Tuesday, August 19, 2001
Harsh Bail Restrictions To be Challenged at Bail Review
The seven nonviolent activists arrested Monday morning as part of the anti-smog protest at Ontario Power Generation's corporate headquarters were finally released late Tuesday following a show cause hearing before a particularly vindictive (and bike-hating) Justice of the Peace Tivey. Like much of what has been taking place in Toronto and Ontario lately, it appears that politics, and not legal concerns, were at the heart of keeping the seven incarcerated and in imposing strict bail conditions.
It seems clear that those arrested were singled out by police. Indeed, numerous other individuals had been sitting in the first lane of University Avenue and been dragged repeatedly to the curb but not arrested by police who were lined up in that lane of traffic. One of those who was arrested was not even on the roadway, but was in fact singing (in tune, no less) on the sidewalk.
Following the presentation of the air filter fashion show and the dramatic adaptation of The Lorax Monday morning, a group of activists attempted to enter the crosswalk area at College and University, but were blocked by a wall of police who stood at the edge of the sidewalk.
When asked by protesters to be allowed to enter a public walkway, police denied them access, stating that the purpose for which we were going to enter the walkway was not to be allowed. (This was in sharp contrast to Reclaim the Streets on the previous Friday night, during which police did nothing, initially, to stop a group of some 150 people from reclaiming a stretch of Queen Street West. It also contrasted with the police handling of similar recent demonstrations in the area, such as student demonstrations which have blocked the whole intersection for lengthy periods of time, as well as a recent labour demo which also blocked University Avenue, again with no arrests).
On Monday morning, the police, as well as emergency services, had the advantage of knowing some six weeks in advance of the protest, and they were determined to stop the festival of earth-friendly energy alternatives from occupying University Avenue. Police were more than well prepared with a full complement of police on horseback and scores of officers and members of the Metro Police "Intelligence and Counter-Terrorism" unit. (Just goes to show that well-advertised nonviolent protest is seen as just as much of a threat as other forms of dissent which we have seen of late. Hence, whether a protest is deemed "nonviolent" or "violent" by the media and the police, what really seems to concern the authorities is the mere fact of protest itself, which must be stifled.)
Protesters not allowed to exercise the public right of crossing at a crosswalk then walked on the sidewalk before then entering the curb lane slightly further down University Avenue, at the time occupied by police officers who dragged them back to the curb.
Upon arrest, the seven were charged with criminal mischief and "lodged" at 52 division, where it appeared, initially, that they would be released on a promise to appear in court. This potential outcome was supported by the fact that the usual reasons for holding individuals&endash;outstanding criminal charges, probation breaches, etc.&endash;did not apply to any of the seven. The men &endash; Matthew Behrens, Greg Bonser and Shane Sarsfield&endash; spent a long night on cold steel benches with no blankets at 52 division and the women &endash; Angela Bischoff, Sue Breeze, Mary Hutchinson and Kirsten Romaine Jones &endash; were transported to 55 division to await a similarly uncomfortable evening.
The usual harassment of the prisoners continued: full strip searches, denial of an extra shirt to ward off the cold, denial of glasses, taking our shoes away from us, and a refusal to provide one woman with her heart medication (the police, after much protest from those arrested, finally took the woman to hospital, in chains, where a nurse confirmed that she needed the pill, and it was delivered).
Far from being surprised by such behaviour, we knew it was just another night spent with the poor of Toronto, for whom such involuntary visits are quite commonplace (one man was in for lifting five packs of bubblegum). It also became clear that the real reason we were being held is because we had touched a serious nerve by confronting one of the most pressing issues in Toronto this summer: the poisoning of our air by the publicly-owned Ontario Power Generation's refusal to stop burning fossil fuels.
Indeed, the bail conditions sought were quite restrictive and, although the arrests did not take place on OPG property, the conditions of bail seem to indicate a fair amount of police consultation with the province's largest corporate polluter: a demand to keep 250 metres away from OPG except for travelling through the area by public transit or car (despite heavy resistance from the JP, we were able to insert the phrase "by bike" as well, since not everyone travels by car, thankfully!); not to demonstrate within 500 metres of any Hydro facility; and not to be at an unlawful demonstration (a terribly vague condition).
An attempt to impose a condition of non-association failed thanks to the great legal presentation made by attorneys David Bayliss and Tim Gleason. Further attempts to throw out the ridiculous conditions by the legal team were met with a threat by JP Tivey to shut things down and send us back into custody to await another hearing. "Is Your Worhsip denying me the right to make a submission?" a frustrated Bayliss asked twice, to which the JP responded to either take the conditions as is or have the defendants thrown back into the slammer, no further questions!
The arrested activists &endash; who had by the time of their hearing already been under illegal detention since they had long passed the 24-hour period during which they should have been brought before a justice of the peace &endash; were uncomfortable with the conditions, but figured that rather than accept further punishment for what is clearly not a criminal act, would challenge the conditions at a bail review in early September.
Since every criminal charge which has been faced by members of TASC and the provincial Homes not Bombs network has resulted in acquittal, and since the demo was organized in such a way as to proceed in accordance with those acquittals, incarceration before trial seemed the only means of trying to teach us a lesson, so we figured there was no sense in cooperating with our own punishment. Rather, we would challenge these clearly unconstitutional conditions at a bail review.
Towards that end, the all-volunteer Toronto Action for Social Change is hoping to raise some funds to meet its legal and other demo-related costs. Any contributions toward this end would be greatly appreciated, and could help create another strong precedent which could be used at bail hearings so such conditions are not placed in the first place. To help out, donations can be made out to Toronto Action for Social Change and sent to PO Box 73620, 509 St. Clair Avce. West, Toronto, ON M6C 1C0.
For more information, call (416) 651-5800.
Thanks to all who came to the demo from as far away as Windsor, Barrie, Guelph, Hamilton, Kitchener-Waterloo, and Moncton, New Brunswick) , those who did amazing jail support work, attorneys David and Tim (operating under very difficult conditions), those who performed church-clean-up, those who worked on the various theatrical aspects of the day, and those who stayed part or all of the day in court waiting for our release! Special thanks to Hamilton Action for Social Change and the three little Venusians, Maddie the birthday girl from Guelph (just turned 4!), and to all those folks who gave willingly of their time to make this important public statement about our future&endash;you know who you are (and, well, the cops probably do too, but you're in good company there!)
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