Saturday, April 7, 2018

This Is Hard To Watch

The following incident occurred in Toronto on February 18 of this year. It is difficult to watch, but I encourage you to do so, and use headphones so you can hear, not only the anguished cries of the pinioned Black youth, but also the response of the onlookers, likely the only bright spot in this whole sorry episode.

But first, a little background:
Part of the video of a violent takedown captured on YouTube shows 19-year-old John Doe crying desperately while pinned to the ground by three men in TTC fare inspector uniforms. “I’m hurting, I’m hurting,” and “I’ve done nothing wrong.”

When Toronto Police officers arrive, they swarm the scene, keeping him down and then haul him up to take him to the cruiser and handcuff him.

At one point there appear to be at least seven men piled on to him.

Such excessive force. Why? Nobody knows. He was unarmed. He was already pinned down by three grown men. He wasn’t in any position to run.
Was John Doe's 'offense' that he is Black?

The teen and his mother have launched a $3 million lawsuit against the Toronto Police Services Board, the Toronto Transit Commission, two unidentified police officers and three unidentified TTC fare inspectors.
The lawsuit alleges racial profiling, assault, unlawful detention and negligence among others.

John Doe, a student of paralegal studies also working as a food courier, was just another guy on the 512 St. Clair streetcar preparing to exit at Bathurst St. when he was grabbed.

“He was suddenly and without warning attacked and thrown to the ground by TTC fare inspectors despite crying for help, held there, not told what was happening,” said Hugh Scher, one of his lawyers.

There was never any indication that the fare hadn’t been paid. And he had paid, Scher said. Nor was he charged with any offence of TTC bylaw infraction [Emphasis mine].
For those who say he should have simply cooperated with the authorities, all I can ask is, "How would you have behaved had you been subjected to such an apparently unwarranted and Kafkaesque experience?


  1. .. stunning.. hard to watch
    to their credit many bystanders stayed close
    or offered support.. and recorded on their phones
    if TTC does not have conclusive
    footage of the victim's 'wrongdoing'
    from multiple cameras
    this will cost a million easy..
    and lawyers will line up to present the case
    and basis of the lawsuit..

    There better be footage of the inspectors
    questioning the young man intelligently
    or the damages will be multiple millions

    An intelligent cop who arrived
    among the half dozen who arrived
    should have immediately told the inspectors
    to get off him and let him stand up

    Now that would be good footage and PR
    and not sure I saw police with a notebook
    speaking to witnesses...
    I did hear someone brush off a cop
    who asked them to stop recording

    This was hard to watch..
    I will pay attention to any follow up
    and when the young man was released

    1. While many rightly decry the emergence of the surveillance state Sal, the ubiquitous cellphone cameras are a godsend in situations like this. Without such footage I think we both know where this lawsuit would be headed.

  2. An oft-cited judge in a 1975 case before the Supreme Court of Canada had this to say:

    “Our law has not, as I understand it, deprived a citizen of his right to resist unlawful arrest. His resistance may be at his own risk if the arrest proves to be lawful, but so too must the police officer accept the risk of having effected a lawful arrest. Of course, even if the resisted arrest is unlawful, the person resisting may still become culpable if he uses excessive force.”

    When does someone have the right to resist arrest?

    Section 129 of the Canadian Criminal Code sets out that it’s an offence for anyone to resist or wilfully obstruct “a public officer or peace officer in the execution of his duty.”

    The onus is on the prosecution to prove that an officer was in the execution of their duties when the arrest was made. The officer must also prove an arrest was required and justified, even if they were acting in the course of their duties. The courts have established that an officer may make an arrest as long as they are satisfied a person has or is about to commit an offence. Even if it turns out later that there was no offence, the officer may be justified in making an arrest at the time.

    However, there are cases where the courts have found officers effectively assaulted members of the public during the course of an unlawful arrest. This has happened in the past where an officer failed to notify the person arrested that they are being detained, and the reasons for doing so, and laid their hands on the person anyway.

    1. Good information to have, Mound. It always strikes me as a perversion of justice, however, when people who do resist arrest, for example by refusing to hold still for the cuffs to be placed on them, are often charged with assaulting police. I suppose the assault is more on the dignity of the police, who seem to feel that their authority should never be questioned.