in which i learn the lasting effects of the g20 police brutality

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.


Scott M. said...

I disagree that it will do nothing. I suspect she will have it put on her record, and will have to explain herself.

Yes, it may not seem like a lot, but I think it does make a difference. You won't see it though, of course.

laura k said...

Thanks, Scott. I guess I realize that, and that's why I'll report it.

To be honest, I may have included that "it will do nothing" anticipating cynical comments.

laura k said...

I felt like the male cop who followed her knew she had over-reacted. I could be wrong about that, I can't read his mind, but I got the sense he was trying to help her out.

Unknown said...

Interesting that you said that you have run into over reacting cops before when it is obvious that you were totally in the wrong. Does this mean that you think your rights and desires override other peoples. Maybe they should have just billed you for a reshoot of the scene.

johngoldfine said...


Some of that may be a little out-of-date, but what it amounts to is that you are not only paying for the cop to shove you around, but you are subsidizing the flunkies and the whole production. 'You' meaning you Canadians.

I hate it whenever I see Toronto dba New York--please give the USA back our tawdry tinseltown and Gotham. I bet you're personally ready.

In my very limited and sheltered experience, physical confrontation is always an immense psychic shock to respectable middle-class folk. As you imply, violence creates an immediate existential crisis--easy assumptions uneasily re-examined, consideration of last things forced on one, meditations on physical and moral courage, and so on.

It's a shock.

This fine narrative post is complementary to your many activist posts. Being pushed by a cop is not being tortured, being warred on, being exploited, being a refugee--but it's closer (suddenly!) to any of those than it is to a day at the ball park.

Tuxedorama said...

You were assaulted by a police officer - you should report it.

Anonymous said...

The treatment that you received was unconscionable,however to put it in context this happens daily to people of colour, the homeless, the working poor, or anyone else who has been marginalized by society.

This has been ignored by the middle class, because hey it only happens to those people, well now that the police have become more emboldened and are now using these tactics more often on groups previously immune to their brutality, one could say that the chickens have come home to roost.

The lesson is that we ignore the plight of others at our own risk

laura k said...

The treatment that you received was unconscionable,however to put it in context this happens daily to people of colour, the homeless, the working poor, or anyone else who has been marginalized by society.

I know that. Click on the category "abuse of police power" for posts about that. I also read about it and think about it often.

However, this post is only about my own experience.

laura k said...

Does this mean that you think your rights and desires override other peoples.

It means I think the needs of the public override the needs of a private company using public space for their work. The public's access to public streets should take precedence over somebody's film.

I realize most people would not have talked back to the production assistant. And in your opinion that warrants an assault? How sheeple of you.

laura k said...

Some of that may be a little out-of-date, but what it amounts to is that you are not only paying for the cop to shove you around, but you are subsidizing the flunkies and the whole production. 'You' meaning you Canadians.

Exactly. Georgina, please take note.

laura k said...

An aside: "the chickens have come home to roost" would only apply if homeless people were not assaulting cops.

Anonymous said...

L-girl my comments were directed to the middle class in general. I in no way meant to trivialize what happened to you personally. You see I grew up in one of those marginalized communities and experienced police brutality personally and often throughout my youth. I too know the sense of powerlessness that you felt that evening. Who do you turn to when those charged with your protection are your abusers?

laura k said...

Thank you, Mad Loon, I appreciate it, and I'm sorry I misinterpreted your comment.

I should have included a paragraph in the post making those connections, but I wrote it while I was still feeling the event - on purpose.

allan said...

"Georgina", huh?

Reminds me of a certain someone who has used women's names to try to poke his head back into this blog since being banned several years ago.

Anonymous said...

File a report.


The system is rigged so that the police investigate themselves, and unless they can't hide it, let themselves off the hook, but while the complaint is in the system, any promotions, raises, etc. she might have been entitled to are frozen.

If we can't have justice, we can at least cost them some money.

laura k said...

File a report.

As my post says, I intend to. I trust you meant that as encouragement, not as an order.

The place to file here.


laura k said...

From the troll files: Mr Troll stops by to tell me how wrong I was, how I should have respected the assistant telling me not to cross, that I don't live in NYC anymore, I live "in a civilized country". Then he says the cop should have arrested me and beaten me up, and he calls me a disgusting pig and a cunt. Good thing he's from a civilized country!

Amy said...

Just catching up with this. I am sorry that you experienced this. Having your sense of dignity and security assaulted that way is terrible, as well as whatever physical harm you experienced.

(It almost sounds like the cop was trying to impress the film crew, perhaps to get a role as a NYC cop in their film? I assume she was not a private security officer hired by the film company?)

I wonder how they handle this in NY and other cities. I know (as John pointed out) that Toronto often is used as a NYC-like setting, and I assume they don't always stop the normal flow of traffic.

laura k said...

Thank you, Amy. It was not pleasant, but fortunately it was not traumatic.

Zillions of movies are filmed in Toronto - and the ones that aren't are filmed in Vancouver! Traffic is routinely stopped. The film industry is very important here and it trumps all.

Naturally this is often on weekends and off-hours - which affects me more. :)

laura k said...

And yes, Toronto cop, not private security.

Amy said...

Interesting. You said you often walked through filming sites in NY. I wonder why the film crews there are more willing to tolerate it. Perhaps there would be more authenticity to those fake NYC backdrops if they had random people strolling around.

Anyway, I am glad you are okay.

laura k said...

I guess it depends on the situation. Around Rock Center, I think it was more difficult for them to keep a secure perimeter, so to speak. If it was in a quieter neighbourhood, on a small street corner, then I'm sure I couldn't have walked through.