Protesters who were held hostage by the Toronto police share their story in new documentary
The 2010 Toronto G20 summit will forever be remembered as a sad moment in Canadian history. According to the Toronto Star, the event marks the largest mass arrest in Canada, as over 1,100 people were detained. The majority of these individuals were never charged, since there was no valid reason to warrant their arrest. It is a moment most Canadians would like to forget, as it projected an overwhelmingly negative image of our police force onto the international stage. At Cinema Politica’s latest screening, filmmaker Lucius Dechausay’s short documentary, Kettle, showcases footage from the protest and interviews with people who were detained by Toronto police.
What is shocking is how mundane the initial protest was. There were just a group of people standing in an intersection protesting the G20 summit. According to Terra Dafoe, one of the protestors, the atmosphere was quiet and rather calm. It was a spur-of-the-moment demonstration. After a couple of minutes of peaceful protesting, a large crowd of police officers advanced on the group, banging on their shields. What ensued was the kettling, a term used to describe the cops’ technique of boxing in a large group of people, both protesters and bystanders.
The documentary shows footage of those who were left standing in the heavy rain without proper clothes or shelter. Since the event took place in June, some protesters were wearing tank tops and flip-flops and were not given any blankets. Erin Macpherson, one of the protesters interviewed in the film, joined the voluntary line-up for arrest, thinking she would at least be able to escape the cold weather by surrendering herself to the police. Instead, she was handcuffed and left standing in the rain for hours while waiting to be processed.
A lot of those who were held in the kettle were not involved in the protest. Some were only walking home from work, some were kids enjoying a day downtown or mothers running errands. They were people in the wrong place, at the wrong time. Some were detained for 24 hours, simply because they were standing on a public street.
One of the main reasons the situation got so out of hand was the clear miscommunication between protesters and police. There was no warning to disperse nor any use of crowd dispersing equipment. Law enforcement officers were waiting for instructions from Supt. Mark Fenton, who instructed his team to arrest every person caught in the kettle. Fenton latter publicly apologized for the mass arrest order, as it “demonstrated a lack of understanding to the right to protest.” In 2015, The Toronto Star reported that Fenton was convicted on two counts of unlawful arrest and one count of discreditable conduct relating to two incidents of kettling.
This documentary reminds us why we can’t allow ourselves to shove critical moments in our history under the rug. We owe it to those who were affected by the mass arrest at the G20 summit to determine why such an embarrassing situation was allowed to unfold. Even though Kettle is uncomfortable to watch, it conveys the shortcomings of our police system.