**Please excuse the grammar and spelling mistakes. This was emotion filled and written years ago. The photos still rock tho!** I feel that the following post I'm about to write needs a quick disclaimer/explanation.
First, I AM NOT AN ANARCHIST, nor do I believe that anarchy is a sensible form of society. To me; believing that it's beneficial for society to have an absence of government is ridiculous; people are simply too concerned with themselves to ever have a functioning society without some kind of political law and order. To me anarchy would destroy the world faster than any already destructive force. Saying that, I DO NOT believe that what the "Black Bloc" did in Toronto is justified at all. To me smashing store fronts and yelling "FUCK CONSUMERISM!" is a uneducated, attention seeking, angst filled action that is not warranted at all. I believe that 95% of the "anarchists" out on Saturday just wanted to be able to tell there fellow punkxcore friends that they are so against the system they smashed a piece of glass. What I say to them: find an outlet that will actually make a difference; get into politics and express your opinions in a matter that doesn't make you look like attention seeking assholes to the rest of the world.
Second, I attended the protests as a photographer. I attended to take photos and show the world what is happening. Awareness is very important to me. People are constantly saying that "well, you wouldn't have been arrested if you just didn't go" and to them I say this; Photographers/Media's roll are to show you what is happening without you having to risk yourself. We are here to inform you of current events in ways that make an impact and hopefully encourage you to stay informed, or even, get involved... it's always been said that a picture means a thousand words. Also, to be honest...- yes, I was attracted to the high level of energy photographing such an event and I don't believe this is wrong; it's the same reason I shoot metal shows. Shooting an event where you never know what's going to happen and the level of emotion brought out in high energy events like this make for truly unforgettable images. A fellow photographer/friend Thomas Dagg recently said "I think most photographers would be drawn to photograph an event like that; capturing raw emotion unfiltered".
As a photographer I tried my hardest to stay as neutral as possible; to let viewers of my photos decide their own perspective on the things they are seeing. BUT, after the things I saw and the way I was treated I can no longer do this. After being out for the first 45 minutes I had already found myself frustrated with the police force present. So, yes, the post you're about to get into (and it's going to be a long one) is from the perspective of a protester, because I think that any sensible person is going to get angry after seeing a mans prosthetic leg ripped off or people run over by horses.
So... Here we go.
I initially went downtown to get photos of potential protesters but to my surprise there were none by the fences. So, I took the opportunity to photograph the security they had in place.
The government spent 5.5 million dollars erecting 3 meter, unclimbable fences protecting the Metro Toronto Convention Centre where the convention was being held. The fences blocked off most of the southern downtown region of Toronto including the extremely busy Union Station. Groups of police were stationed at every corner interrogating and searching anyone that came near the fences.
While being around the fences I was searched four times in 45 minutes. They checked my bags, checked my background by running my ID's through their system, wrote my description, including my tattoos, and generally drilled me with questions. When I asked why they were doing so they said that anyone within 5 meters of the fence was to be questioned and searched. The Toronto Police Chief recently admitted that the law did not actually exist and that "He was just trying to keep the criminals out". So, the law did not exist and they did not legally have the right to search me over and over.
After getting sick of being hassled by the police I decided to go to Allen Gardens where a "Tent City" was being created after a march. The vibe was peaceful and upbeat with people playing music and dancing.
I believe these guys are called the Rhythms Of Resistance (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rhythms_of_resistance):
"The People's Kitchen" even offered free wraps (http://g20.torontomobilize.org/node/334):
Saturday was my second day photographing the G20 and was the first of two that have changed my life. To me Saturday was the day of destruction. The day that the anarchists, all dressed in black, took over the streets and rioted. Looking back I can't believe what I saw; absolute uncontrolled chaos.
At first I didn't know where things were happening, I didn't know where the protesters were and didn't even know if anything was going on. I started following the crowds in hopes of finding it and came across a few interesting situations...
And then I saw them...
And the destruction...
The following image has a story. When the people, assumed to be anarchists, were about to flip this vehicle others dressed in black immediately came running up yelling "this is not what we're about!" Explaining that damaging someone's personal property is not the message of the anarchists - so everyone left the car alone. This gave the image that some of the anarchists did not even know why they were doing what they were doing.
