Friday, September 04, 2009

A youth speaks out against police brutality in Alexandra Park

Open Letter from Elliot Vredenburg to BASICS Free Community Newsletter
BASICS #15 (Sep/Oct 2009)

It is with great concern that I compose the letter that is to follow, but I feel that I have no choice but to lament about the conduct of several police officers of the Toronto Police Services.
On August 17, 2009, 4 friends and I were in Alexandra Park, at Dundas and Bathurst. At approximately 11:30 p.m., we were quite literally cavorting amongst the sprinklers in the field south of the school, since the weather was unbearably humid, and the pool was closed earlier that night. I am under the belief that we were not trespassing, as Chapter 608-9 of the Toronto Municipal Code states that “Unless authorized by permit, no person shall use, enter or gather in a park between the hours of 12:01 a.m. and 5:30 a.m.”

We saw three police cruisers pull up to the fenced-in pool area of the park, and the occupants proceeded to clear the crowded pool. Soon after, we were approached by five to six officers, who told us that we had “five seconds to get the fuck out of here.” I informed the officers that my belongings were near where they were standing and I was going to gather them, and that I hoped that that did not count towards my ‘five seconds.’ This was met with more cursing from the officers. After I picked up my stuff and proceeded to head towards the exit of the park, Sasha Foster, one of my friends, must have said something to offend or provoke an officer, because she was grabbed and pinned against the wall of the school with her arm twisted behind her back. I must concede that I do not know what exactly was said. At this point, her boyfriend, Sean Curry, naturally moved to protect her, and was met with repeated shoves from an officer.

As the officer was becoming increasingly agitated, I proceeded to hold him back from the officer, as I knew what could possibly transpire. When I moved to do this, I was grabbed by the police officer, thrown against the wall, and eventually onto the ground, which caused injury to my back and right arm. The officer’s hand or forearm was pressed against my throat, choking me and leaving bruises. He told me, “when I’m trying to take someone down, you don’t get in my fucking way.” I kept repeating that he was choking me, that I was solely trying to hold my friend back, and did not mean any harm. I was not exhibiting any aggression towards him: my hands were on the ground. After this, he got up and told me to “get the fuck up, get your shit and get out of here.” I quickly complied, and asked for the officers’ names and badge numbers, to which they replied, “fuck off. Get the fuck out of here.” At this point I dialed 911 on Dillon Scheenaard’s cellphone, which I’m sure is recorded.

I am truly disturbed, saddened, and shocked at the events that transpired on the evening of August 17, 2009, and I honestly wish for serious punishment to be brought against these officers, and indemnification for my friends and myself. The injuries to my back greatly affected my performance at work, and my ability to commute on my bicycle. Although they were not severe injuries, they were inflicted without reason by an officer of the Toronto Police Service, for which there is no excuse.

Elliot Vredenburg∗