This evening I was slightly roughed up by a Toronto cop. And the first thing I thought of - unlike anything I've ever experienced before - was, "Don't talk back, don't move, don't look at her. Don't escalate." I thought of the G20, and I thought, I don't want to get hurt, I don't want to get arrested.
That's how terrorism works.
I got out of work early tonight, 7:00 instead of the usual 10. King Street in front of Scotia Plaza was barricaded off for a film shoot. I ignored it and stepped past some traffic cones. I could hear someone with a megaphone on the other side of the street directing people to move me. One of the production assistants asked me to leave. I said, "Sorry, I'm not missing my bus for your movie."
I managed to get to the corner of King & Bay, where people were being held on all four corners, and I tried to cross the street. A production assistant told me I couldn't go. I told her my bus runs once per hour, and I'm not going to miss it. She said, "We're all tired and cold, too, but we have to be patient."
I said, "You may be tired and cold, but you're getting paid. I'm trying to get home, and I'm not going to miss my bus."
I tried to go. She tried to stop me. I tried to go.
From the other side of the intersection, a female cop came charging at me with her arms fully extended, grabbed my upper arms and shoved me back into the metal barricade. I was wearing a full backpack, which absorbed the shock. Had I not been wearing a backpack, she would have hurt me.
Leaning into my face, she screamed, "Do you want me to arrest you? You stay the hell out of the street."
I looked away and offered no resistance. This is very unlike me. It's not the first time I've been confronted by an overheated cop, but it's the first time I didn't resist.
As the female cop accosted me, a male pedestrian came over and yelled at her, "What are you doing? How long are we going to have to stand here?" A male cop then appeared, shouting, but also intervening between me and the out-of-control female cop. He said, not looking at me, "When a police officer tells you to do something, you do it! You were about to get run over by 10 different cars! They have a permit to use the street!" I shouted back that I had not disobeyed a police officer, but he wasn't looking or listening to me.
The male pedestrian and the male cop got in a shouting match. The cop told him he could cross underground in the subway - at which point several people yelled back that the subway was closed, too.
Meanwhile, several fake New York City yellow cabs were driving by. The male cop yelled at the male pedestrian, "Just because they're shooting a New York City scene doesn't mean you have to act like a New Yorker!"
That was pretty funny on several levels, especially since in New York I used to walk through film shoots all the time. I worked in Rockefeller Center, and if I stopped for every film shoot, I'd never get back from my lunch break on time.
While the male cop was yelling, the film production assistant was saying, "Why don't you all just take a deep breath. Maybe chilling out and taking an extra minute would be a good idea." That was the most galling thing of all. I don't need a flunky on a film shoot giving me relaxation advice! Just do your job. Don't lecture me on how I'm supposed to like it.
When they released the crowd and I walked down King Street, I could feel where the officer had grabbed my arms. And I realized, sadly, why I didn't make eye contact, why I didn't yell or push back: the brutality of the policing at the G20. I felt really sad and defeated by this.
I got her badge number. I know what it will do - nothing - but I plan to report it anyway.
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