And the controversial destroyed police cars:
The reason that I said the destroyed police cars are controversial is that it's thought that the cars were actually left there to be destroyed. That the Toronto Police Force left them to warrant their spending of 1.1 Billion dollars for security. Having been at the front of the destructive march (It's the best place for photographic opportunities) I consider myself an eye witness to how casually the police left the cars abandoned. After seeing the mob about a 1-2 blocks away I saw them speed walk away from their cars and setting up a perimeter about a block down. They stayed there without moving while their cars were destroyed.
Now I STRONGLY recommend everyone watch Naomi Kleins extremely powerful speech infront of the police headquarters during a protest. In it she speaks of the decoy cars and the spending on security. She mentions that while the cars were burning she was getting press from the Police saying "Look what's happening!" instead of actually doing something about it:
After the mob took to the streets they finally ended up at Queen and University where the police finally decided to make a move. This was the first time I actually saw any action by the police force.
They arrive in various ways...
And of coarse the protesting remained. But, this time the police decided to actually take action - in many cases wrongfully. During my time I was able to really experience riot squads tactics and it wasn't pretty. One of their most common tactics is to scare the crowd by smashing their shields, than shoot tear gas, than run full speed at the protesters and take them down by the neck. This was the first of three times I experience tear gas that day:
A photo I found of myself at that exact moment:
Photos of the protesters...
As I mentioned before I found the polices tactics very questionable. Throughout the day I saw a few things that I wish I never had to see. One man, an amputee, was even torn down by his neck (where they aimed for), beaten, and then had his prosthetic leg ripped off only to be arrested. Disgusting. Another one of their tactics was to run at the crowd on horses most likely to split the crowd into smaller groups.
There were reports of people being run over by horses.
During the protests people were hurt and a lot of tear gas was deployed. Thankfully there were "Street Medics" that took it apon themselves to care for the protesters while the police clearly didn't.
In his hand is a mix of antacid and water. I can personally say that it's really effective against tear gas burns.
The media was also extremely present and I found myself very under-dressed/under-equipped. Most photographers were wearing helmets/pads equipped with two professional DSLR bodies; one with a long lens one with a short lens. I shot everything with my 5d Mark II and a 50mm... which I found was a little too personal at times. To protect myself against tear gas I had swimming goggles and a bandana that didn't work until I covered it in the antacid/water mix.
Also, throughout the day I found myself really wishing I had a media pass of some sort to better distinguish myself from the protesters. But, I later found out it wouldn't have mattered as two National Post photographers were agressively arrested and detained. More at http://news.nationalpost.com/2010/06/26/two-post-photographers-arrested-at-g20-protest/
So, that was Saturday. Overall I found the day wreckless and unorganized on the police's side. Their tactics were questionable and overly aggressive at times.
With all the things that I saw on Saturday I expected Sunday to be pretty low key. I heard about a bicycle protest and thought I would check that out and than head home being tired from the day before.
I started the day off by taking photos of the boarded up shops. The black bloc tactic was selective in the business's they destroyed and only smashed the storefronts of the major corporations.
I than continued south to where the fences were located and took a few photos of them.
And than I ended up at Queen and Spadina. I'm sure many of you heard about the incident at Queen and Spadina but here I will tell my story first hand.
There was an organized march down Queen that was suddenly stopped by police at Spadina street. Protesters began to yell "Let us march!" but the police insisted on keeping everyone there. I found this odd.
To start I need to explain that the protest was completely peaceful. There was nothing thrown, nobody aggressive, everyone was just taking advantage of their democratic right to protest. Freedom of speech.
As time went on police backup started arriving.
I initially found this weird as I did not see any reason for the police to need back up. Like I said, everyone was peaceful and under-control. The bike cops already there were more than enough to keep peace.
