On the last Sunday of June, Eda Martinovic, a stay-at-home mother in Mississauga, coaxed her brother into babysitting her daughters, 3 and 4, so she could go shopping in downtown Toronto. She needed a dress for a wedding and figured she'd find one on the busy Queen Street West retail strip.
But her quest proved unsuccessful, so Ms. Martinovic, 31, decided to surprise her husband. He's a driver with the Toronto Transit Commission, and she sometimes takes a ride on his bus so they can chat. The two grew up in the same town in the former Yugoslavia, which her family left in 1995 to escape the ethnic conflict.
As she walked west along Queen to catch the streetcar at Spadina, Ms. Martinovic had no way of knowing that an acquaintance was already at the intersection. Kate Copeland, a 24-year-old office manager, lives in the northwest part of Toronto, and comes downtown with her boyfriend on weekends. They and some friends were planning to visit Mr. Tasty Fries, their favourite chip truck, before taking in a jazz concert. On the way, they noticed a throng walking west and, curious, decided to tag along and see where it was going.
Several blocks to the south, the G20 economic summit was wrapping up, as city residents were still coming to terms with the mayhem that had played out in the streets around the fortified Metro Convention Centre. The police were on high alert for trouble-makers, but the throng on Queen Street was made up largely of peaceful protesters and cyclists who'd taken part in a rally downtown.
Passing an anti-summit sit-in taking place at King and Bay, the rally picked up Justin Stayshyn, a 35-year-old social-media strategist who lives near Queen and Spadina. The day before, he had witnessed a small group of anarchists employing the infamous “black bloc” tactic, concealing their identities with masks and uniformly black clothes, ripping through his neighbourhood, trashing stores and torching police cruisers. In the belief that thoughtful demonstrations are crucial to civic life, he had taken part in the King and Bay sit-in, but when he saw where the passersby were going, decided to join them and then head home.
However, just as Ms. Martinovic never got to surprise her husband and Ms. Copeland never made it to the chip truck, Mr. Stayshyn didn't wind up at his front door. Instead, all three were trapped at Queen and Spadina and subjected to treatment so jarring that, more than just ruin their plans, it changed forever the way they see the people whose job it is to serve and protect.
This week, Toronto Police Chief Bill Blair admitted to a parliamentary committee that “approximately 90” of the roughly 10,000 members of the Integrated Security Unit (ISU) assembled to safeguard the G20 summit that weekend disobeyed his department's policy by removing their names tags.
But as what took place at Queen and Spadina demonstrates, the resounding criticism of the way in which the ISU conducted itself is much more about what its members did than what they failed to do.The kettle
When she reached Spadina, planning to head north and take the Bloor subway line out to her husband's bus route, Ms. Martinovic was surprised to find about 300 people sitting in the intersection. Marchers and bystanders alike were hemmed in by police on bicycles to the south and to the west.
She had seen some of the previous day's chaos on television, but assumed the trouble was over. Even the size of the crowd didn't alarm her – everyone seemed peaceful, and she stopped briefly to read a couple of placards.
Seeing crowds blocking her way north on Spadina, she decided to make her way over to the next street to the west, but the bike cops told her to turn around. Which she did, only to find a solid wall of riot police had sprung up behind her.
“I was basically in a box,” she recalls. “Coming from ex-Yugoslavia, I realized this was not good.”
Ms. Martinovic and those around her were being subjected to “kettling,” a controversial crowd-control tactic that has been used to neutralize mass demonstrations around the world. It was employed in Toronto even though encircling and containing large groups had been declared illegal and sparked multimillion-dollar class-action awards in other countries – a year earlier, a man had died after being shoved to the ground when protesters were cordoned off during a G20 gathering in London.
Someone told her it would be wise to sit down, so she did. “My parents brought me here to be safe,” she says. “The last thing that I wanted to do was get involved in a conflict with police.”
A little to the north, Mr. Stayshyn was thinking of heading home, a just a few blocks away, when he noticed all the alleys had been blocked by officers in riot gear. “Something felt really wrong,” he recalls.
Ms. Copeland and her boyfriend had just decided to leave when they saw a line of police advancing south toward them. Panicking, they ran east but hit the riot squad that Ms. Martinovic had encountered. Ms. Copeland searched for shelter – in the entrance to a bar, behind a hot-dog stand, then an ice-cream truck – hoping the police would pass by, but each time was herded back to the street.
The south, east and west sides of the intersection were blocked, and a wall of police was marching from the north, a unit recruited for the weekend from the London Police Service. Clad in black body suits and helmets with visors, they raised their batons and full-length shields and forced their way through the crowd, turning one “kettle” into two. About 250 people were trapped between the London police and those marching from the north, while a much smaller group of 30 or so was contained by the original riot lines.
Chief Blair later told The Globe and Mail that the crowd was ordered to disperse on three separate occasions, warnings that Ms. Martinovic, Ms. Copeland, Mr. Stayshyn and more than a dozen other witnesses who were interviewed say they did not hear. In videos of the episode posted online, officers can be heard shouting “Leave or you will be arrested now” and “Time to go home.” But by this point it was too late. Police were closing in and the crowd had no escape.
Ms. Martinovic was trapped in the smaller corral with a motley crew: One man had come from Kingston, Ont., to protest against G20 economic policy, while a woman employed as an administrator in Toronto's financial district was an amateur photographer there to record the event. (Afterward, she would be diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder.)
Emmanuel Lopez, meanwhile, had just come back from shopping at the Eaton Centre, and stepped off the Queen streetcar minutes before the police made their move. At first he mistook the protest for a street party, and later looked back at the experience in awe. “I've been living in this area for 25 years, 25 years, and nothing like this has ever happened.”The police move in
At 6:15 p.m., perhaps 20 minutes after Ms. Martinovic reached the scene, the eastern riot line, made up of Ontario Provincial Police, began to advance on the smaller kettle, beating its shields in unison. People quickly found themselves being forced backward into the police stationed behind them. Videos show a 27-year-old construction worker named Jason MacDonald being hit with a shield and beginning to bleed above one eye.
Squeezed together, the crowd watched as ....