G20 detainees tell stories of arrests, imprisonment
CTV.ca News Staff
Published Sunday, June 27, 2010 3:33PM EDT
Stories of cramped, dirty conditions and harrowing encounters with police are being recounted by those who spent the night inside an east-end detention centre after being arrested during Saturday's G20 protests in Toronto.
Bridie Wyrock, a 20-year-old woman from Cleveland, told CTV News she was taking part in a peaceful sit-in on the Esplanade in front of the Novotel hotel when she and fellow protesters were surrounded by dozens of police in full riot gear.
"They had picked me up, and had thrown me to the ground and slammed my head on the ground twice, completely unnecessarily," she alleged. "They put their arm around the back of my neck, choking me, and put (plastic) ties (around my wrists) so hard that I still have bruises and marks."
Wyrock found herself facing charges of breaching the peace, mischief and obstructing traffic -- all of which were dropped by Sunday afternoon when she was released after her 19-hour detainment.
Canadian journalist Jesse Rosenfeld reportedly suffered a far worse fate at the hands of police.
According to onlookers, including TV Ontario journalist Steve Paiken, Rosenfeld was beaten before police hauled him away.
"(T)he journalist identified himself as working for 'the guardian,'" Paiken wrote in his Twitter feed on Saturday night. "he talked too much and pissed the police off. two officers held him."
"(A) third punched him in the stomach. totally unnecessary. the man collapsed. then the third officer drove his elbow into the man's back," Paiken wrote.
An Integrated Security Unit spokesperson said they do not have information on specific arrests. There's no word yet on Rosenfeld's fate, but he was scheduled to appear in court Sunday.
Rosenfeld reportedly did not have proper media accreditation for the G20, and the Guardian, although aware of the arrest, had little information on him.
According to Wyrock, Rosenfeld and his fellow prisoners are being held in uncomfortable conditions, considering the ambiguous charges many of them face.
"It's dirty on the inside, there's hardly any food or water," she told CTV's Omar Sachedina in an interview. "There's only a small toilet facility in some of the cells, which are really cages."
Wyrock described seeing three rows of people separated by these "cages": one row of women, one row of men, and one consisting of people she assumed police deemed to be troublemakers.
"Their cages were six by five and they were smaller cages. They were in zip ties, on the ground, with no benches or anything so they were on the dirt in the cold," she said.
Wyrock said she heard people screaming for access to a bathroom because there weren't enough portable toilets.
CTV News Channel producer Farzad Fatholahzadeh found himself among the prisoners, his hands tied behind his back as he sat in his cage with 25 to 30 others after his arrest on Saturday night.
Fatholahzadeh stressed that police never treated him roughly, but as of Sunday afternoon the reasons for his arrest were still unclear to him.
He said he was walking behind the police line, his media pass worn clearly around his neck. He was looking for another CTV producer to hand off a tape when a dozen police officers approached him.
"They asked me what I was doing there, and when I told them I was part of the media and that my truck was right behind me, they asked me to relax," he said.
"I think I was pretty relaxed, and then they told me I was arrested."
Police fastened his hands behind his back with plastic ties and led him away to a bus destined for the detention centre. He said one officer whispered in his ear, "'Don't worry, they'll let you go, you've been co-operative'."
"I knew the situation would get sorted out eventually," said Fatholahzadeh, who was able to maintain calm throughout his ordeal. But "eventually" turned into six hours later. He wasn't released from the detention centre until 3:30 a.m. Sunday, with no charges against him.
He described a range of moods and conditions among prisoners, including those who were almost "jovial" while they shared their stories, and those who were "bashed up" and in distress, with cuts and bruises on their swollen faces.
And some of the detained, he said, were wearing orange jumpsuits, as those around him made uncomfortable comparisons to the Guantanamo Bay prison camp.
But one dominant mood among many of the peaceful protesters who were detained was of anger toward the anarchists who set fire to police cars and wreaked havoc on the downtown streets.
"They feel they gave them a bad name. They're blaming these guys running around burning police cars to them being detained. And also, for the fact that … they're justifying the government spending a billion dollars on security."