Than they initiated the "Kettle" tactic. Wikipedia explains it as: "Kettling, also known as containment or corralling, is a police tactic for the management of large crowds during demonstrations or protests. It involves the formation of large cordons of police officers who then move to contain a crowd within a limited area. Protesters are prevented from leaving the area for several hours; as a result, detainees can be denied access to food, water and toilet facilities for a long period." http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kettling
The use of this tactic was COMPLETELY uncalled for. To use such a harsh tactic on a harmless protest is absurd.
Here's an article about the police defending themselves for using the tactic: http://www.thestar.com/news/gta/article/829642--police-defend-crowd-trap-at-queen-and-spadina?bn=1
When I first saw them marching down the street I had no idea that they were or would completely block us in. At the time I never thought that they could do such a thing. So, I stuck around and did what I was there to do; take pictures.
As time went on people started to get a little freaked out. People started crying and begging the police to just let them leave. I met quite a few people that said they were there simply because they happened to be walking down the street.
In this photo you can see that the police had blocked off the last exit to the area. We were officially blocked in.
After I realized we were blocked in I decided to put my camera away to keep it safe. I could see the rain coming and It looked as if the police were about to open fire on the crowd with either tear gas or rubber bullets. I made one last video before it became about my personal well being and not my photography.
(My mom wasn't pissed. She's actually extremely supportive.)
And then I was arrested.
Clearly I was unable to take any pictures after I was arrested because they took all of my belongings but I'm going to do my best to explain the situation and what happened.
After they declared everyone was going to be arrested I didn't believe it. I didn't believe that they could ever arrest that many people for no reason. I waited around a little bit thinking that they would let people go at some point but as time went on I realized that that wasn't going to happen.
I started seeing media give themselves up to the police and assumed that they were being let go somewhere behind where I couldn't see. I realized after that that wasn't the case because I later saw them detained as well. So, I decided to give myself up. I felt that it was the best idea as I was still afraid they were going to open fire on the crowd and didn't want to have my camera gear damaged. I also thought if I gave myself up I'd have more of a chance to be let go and that maybe they wouldn't tackle me like I was watching them do to others; I was wrong.
Here is a photo I found right before I was arrested. I'm at the bottom left corner with my hands in the air, black hair and black shirt.
After that they took me down. They grabbed me by the back of the neck, kicked the back of my knees, than put their knees into my back. The whole time I was trying to explain that I was just a photographer and was not there to protest. This didn't matter as all they replied with was "You should have thought about that before you came here". Rediculous.
They then used plastic ties to secure my hands together behind my back. Very uncomfortable. As they were arresting me they declared that I was under arrest for disturbing the peace. Are they serious? When did taking pictures become "disturbing the peace"? Yes, I was yelling at them after they had us squared off because, well, I was extremely pissed off. But, at that point all they knew was that I was a photographer.
Then it started to pour rain. They grabbed me by the arm and started walking towards awnings close by; so I'm thinking that they may have the decency to keep me out of the rain... wrong again. They stood themselves under the awnings and held everyone in the rain. When I asked why they were doing that they simply said "you deserve it" and again that "I should have thought about this before". In what seemed like seconds I was completely soaked; every article of clothing I was wearing was totally drenched.
They stood us in the rain, took down all of our information, told us our rights, and then asked if I wanted to call a lawyer. Having never been in that situation before I didn't know if I should or not and they were definitely not willing to give me any advice- so I decided not to. I didn't want to make the situation any bigger than it already was.
Now, I feel that I'm obligated to tell you that the police officers that held me were generally nice. The guy that had to stand with me the longest (I was handed off to him after the line moved into the rain) admitted he was disappointed he had to meet me under such circumstances. He even agreed to buy me a beer if he ever saw me again; I told him he owed me. This really showed that a lot of the officers were just doing their jobs and following orders. Orders that I wouldn't agree to do but that's why I'm not a police officer. I always made a point to thank the police officers that were respectful towards me and they always replied with "I'm just doing my job"; and to the ones that were rude to me got the same attitude in return.
While being held there was a lot of teasing towards the "prisoners". Comments such as "Have fun where you're going!" or "not so tough now" or "look where protesting got you!". At times it seemed like they were enjoying it.
