Tuesday, July 6, 2010

My G20 experience

Special to The CJN

TORONTO — On Sunday, June 27, a day after I watched members of the so-called Black Bloc destroy parts of downtown Toronto, I took to the street again with my camera.

I ended up watching the crowd of nearly 1,0000 people march peacefully to Queen Street and Spadina Avenue, where they were met by at least 100 police officers.

The demonstrators began to have some sort of street party in the middle of the intersection, with music playing and people dancing. Many people turned it into a sit-in.

The police had already blocked any access to Spadina Avenue heading north, and within a matter of minutes, Queen Street West was also blocked. At that point I realized that I should probably leave, as I was not there to demonstrate against the G20, but just to take pictures.

Within seconds of my decision, groups of riot police showed up in full gear to block off the remaining exits from the intersection, as well as to take over the positions of the police on bicycles.

We were never once given a warning to leave and at this point were barred from exiting the intersection.

In groups of four, riot police officers would enter the crowd, grab someone by the neck and arrest them.

The police began to close in on what would become known as the “human box,” hitting their batons against their shields, and yelling, “Move!”

My first instinct was to stick with members of the media. I immediately saw Francis D’Souza from CityTV, who seemed very shaken up, and stood next to him, as I assumed the police wouldn’t harm or arrest members of the media. The members of the accredited press got together and negotiated their release with police, only to be put in zip ties once they exited.

As it started pouring rain (I later learned that Toronto was under a severe thunderstorm watch), I immediately started looking through my phone to see who could help me and other innocent bystanders around me to get out of this situation.

I was standing next to a man who was out walking his dog, as well as a couple who was going out for dinner, and many other people who just happened to be at the wrong place at the wrong time. I urgently got in contact with a reporter I knew from the local news station CP24, who managed to broadcast me live via phone on the station.

Within minutes, the staff at CP24 had contacted the mayor, chief of police and the head of the integrated security unit, all of whom would not comment on the situation.

After nearly two hours of standing in the rain and pressure on public officials by the media, those that were left in the “human box” were allowed to leave, while close to 150 people were arrested.

Soaking wet, freezing, hungry and needing a bathroom for the past six hours, I learned that this was a weekend that City of Toronto would never forget.

Sammy Katz, 23, is an active member of the Jewish community on campus.

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