Toronto police sued for $1.4M over G20 ‘hairy legs’ profiling
Published Wednesday, August 1, 2012 10:49AM EDT Last Updated Wednesday, August 1, 2012 10:53PM EDT
A group of seven protesters from Hamilton, Ont. are suing Toronto police for $1.4 million, claiming they were unfairly profiled, arrested and mistreated during the G20 summit.
Lawyer Davin Charney served the Toronto Police Service with a 44-page statement of claim on Wednesday, outlining a litany of allegations against the police force.
The lawsuit claims his clients were arrested without reason, held for more than 24 hours in a detention centre and, in some cases, sexually assaulted, before they were released without charges.
Charney said Toronto police unfairly profiled his clients, and arrested them because they appeared to be protesters based on their clothing and physical features, which included women with hairy legs.
“They followed a profile that was created by senior Toronto Police Service officers in targeting these seven individuals,” Charney told reporters outside Toronto police headquarters Wednesday.
“That profile included markers such as people who have backpacks, lawyers’ numbers on their arms, people with Quebec licence plates, people speaking French, people wearing black clothing.
“My clients fit into that profile, to some extent. And that is why they were arrested, and that is why many people were arrested during the G20.”
The group of seven claims they were wrongfully arrested on June 27, 2010, one day after protesters rampaged in downtown Toronto as world leaders gathered for a summit.
Charney said the group had just come out of a downtown pizza shop when they were surrounded by police, handcuffed, and held for more than 24 hours at a makeshift detention centre. They were eventually released without charges.
Plaintiff Alicia Ridge further alleges she was sexually assaulted during a roadside strip search.
She told reporters she was frisked by a male officer, despite there being female officers in the near vicinity, before she was arrested.
“It was a fairly pathetic rendition of a search, in that it was just a quick run of a hand up the leg followed by a swift ass grab. And there were lots of sexualized comments that went along with it,” she said on Wednesday.
Officers shouted derogatory and homophobic slurs, and told her to shave her legs, she said.
Charney says that one of his clients asked officers for the reason they were being arrested and was told police “would make one up.”
Charney said that the lawsuit went beyond profiling his clients and accused senior officers of creating a dangerous climate with their order to reclaim downtown Toronto from protest groups.
“This claim is not about hairy legs. This claim is about orders from the senior Toronto Police Service officers, from the chief, from other officers, to take back the streets,” Charney said, claiming police Supt. Mark Fenton characterized demonstrators as “protester terrorists” and created a climate within Toronto police of a “reckless disregard for people’s fundamental rights.”
Charney added, “It is about the abuses that hundreds, or perhaps thousands of people suffered, during the G20. Innocent people suffered at the hands of the police during the G20.”
None of the claims in the lawsuit have been proven in court.
The Ontario Independent Police Review Director has conducted an investigation into the incident and noted in its report that a constable wrote in his arrest notes that "all parties appear to be protesters; back packs; clothing and females all have hairy legs."
The officer told investigators that he wrote “hairy legs” as a general observation, calling it an indicator he associated with female G20 protesters.
OIPRD investigators concluded that the note gave “reasonable grounds” to a complaint of discreditable conduct alleging that the officer swore at the woman and shouted to "shave your legs, you dykes."
The statement of claim, originally filed in court on June 24, claimed senior officers were frustrated at the amount of vandalism during the G20 summit and gave orders authorizing “more assertive and aggressive police tactics."