Archive for May, 2011

G20 Detainees: project statement

Friday, May 13th, 2011

Faraz Siddiqui, who was marching with a student contingent on June 26, 2010, was detained at the makeshift prison that evening and released without charges the next morning.

In late June 2010, Toronto was overtaken by nearly 20,000 police officers from around the country to protect international dignitaries during the G8/G20 summit at a cost of $1.2 billion.

During the weekend of June 26, 1,105 people were arrested and detained at a former movie studio warehouse on Eastern Avenue in the city’s east end. Many of them were let go without charge, and numerous stories have emerged about their illegal detainment and harsh treatment.

The G20 Detainees series, which is part of a group show at Gallery 1313 until May 22, introduces some of those people who were incarcerated and attempts to create a dialogue about people’s civil rights in a democratic nation.

Some of the people who participated in this series include Jonathan, Joshua, Faraz, Brian, Becca and Kai. They were there at the summit for different reasons and each got caught up in circumstances beyond their control.

  • Jonathan was a volunteer monitor for the Canadian Civil Liberties Association (CCLA) whose job was to watch the police that Saturday when he got caught in the kettling at Queen and Spadina. He was helping out his lawyer sister, who was shot at with rubber bullets but unharmed at another event.
  • Joshua was part of a Sunday prayer vigil whose Christian blessings of “peace be with you” for the officers got him arrested and thrown into the back of a police van, the beginning of a terrifying night that included not having access to a bathroom and soiling himself and being subjected to a strip search.
  • Faraz was marching with a student contingent on Saturday when he was apprehended near Yonge and Front while trying to get to Union Station to go home. He used the experience to help others in prison and to work through his own PTSD caused by his incarceration in Lebanon a year earlier for overstaying his work visa.
  • Brian and his five friends took the train downtown to see for themselves what was happening at the summit and were immediately accosted on arrival at Union Station. Brian, who was 17 at the time, was kept in isolation because he was underage. The officers wouldn’t let him sleep during his 26 hours in detention, telling him he was going to have a lot to do, which was untrue. He said the experience, which was often boring, reminded him of political prisoners. He at times counted the squares in the cage and had to endure 13C temperatures wearing only a T-shirt.
  • Becca and Kai, who are best friends, were arrested at the kettling of protesters at Queen and Spadina. Kai, who’s now 18, said he felt ashamed that this happened in Canada. Becca felt confused because of the arbitrary manner of their arrest and detention. The officers accused her of trying to hide her identity and of harbouring weapons because she was carrying black gloves and a bandana that had the Harley-Davidson logo — gear she used to ride her motorcycle. She said she suffered from anxiety afterwards.

Under each photograph, there are two lines of numbers. The first number indicates the time and date each person was arrested, and the second line indicates the time and date of release from the Eastern makeshift prison.

(The artist would like to thank the CCLA for putting her in contact with the participants, the participants themselves and the assistance of her partner.)

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