Journalists covering the G20 summit in Toronto, Canada, last weekend have accused the local police of threatening them with rape, using male officers to strip-search young women, and even inappropriately touching an underage girl.
Four reporters have filed complaints with the province of Ontario’s police oversight agency. According to the Canwest News Service, those four include Jesse Rosenfeld, a freelancer for the UK’s Guardian whose alleged beating at the hands of Toronto police was chronicled on Twitter, as well Amy Miller of the Alternative Media Center.
Miller told a press conference earlier this week that she had her press pass ripped away from her and was “throttled by the neck and held down” while trying to record a confrontation between police and protesters. She was detained for 13 hours in a cage in a converted film studio on the city’s east side, along with about 25 other women.
“I was told I was going to be raped, I was told I was going to be gang-banged, I was told that I was never going to want to act as a journalist again by making sure that I would be repeatedly raped while I was in jail,” Miller said.
Miller described the police’s alleged behavior as “repulsive and completely inappropriate.”
She also said she saw women being strip-searched by male officers, and that many of the women who emerged from detention were “definitely traumatized.”
Reporters also allege that “one under-aged girl was improperly touched by a male officer while held at an Eastern Ave. detention center,” the QMI news agency reports.
In a rare criticism of Canada, Amnesty International called on the country’s political leadership to hold a public inquiry into the policing of the G20 summit, which ran from June 26 to 27 and attracted between 10,000 and 25,000 protesters. All told, more than 900 people were arrested during the summit — reportedly a record high for this kind of summit meeting.
Faced with growing criticism, political leaders and Toronto police chief Bill Blair have been fighting back against accusations that the police response to a gang of black-clad anarchists setting police cars on fire and breaking windows was excessive.
Chief Blair held a conference Tuesday where he described the vandals as “terrorists” and put on display a cache of weapons evidently seized from protesters at the summit. But the public-relations triumph turned to embarrassment when it emerged that some of the weapons on display were not related to the G20 protests.
The Toronto Sun reports that some of the weapons there, including arrows seized by police near the G20 site, were toys that belonged to a man who was on his way to a fantasy role-playing game when he was stopped by police, a day before the G20 summit.
The Canadian Civil Liberties Association said that police conduct during the meeting of the leaders of the world’s top economies, was “at times, disproportionate, arbitrary and excessive.”
The response to pockets of criminal activity was also “unprecedented, disproportionate and, at times, unconstitutional,” the rights group said in a report.
The abuses “exceeded the threshold of a few isolated incidents” and “they demand accountability,” it said in calling for an inquiry into police conduct.
Toronto’s mayor and police chief Blair said the city’s Police Services Board, a civilian oversight panel, would review the squad’s actions, which they also defended.
“The fact that there were no serious injuries arising from all of the actions of the police over the course of the weekend is quite frankly extraordinary under the circumstances,” said police chief Bill Blair.
Officers “showed remarkable restraint in the face of enormous provocation,” he added. “They did their jobs.”
– With reporting from AFP
The following video was posted to YouTube by G20Injustice on June 29, 2010.