toronto statues

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. 

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.

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. 

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.

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.  

"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.

"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."

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."

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." 

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.

Lead photo by

Black Lives Matter - Toronto

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