Award-winning Bike Pirate Volunteer Arrested during G20

Geoff assualted by Police during peaceful Bike rally Photo NOW Magazine, p.14
The following is from Geoffrey Bercarich, a Bike Pirates volunteer:

My name is Geoffrey Bercarich, age 26 and life long resident of Toronto, Canada. I was attacked and held illegally by Toronto Police in the “g20 jail” on Sunday June 27th, 2010.

I was riding in a special critical mass of cyclists, there was 600 cylists riding in group to take the media spotlight away from the property damage done to the city core the day before.

The bike ride was peaceful and no street laws where broken. The mass ride was riding along Yorkville and this is where I was attacked. A police cyclist blocked my path directly in front of me; another police cyclist struck me in the face, hitting my teeth with his fist. Another police cyclist threw his bicycle into mine causing me to fall to the ground. The squad of five police officers threw me onto the fallen police bike, pushing me down onto the bicycle and beat me in the face and the groin. The officer that struck me first held my knees open as another hit me repeatedly in the groin. I was then turned on to my stomach and my face was smashed into the street repeatedly, leaving a pool of blood. This all happened without any notification by the police officers as to what crime I committed or why they were attacking me. As the beatings continued I repeated in a strong voice, “I am not resisting.”

I was now on my stomach with my arms restrained behind my back with my face being pushed into the street under the knee of another police officer. A large group of police set up a line of police bikes to stop onlookers from getting a clear view on what was taking place. The police threatened the witnesses with arrest under the charge of obstruction of justice. As the beatings continued the officers repeatedly kneed me in the head, lower and upper back. There is heavy bruising around my right shoulder, cuts and bruises on my right knee and right elbow and my chin has a large cut that likely needed stitches. As I was being beaten, I cried out in extreme pain, “Stop the insanity.”

I was removed from the street, dragged into the near by parking structure on Yorkville Avenue . The arresting officers’ number was 8114, and his commanding officer was Sgt. Hicks. All other officers on site had no visible badge number and would not identify themselves. The police told everyone in the parking structure to leave or face arrest under the charge of obstruction of justice. They then spoke about taking me into a corner without any cameras. I was barely conscious as the beatings continued against the wall of the parking building. They threatened to beat me if i did not remain silent, i repeated one thing, “I am complying”.

The officers then read me my rights and told me I was under arrest for inciting. All I could think about was my handcuffs, I could not move or feel my hands. I asked them repeatedly to loosen my handcuffs. Finally after thirty minutes of the police pushing my head into the wall, Sergeant Hicks ordered them to loosen my handcuffs. I was indebted to his mercy.

I was sent to the G20 jail site on Eastern Avenue and Pape. I arrived at the makeshift jail at 2pm, and I left by midnight. All charges dropped, no explanation given. I was let go under a verbal promise not to go to a protest again. I am now in fear for my life, I live in this city, I am active in the public life and workings of the city. I fear for they will pick me up and bring me back to the detention center at anytime.

G20 Detention center on Eastern Avenue.
I was brought to the detention center at 2pm, I left at 12am, my life would change between those ten hours. I was the first to be placed in one of ten holding cells. The holding cells were in a giant studio space with extremely filthy floors. Vomit and piss were present everywhere. The holding cell was ten feet wide and four feet deep. There was a latrine in every holding cell, the latrine was full to the point where it was overflowing onto the cells floor. I was the first to be brought into the holding cell. By the end of the day 25 people were being held in that cell, and all of us were handcuffed for the entire duration of our stay, other people in other cells told us they have been there for more than thirty hours. The cells became overcrowded to a point where people were handcuffed to the floor outside the cells.

I was beaten bad by the police, I asked for a medic and was laughed at by every police guard on duty. They told me there were more people hurt in worse ways then me. Not one medic was ever seen and no one that I knew of received any medical attention. Of the 25 people in my cell, half were not protesters, two needed medications that they never received and myself with open wounds and a handcuffed, bruised arm and shoulder. We were given a two day old stale cheese and butter sandwich, and given a small cup of water every five hours. The police guards had a unlimited supply of apples, bottled water, roast beef sandwiches and chocolate covered strawberries that they were eating in front of our cells. Some cell mates were so desperate for food they eat the thrown away apple cores left on my the cell wall. No one in the entire holding facility got a phone call to the outside world. I have two friends that have yet to be seen or heard from for over three days.

As I was let out, the officer escorting me got lost, thereby taking me through most of the detention facility. No one person had received a phone call, and the people that have specific charges laid against them were being held in one person cells that do not have enough space to lie down. As I walked past their cages, i saw the look of fear, anxiety and the loss of hope that can only be seen thorough the fear for losing ones life.

I now live under the fear that the Toronto police will raid my home and take me away to the dentition center again. I fear I have gotten away with my freedom and they will take it back at anytime.

Please help.
June 28th 2010
Geoffrey Bercarich

Geoff Bercarich from the award-winning community cycling group ‘Bike Pirates’
volunteering his expertise in bike repair during the April 11, 2010 Eco-Fest and
Blessing of Bicycles at Trinity St-Paul's Centre for Faith, Justice and the Arts.

Geoff's Story on the CBC.

