POLITICS

Police commander says he told supervisors of bystanders caught in G20 'kettling'

12/05/2014 12:56 EST | Updated 02/04/2015 05:59 EST
TORONTO - Command headquarters was informed that not everyone boxed in by officers at a Toronto G20 protest four years ago was a demonstrator, but no orders came to let passersby out, a police disciplinary hearing was told on Friday.

Retired Insp. Norn Miles told the internal inquiry into the actions of Supt. David (Mark) Fenton that after arriving to find hundreds of people trapped in the "kettling" area on June 27, 2010, he realized that many in the crowd didn't appear to be protesters.

Fenton — the most senior officer charged in relation with mass arrests made during the G20 summit — has pleaded not guilty to a total of five charges of unlawful arrest and discreditable conduct stemming from two kettling incidents that occurred over the summit weekend.

Miles was at one of those incidents, an on-the-ground-commander stationed behind a line of several hundred officers as increasingly heavy rains fell.

The former York Regional Police officer said he informed the major incident command centre there were bystanders amongst the 250 or so people boxed in on a Sunday.

"I said that not all these people are involved in the protest," he said.

A request to get the crowd out of the foul weather was also relayed to headquarters, but no response came, added Miles, an experienced public safety commander used to handling big crowds.

"I just said I want you to get some buses down here to get these people out of the rain."

Despite several radio messages and two phone calls to command, he was told only to "maintain the line" along the northern side of the intersection where the kettling occurred.

He didn't seek permission to release members of the crowd, which he described as "pretty passive" due to the thunderstorm and hemmed in by a police tactic he'd never seen before.

"It was abundantly clear I wasn't supposed to do that," he said, adding that no troublemakers were spotted in the mix.

Letting some of the crowd disperse was "beyond my scope" of orders, which was strictly to keep his line of police in heavy crowd-control gear in place until everyone in the kettling box was arrested, he said.

But Miles pushed back, letting a handful out — including "three generations" of a Chinese family, two young girls "shivering" in light clothing and some dog-walkers — by sending officers in and pretending to arrest them.

"I didn't feel comfortable those people had anything to do with the protests," he said. The action brought a rebuke from HQ, but "I'd do it again," Miles testified.

He estimated that about 50 or so of those trapped in the throng had nothing to do with the demonstrations.

Miles described a hectic communications link with command, never knowing exactly who he was talking to by radio.

Under cross-examination from the defence, he said he was told it wasn't possible to speak directly with Fenton.

But Miles said he was sure whoever was on the other end was fully informed of the situation on the ground, due to CCTV surveillance of the area.

Two individuals who launched complaints against police also testified at the hearing, saying they went downtown to observe the situation after seeing it on the news but ended up trapped for hours.

"Everybody in that intersection, whether they were protesting or not, were caught," said Tom Ross, who was later released without being taken to a makeshift prisoner processing centre.

He said there was no word from police about getting out, or what was going to happen to the crowd, leading Ross to approach one female officer.

"I asked if there was a way to leave and she said no, we could not."

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