's house in downtown Toronto.
Two news photographers also saw their charges withdrawn.
All of those appearing in court Monday have already been called before a judge in recent months to face their charges, and were told to return for the mass court date.
No trial proceedings were scheduled for Monday.
Instead, those charged will receive disclosure about the allegations against them and information about the next step in their legal proceedings.
Most of those appearing Monday were arrested at a protest at Queen's Park on June 26 when police stormed the area and rounded up dozens of suspects.
Some suspected ringleaders also appeared Monday. They are charged with conspiracy to assault and obstruct police. One, accused ringleader Kelly Rose Pflug-Back, said she wasn't talking to the news media at the moment.
Twenty-three others who were rounded up after police released photos and asked for help from the public, were also to appear Monday. They face a total of 62 charges. Two individuals were re-arrested, and the one accused is a young offender.
Robyn Maynard, of an anti-capitalist group from Montreal, voiced the sentiments of many who believe the police action was heavy-handed during the G20.
"The reason that people came out this day... is that people were moved to protect their communities and those that they care about and denounce a global economy that's based in the massive transfer of wealth and the stripping of resources from the poor to the rich," Maynard said Monday outside the court.
"Being in the streets is not something that's illegal and it's not something that's unethical, it's actually something that many people all over the world think is necessary."
The arrests began in earnest after a relatively small group of vandals using so-called Black Bloc tactics split off from a massive, peaceful, labour-sponsored rally on June 26. By the day's end, six police cars had been torched or otherwise damaged. A number of downtown businesses had their windows smashed.
After the violence broke out, police started cracking down on all demonstrators. More than 1,100 people were arrested, but most were released without being charged in 24 hours.
Civil liberties groups have called the police reaction excessive, particularly a "kettling" incident at Spadina Avenue and Queen Street West on June 27. Police have said they feared another Black Bloc incident was about to start as a group of about 200 walked down Queen Street West.
The Toronto Police Services Board has said it will conduct an independent civilian review of policing operations that day, although Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty has said there will be no full public inquiry.
With a report from CTV Toronto's Tom Hayes and files from the Canadian Press