Toronto Police condemned for response to defacing of statues by Black Lives Matter
Three Black Lives Matter protestors were arrested in Toronto this weekend for painting statues of John A. Macdonald, King Edward VII Equestrian and Egerton Ryerson, and now one of their lawyers is calling for all charges to be dropped.
Jenna Reid, Danielle Smith and Daniel Gooch were each charged with three counts of Mischief Under $5,000 and Conspiracy To Commit a Summary Offence on Saturday after participating in a peaceful protest calling for police to be defunded and splattering paint on the three statues.
Queens Park, Toronto. Just before being cleaned, the statue of Sir John A. Macdonald painted in pink.— Robin (@robinpueyo) July 18, 2020
An action carried out by @BLM_TO to show once again their wish to see the statues depicting slavery, violence & colonialism removed.#Toronto #BlackLivesMatter #DefundThePolice pic.twitter.com/gFMVkMRUtn
They were detained after being caught with tubs of paint, spray paint, sidewalk chalk, stencils and rope on Saturday, and outrage quickly ensued.
Around 5:30 p.m. on Saturday, Toronto Police published a news release stating that all three were provided access to counsel, and that Gooch and Smith had been released on a Promise to Appear.
They said Reid, on the other hand, had been held for a Show Cause and would appear in court on Sunday at Old City Hall courts.
The Toronto Police have charged Jenna Reid, Danielle Smith and Daniel Gooch with mischief & conspiracy.— Alicia Elliott (@WordsandGuitar) July 19, 2020
Remember what the @TorontoPolice are telling us with these charges: that in Canada, even statues of racist white people deserve more respect than living Black people.
But Saron Gebresellassi, the lawyer representing one of the detainees, said this simply wasn't true and that "police defied the calls of our elected officials and civil society to uphold the constitutional rights of their detainees" throughout the process.
**update** the arrestees are now being denied legal representation. They are inside and the cops **will not let ANY of our lawyers through**. @TPSOperations, why are these people being denied legal representation???#DefundThePolice #FreeThemNow #onpoli #topoli #cdnpoli— Black Lives Matter — Toronto (@BLM_TO) July 18, 2020
She said in the course of more than 12 hours, she was only able to speak with her client twice: once at around 3:15 p.m. and again close to midnight.
"I submit this is a violation of Section 10b of the Charter which guarantees the right to counsel immediately and w/o delay," she tweeted on Sunday.
2) I stood next to the detainees’lawyer, who was denied access to her clients. I was told that one of them was going to be kept overnight, even though she has a medical condition. When their lawyer asked to speak with her clients, she was told that she would have to call the..— Josh Matlow (@JoshMatlow) July 18, 2020
She also said the press release stating that two of the three detainees had been released wasn't true, and that no one was released until after midnight.
On Sunday afternoon, police published a second press release stating that each of the three arrested individuals were informed that they were eligible for release Saturday afternoon, and two indicated they would choose that option.
*** Vandalism-related arrests of July 18, 2020 ***— Toronto Police Operations (@TPSOperations) July 19, 2020
Chief Mark Saunder's Comments - TPS News Release #47626https://t.co/g1EFvC0k5s
"That afternoon, all three refused to the release conditions, which are standard and include a promise to appear in court," the press release states.
"Each arrested individual could have been released during the afternoon of Saturday, July 18, 2020 but they declined."
Gebresellassi, meanwhile, said the three protestors were eventually released around 2:30 a.m. with the help of several activist groups, and she said it is her view that overwhelming public pressure played a role.
Canadians saw a side of Toronto they are not used to and our community had their democratic rights & freedoms eroded. It doesn’t have to be this way. There is mass suffering right now with two pandemics raging: systemic racism and Covid. The working class deserves so much better.— Saron Gebresellassi - People's Lawyer (@SaronGeb) July 19, 2020
"The next court date will be on September 30th at Old City Hall Courthouse. We have to keep up public, legal and political pressure to ensure ALL charges are dropped which is a decision at the discretion of the Crown Attorney's Office at Old City Hall," she wrote on Twitter Sunday.
"I call for Canadian Deans, Legal Scholars and Experts to echo the leadership seen by our American legal counterparts exercising exactly this type of leadership in this climate recognizing the profound injustices faced by working class people in our judicial system."
Organized just a hour before the spontaneous rally is still going in front of 52 division in downtown Toronto where protestors are waiting for the three @BLM_TO activists to be released. #Toronto #DefundThePolice #BlackLivesMatter pic.twitter.com/zXaT1PXfb5— Robin (@robinpueyo) July 18, 2020
Throughout the many hours that Reid, Smith and Gooch were held by police, BLM supporters and members of the public held a rally outside the 52 division calling for their release.
They encouraged Torontonians to call and email Mayor John Tory and other elected officials to demand they be released immediately, and Gebresellassi said she was disappointed but not surprised that Police Chief Mark Saunders and Mayor Tory "missed another opportunity to demonstrate leadership and stand up for their own citizens."
#FreeThemNow phone and email zap!— Black Lives Matter — Toronto (@BLM_TO) July 18, 2020
TPS is holding three of our people after a peaceful protest and artistic disruption that confronted racist monuments and supported calls to #DefundThePolice. #BlackLivesMatter #FreeThemNow pic.twitter.com/M13ghODzw0
This incident comes as colonial and confederate statues across the continent have been defaced in recent months amid calls to end systemic racism and defund police.
Black Lives Matter Toronto called the painting of the statues an "artistic disruption that confronted racist monuments and supported calls to #DefundThePolice."
Three Statues in Toronto.— Martin Reis (@BikeLaneDiary) July 18, 2020
King Edward VII - Colonial Leader
John A. Macdonald - Architect of Residential Schools
Egerton Ryerson - Architect of Residential Schools#BlackLivesMatter #BLMToronto #BLMTO @blogTO pic.twitter.com/xQtfVRYCI1
Both John A. Macdonald and Egerton Ryerson helped found the residential school system in Canada, which has widely been referred to as a form of genocide against Indigenous people, while King Edward VII was a British colonial leader.
Join the conversation Load comments