After standing in the rain for about an hour my plastic ties were switched with metal handcuffs and I was pushed onto a police bus. They took our pictures as they put us on a police bus. The bus had plastic seats and was split into sections with metal bars. At the front of the bus there were individual seats with cages around them; they placed the females in these.
When I got on the bus I met a few really good people, we shared stories and explained our reasons for being at Queen/Spadina. The man beside me explained that he lived a block down and just wanted to see what was going on in his neighbourhood. Another man said he was simply passing through on his bike.
We were already all shaking from being so cold/wet and then they decided to put the air conditioning on. It seemed like a form of torture. Everyone on the bus immediately started yelling to turn it off but they didn't for a matter of hours. They finally turned it off only to turn it back on a half hour later. Everyone on the bus was miserable and extremely pissed off.
When the bus finally started moving the tension cleared a little as everyone put a twist on one of the popular chants of the weekend. Instead of "Who's streets!? OUR STREETS!" it became "Who's bus!? OUR BUS" with a series of laughter after each one. This made everyone feel a bit better until we arrived at the detention center.
The bus sat outside the detention center for a few hours, just sitting there. During this time we all made friends and tried to keep each other distracted. At one point I was the host of a game of hangman written in the fog on the windows; I chose the word "Freedom" but realized that was a bad idea as everyone immediately guessed it... we were all thinking it.
They then moved the bus into the detention center and it seemed the whole bus gasped at the same time. It was terrible. People were caged like animals. I immediately thought of the movie "Children Of Men". They were not as packed as Children Of Men but it definitely had a resemblance with all the caged people. The port-a-potties all had their doors removed so nobody had any privacy. Females would build walls around the doors so that other females had the privacy to go to the washroom without the cops or other prisoners watching. There were cheese "sandwiches" littering the floor; and by sandwiches I mean two pieces of white bread and a single cheese slice.
They then continued to leave us on the bus for a few more hours and it only got worse. It got to the point where with the humidity off of everyones wet clothing and our breathing, the air on the bus became very sparce. People were starting to have panic attacks thinking we were not going to be able to breath. We then banged on the windows yelling "WE NEED AIR!" and we got no reaction. It took us about 2 hours to get them to finally open the doors to let air in; and that didn't help much. At one point a man on my bus declared a medical emergency as his diabetes was acting up due to not being fed for hours. The police responded again with "you should have thought about that" and "if you pass out there's a doctor somewhere in here". The diabetic was not helped until a few hours later when we were finally let off the bus.
When we left the bus they sat us on the cement floor to pair up our prisoner numbers with our "evidence" bags. My number, 5356, was finally called and I was directed into the other room. I immediately struck up conversation with the police officer asking if she'd ever saw Children Of Men and she replied with "Wait until you see the other rooms". What!? This isn't it?!
Going through the other rooms was horrible. Disgusting. Picture a 15 year old crying in the corner of a cage begging to be let out. I couldn't believe what I was seeing. Endless hallways of caged people. Felt like walking through a dog kennel for people.
They then gave me my stuff, took my picture again, and made us agree that we would not participate in any more G20 protests. Luckily I was leaving the city the next day. The last prisoner I saw was about to be let go when he started yelling that they lost his stuff; he didn't have his wallet, shoes, or coat. The police officers responded with "Oh okay, we'll leave you in here for a few more hours while we look for your stuff" while laughing.
After six hours I was finally let out. I was extremely lucky that day. I did not have to sit in the cages and I was only there for six hours. Some people had been in there for over 20 hours, barely fed and barely given any water.
This is the last photo I took. The exit to the detention center:
After leaving the place I was greeted by protesters protesting the way they were holding people. They offered me free pizza and water knowing they weren't feeding anyone inside. I was even given a ride home by a stranger. I truly love how things like this bring people together.
Here is a link to photos of inside the detention center:
So, that's my rant. Thank you so much for reading/viewing it. Now, all I ask is that you tell people. Tell people what you have heard and voice your opinions. Again, this is all from my standpoint having been through the whole thing. You may think it's warranted but, personally, I don't believe the police have the rights to arrest people/treat people the way they did.
Thanks again! - Dylan
OH, And happy Canada Day!