Dozens of G20 Charges Dropped

Posted: August 24, 2010 in Toronto G20 Defense
Tags: , , , ,

Dozens of defendants from the Toronto G20 arrests had their charges dropped during a court appearance on August 23, 2010.  They were among over 300 defendants who had to appear in court on Monday, including some still held in custody and those charged with ‘conspiracy.’

Dozens of G20 Charges Dropped at Hearing

Toronto Star, August 23, 2010

Brendan Kennedy, Betsy Powell and Rene Johnston Staff Reporters–dozens-of-g20-charges-dropped-at-hearings

Several dozen of the 300 people facing charges for alleged criminal acts during the G20 summit had their charges withdrawn Monday.
One young woman high-fived a friend before bolting from the courtroom after hearing the news.
Christopher Miller, who was charged with mischief under $5,000, said he was happy it was withdrawn but feels the process was “ridiculous.”
He was arrested on June 29 — two days after the summit — for writing “Shame on You” in charcoal on a sidewalk outside police headquarters.
“I have a problem with the criminalization of dissent,” Miller said outside court. What he did “a good rain shower would have washed away,” he said.
Miller, like others, was not required to admit any guilt.
Others were told to return to court at a later date, including the 17 purported ringleaders whose cases were put over to Sept. 27.
The decision to withdraw charges was made as part of a “diversion” process, Crown Attorney Vince Paris explained.
While Paris answered reporters’ questions, protesters attempted to ask their own. “How many police were charged?” one woman called out.
Each case was assessed by the severity of the allegation and impact on the community, he said. For some, the Crown offered a charge withdrawal in exchange for a charity donation.
Three courtrooms at the 2001 Finch Ave. W. courthouse were dedicated to handling just G20 matters.
The corridors were chaotic with heavily armed Emergency Task Force officers on patrol amid the mostly young defendants.
Outside the court, a coalition of activist groups opposed to the G8/G20 summits held a mid-morning news conference to denounce the charges.
“This is the criminalization of dissent,” said the Toronto Community Mobilization Network’s spokeswoman Maryam Adrangi. “The real crimes were happening behind the fence.”
TCMN and other groups are calling for all charges to be dropped and those still detained to be released.
Peter Rosenthal, lawyer for prominent activist Jaggi Singh, objected to the condition that prevents Singh from organizing or participating in any demonstration, which prevents him from doing his job at the Quebec Public Interest Research Group.
“We feel that it is essential that he be allowed to continue that good work pending trial,” Rosenthal said.
Singh surrendered to police days after the summit when he learned there was a warrant for his arrest.
Mohan Mishra, of No One Is Illegal Toronto, said Monday’s court proceedings are the continuation of the “unprecedented police violence on our streets,” during the G20, which targeted people for their political beliefs, he said.
Brett Gundlock, a National Post photographer who was arrested at Queen’s Park on Saturday afternoon of the G20 weekend, said his charges of unlawful assembly and obstructing police were dropped after a one-minute hearing.
“I’d been photographing all day,” Gundlock said, when police started firing pepper spray at the crowd and making arrests. He put his gas mask on and then watched as a line of riot police separated, he said. “Then six cops were coming at me like linebackers.”
Gundlock, 24, said he raised his press pass in the air, but the officers had already tackled him.
He’s happy to have the ordeal behind him. “The police failed; their charges aren’t sticking,” he said.
A makeshift processing centre — a folding table and a court official — was set up outside the courthouse to sign in the people scheduled to appear in court. Those charged in protests during the summit of world leaders in Toronto in June were required to get a chit, then sign in.
A notice tacked up outside the courthouse explained the outdoors sign-in: a maximum of 176 people were allowed inside because of fire safety rules. Each defendant was allowed lawyers and one support person at the hearing. People were encouraged to leave the building as soon as their hearing was done to make room for others.
About 10 police officers were stationed outside the courthouse. One officer in an unmarked van could be seen videotaping as various activists were interviewed by media in the court’s parking lot.
G20 defendants were split into groups on arrival, according to a lawyer helping to direct people to the correct courtroom.
The groups were: those arrested Sunday morning at the University of Toronto; those arrested on the street in various locations; those arrested at Queen’s Park after Saturday afternoon’s destruction; those alleged to be part of the so-called “black bloc”; and the alleged ringleaders.
Minivans full of sleepy people pulled up through the morning, including many carrying French-speaking people. The vehicles included two yellow school buses with Quebec licence plates. Some young defendants were dressed in suits and dresses, others all in black or in casual clothes.
Dozens of parents turned up as well, flanking young defendants.
Marc Laramée said he was searched by police several times on June 25, the Friday of the G20 weekend, and was arrested by police on Sunday morning at the bus station as he tried to return to Montreal.
He was arrested on weapons charges after police found a multi-tool and metal whistle in his backpack, the 27-year-old said.
“They said I had too much black clothes,” Laramée said. “It’s my legitimate right to protest.”
He opposes free trade and ongoing environmental degradation, he said.
A protest calling for the charges to be withdrawn has been scheduled for this evening outside police headquarters on College St. west of Yonge St.

