Support the Dominion
Support the Dominion
GUELPH, ON—Though the G20 summit in Toronto is long over, communities organizing against austerity continue to feel the sting of state repression. Of the over 1,100 people arrested in conjunction with protests against the G20 meetings in Toronto, 66 still face legal battles, house arrest and jail time.
On November 22, 11 of the 17 people facing a complex set of conspiracy charges had their charges dropped. As part of a plea bargain, the other six will serve more jail time.
Leah Henderson, Peter Hopperton, Erik Lankin, and Adam Lewis are in the course of serving their sentences of 10 months, five-and-a-half months, three months, and three-and-a-half months, respectively. These sentences are being served in addition to time spent in pre-trial detention—a period of as much as 70 days in the case of Lankin. Henderson is in Vanier prison in Milton, Ontario, while the other three are at Penetanguishene Central North Correctional Centre.
“Let people know that I’m not being wrecked by prison,” Lankin told The Dominion from jail. “It’s something to get through and I’m looking forward to continuing to organize when I get out.”
Also as part of the group plea deal, Mandy Hiscocks—who is being sentenced today—is expecting to serve 16 months and Alex Hundert is expecting to serve an additional 13.5 months.
“To those in jail or still on charges from the anti-G20 protests, to political prisoners and prisoners in struggle, we are still with you,” reads a statement put out by the 17 co-accused in late November.
In addition to this “main conspiracy group,” others are still facing G20-related charges and possible jail time, including George Horton, Ryan Rainville, Kelly Pflug-Back, Greg Rowley, Emomotimi Azorbo, Julian Ichim, Dan Kellar and Byron Sonne, among others.
Horton, from Peterborough, faces “a string of charges including three counts of mischief over [$5,000], assaulting a police officer, disguise with intent, possession of stolen property under [$5,000]” and possession of a dangerous weapon, a support call-out for Horton reads.
“Since the charging of six community organizers and eleven dropped charges, [Horton] and others being charged with ‘on-the-ground’ offenses such as mischief and assault, face an even heavier likelihood of being scapegoated by the court, in an effort to justify the billion dollar G20 budget and the ensuing violence of police,” reads Horton’s support statement. The Dominion was unable to reach Horton or his support team before this article went to print.
Ryan Rainville was charged with “on-the-ground” offences and plead to three counts of mischief over $5,000 in early December.
In his statement to the court, Rainville insisted on his rejection of the colonial, racist court system. “I have plead guilty to the destruction of state property, and while awaiting trial and sentencing I have spent more than three months in jail, nine months on house arrest, and two months living under strict bail conditions,” he told the court. “I have been beaten and condemned for my political beliefs, and I have served enough time in punishment for the damage that I have accepted responsibility for. It is time now for the state to set me free,” he said.
Rainville was sentenced to four months of house arrest at the Sagatay Toronto men’s shelter, on top of the time that he has already served. The Crown is currently appealing his sentence.
“I know at the core of my gut that I didn’t do anything wrong,” Rainville told The Dominion. “This is how the state is going to react,” he added. “We need to band together and stay solid, even in the face of it.”
Still ongoing is the trial of Kelly Pflug-Back, whose original charges included assaulting police with a weapon and conspiracy, though these charges have been dropped.
“There was nothing to suggest that I assaulted a police officer with a weapon,” Pflug-Back told The Dominion. “They just wanted to slap that on to my case as a way to really crack down on me and keep me on house arrest.” She continues to face charges of mischief, which she is still waiting to have resolved.
While serving more than a month in pre-trial detention, Pflug-Back was denied medical treatment for her chronic polyautoimmune disorders, which include thyroid disease and fibromyalgia. “They violated my right to access medical care. They violated my right to freedom of movement,” she told The Dominion.
Following her detention, Pflug-Back was put under stringent house arrest and was forced to be under the direct supervision of her parents while outside of the home. Once again, this made access to medical treatment nearly impossible. “They violated my right to not be subject to arbitrary detention,” said Pflug-Back. “I was basically under the same kind of conditions as someone accused of manslaughter.”
According to Pflug-Back, a plainclothes homicide detective made an appearance at each of her court dates. “The police were really taking [my case] personally. They had bought into this portrayal of me as being this rabid cop hater. It hurt their feelings, you know? You have to have a little compassion.”
Greg Rowley is also charged with “on the ground” offenses, but could not be reached by The Dominion before this article went to print.
Emomotimi Azorbo, who is described as an “apolitical person,” was confronted by police at the G20 as he was crossing the street. Azorbo, who is deaf, did not hear the police were shouting at him. He was then targeted by police for noncompliance. “There was a bit of resistance when police handcuffed him because he didn’t know what was happening,” Azorbo’s lawyer Howard Morton said in an article published in The Lawyers Weekly.
Azorbo was denied an unbiased, non-police sign language translator while in custody. Despite his treatment in detention, the charges of assaulting a police officer and resisting arrest are being pursued against him—charges that Morton resolves will “embarrass” the Ontario government.
On December 13, Sterling Stutz, who had her charges withdrawn as part of the “main conspiracy group”, stood in front of Old City Hall in Toronto at a support rally and media event for defendant Julian Ichim. “The police spent over a billion dollars on policing for the G20, they arrested over a thousand people, and what they got was a handful of charges,” Stutz told the crowd that had gathered for the rally. “These arrests were basically bought with that money.”
Stutz was among those attending court in support of Ichim, who is facing charges on three counts of disobeying a court order for having posted his personal account of interactions with an undercover police officer.
The officer operated under the alias “Khalid Mohammad” (the officer’s real name is Bindo Schowan) as a participant in social justice groups for more than a year in advance of the G20. Ichim posted his account of Schowan’s impacts of the community during the publication ban that forbade the publishing of identifying information relating to undercover officers.
In his blog, Ichim describes his story of befriending the undercover, referring to Schowan only by his pseudonym. Two days after publishing the blog post, Ontario Provincial Police officers arrived at Ichim’s house with an order that he withdraw his post. Ichim refused. “I wasn’t caught at a protest for causing trouble, but was sitting home quietly telling my story on the internet,” he told the crowd at the rally.
Dan Kellar is in a similar situation as Ichim. He faces charges after publishing a blog post on www.peaceculture.org. He is facing two counts of criminal defamation and one count of counsel to assault, also stemming from a blog post about G20-related incidents. The charge of counsel to assault relates to one particular line in the post that reads “spit in [the undercover’s] footsteps and scoff at his existence if you see him.”
Kellar is still awaiting the resolution of his charges.
Byron Sonne faces charges of possessing explosive substances. The security consultant denies having malicious intent. Sonne first appeared on the police radar for photographing the G20 security perimeter. The support team for Sonne declined a interview request with The Dominion, explaining that it's proving risky for them to speak publicly at this juncture in the trial.
According to numbers released by the Ontario Ministry of the Attorney General in December, of the over 1,100 people arrested at the G20, 330 people appeared before the court. Of them, 201 had their charges dismissed or withdrawn. In all, 32 people have plead guilty, 39 people have seen resolution through diversion programs, and 34 are still awaiting resolution to their charges.
Shailagh Keaney is a writer and community organizer currently based in occupied Neutral territory in Southern Ontario.
The Dominion is a monthly paper published by an incipient network of independent journalists in Canada. It aims to provide accurate, critical coverage that is accountable to its readers and the subjects it tackles. Taking its name from Canada's official status as both a colony and a colonial force, the Dominion examines politics, culture and daily life with a view to understanding the exercise of power.