Several G20 accused have charges dropped

CBC News, Monday, August 23, 2010

The Crown is not proceeding with the criminal cases against a large number of the hundreds of people who were in court Monday on charges related to protests during June’s G20 summit in Toronto.
Many of the first people to appear had their cases put over until the fall, and lawyers for the protesters expected the charges against roughly 75 people would be dropped, the CBC’s Michelle Cheung said.
Crown attorney Vincent Paris could not confirm specifically how many cases would not proceed in court.
Some defendants were asked to post a peace bond, Paris said, where they agree to keep the peace for a year. Others had their cases settled through court diversion processes, where individuals are compelled to do charity work or give donations instead of going through the court process.
Such an outcome does not require an admission of guilt.Still others had their charges withdrawn altogether, Paris said.
Most of those at the courthouse were making their first appearance, bail hearings excluded, he added.
Determining the reasonable prospect of conviction and the public interest in continuing a case is “entirely independent and different” from the police process of determining whether to lay charges or not, he said.
“And it’s that gap that we have to address when we get to court on these first appearances,” Paris said.

Special processes to handle crowds

The sheer number of people involved forced those working at the Ontario Court of Justice near Finch Avenue West and Highway 400 to adopt novel techniques to handle the situation.
“The three courtrooms that are processing the G20 protesters who have been charged are full,” said Cheung, reporting from the scene. “It’s standing room only.”
A prescreening table was set up outside the courtroom to help process the people appearing Monday.
Some of those charged weren’t even able to get into the courtroom — they had to be paged when the judge called for them, Cheung said.
With as many as 303 people set to appear Monday, police said it’s one of the largest mass court appearances Toronto has ever seen.
The case of Montreal-based activist Jaggi Singh was postponed until late September, the CBC’s Philip Lee-Shanok said. Lawyer Peter Rosenthal requested a bail review for Singh as well, saying a ban that prevents him from attending rallies will limit his ability to work as a community organizer in Montreal.
Charges against Natalie Gray, a B.C. activist who claims she was hit by two rubber bullets during a G20 summit protest, were dropped. Gray had been facing charges of obstructing a police officer at a protest.
Meanwhile, a group of activists held a news conference at 10 a.m. ET, in which they accused police of randomly targeting some protesters during the G20.
“We insist that the ongoing criminal proceedings are expensive, unnecessary and flawed, and that these charges be dropped immediately,” said Jessica Denyer, a Toronto activist.
The Toronto Community Mobilization Network, an activist umbrella group, is organizing a protest at Toronto Police headquarters later Monday.
The people appearing in court Monday are charged with a variety of offences related to the June 26-27 summit of G20 leaders, where several people dressed in black broke off from a peaceful protest and smashed store windows and torched at least five police cars.
Most of the people appearing Monday were arrested at a protest at the Ontario legislature on June 26, said a Toronto police G20 investigator, Det. Sgt. Gary Giroux.
With files from The Canadian Press



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