Comments

Dear Geoff

I was at the protest, a few feet away from you when the police knocked you off your bike and slammed your into the ground. I am so very, very sorry that I did not come to your aid. I stayed as long as I could to act as a witness but the police were becoming increasingly more hostile towards the witnesses, striking the person next to me who was taking photographs. I was not defenceless. I had a u-lock. We all did. Had we acted in unison we could have gotten you out of there. But we did not. I did not. And for that I deeply apologize. It wasn't so much that I was afraid, although I was. It was more that I am incapable of the type of violence that would have been required to set you free. I've been reflecting on this event ever since it occurred and I deeply regret that I didn't at least try. Acting as an individual, my attempt would have failed. But I would have at least been able to look at myself in the mirror without shame. I feel that, through my inaction, I was equally responsible in your civil rights being taken away. I always thought of myself as someone who would come to the aid of a person, no matter what. Now I have to take a good hard look at myself. If you decide to press charges/complain, I will come forward as a witness for you. Its such a lame offer, in light of what happened that I'm embarrassed to be offering it. But its all I can do at this point.

Ride your bike Geoff. Find the joy in your life again.

veronica

Harper is finished.

It sounds like the Red Cross needs to intervene at G20.

Arrrrrrrrr matey!

Veronica and anyone else,

Please write down the details of what you witnessed and email them to me. Please be as specific and accurate (time, location, numbers, etc) as you can be. We and everyone else will be looking for witness reports to bring forward when the police are brought to court in the future over all of their disgusting behaviours this past week.

do you know who was taking pictures?

Many thanks,
Ainsley (Geoff's bicycle partner)

needleandthread@gmail.com

Veronica - It sounds like nothing short of a coordinated "criminal conspiracy"-style tactical intervention would have gotten Geoff out of the cops' hands. There's not much else that would have stopped police after they chose to assault him.

Geoff, that's brutal, man. What else can be done besides documenting your injuries, getting witnesses to write statements (before they forget), looking for Yorkville security cameras that might have caught the scene, and finding a lawyer? It worked for Christopher Long - while he didn't have an easy time of it, despite the security video, he ended up getting the NYC cops' attention (and getting the officer convicted of lying on his police report).

Keep looking for records of the arrest. Obtain a copy of the charges and the officer's notes.

If nobody taped the assault you may have to forget about it and move on. The officer will certainly "lie" in court to save his ass and his buddies. If you have some cash you can hire legal council to subpoena some of the Toronto police videotapes. I say only if you have cash because you'll be out of pocket if there is no evidence and it comes down to your word against a bunch of the piggy wigglies.

For some perspective, it took years and national and international outcry to get the RCMP to even admit it's officers wrongly tasered robert dziekanski to death. There was even video tape of the event circulated on national television.

If you do find evidence, keep on your case to sue the city and realize you're not alone... 900 other people, mostly Canadians were arrested in those fascist style arrests.

On a side not i really think the TPS have chewed through a lot of their social capital with the community and ethical highground has basically been lost in the eyes on many. The sweeping arrests were a huge mistake. This is what happens when Canadians are too nice, they just get abused.

Dear Geoffrey,

My condolences go out to you. I am very sorry that you had to endure the injustice police inflicted upon you.

Were you known to police at all? Is it possible that the attack was premeditated and you were the target? As much as I hate to admit this, personal information can be shared to the police without anyone knowing, people databases can be compiled, and the police could be monitoring anyone's move.

Geoffrey, please do not let this stop you in your efforts. Just be careful.

My condolences to you Geoffrey. What a horrible experience.

The Police are saying publicly that everything is vidoetaped except for the strip search at Eastern Ave. On the news they state they can provide it at any time to refute any charges of misconduct at Eastern Ave. Formally request it be provided in your case.

http://www.thestar.com/news/gta/torontog20summit/article/830211--demonst...

I screamed my lungs out at the 519 protest yesterday within inches of that lying, fascist fuck. I want his head on the proverbial plate along with the head of every single alpha-male, overtestosteroned fascist pig fuck who terrorized the peaceful citizens of this city last week and who continue to do so every day to its poorest and most vulnerable.

Please share your story with others who've been viciously brutalized here:

http://www.g20inquiry.org/stories.html

You are not alone, Geoffrey, and we stand in solidarity with you and will do whatever is within our power to shout to the world the ugly shame and disgrace that is Canadian law enforcement and hold the fuckers accountable.

Namaste.

Unarmed, peaceful struggle and resistance against something can be harsh and unfair to some, and I was chicken on that Sunday.
It is quite possible Goeffrey was targetted. Carism, and the pollotucratic oiligarchy of caraptialism do not want to have change - how long is it taking for sexism to diminish? - I've still got years to go...
Bearing witness is very important, and to actively resist/defend at the time can likely diminish the chances of truly helping, so don't be too harsh on yourself Veronica. Do wirte down details, make copies and send them around, and enquire about photographs - as certainly the NOW mag pic is damning.
Do apply pressure to politicians - and talk about this with others, including many who are not part of our regular community. This includes writing to newspapers etc.
One concern that exists is how many cameras and iPhones etc. may have been taken or somehow disappeared - perhaps that issue is being addressed in the tales at a website listed above.
The rally on Monday was important as it had a wide cross-section of people who had issues with what is transpiring. Many may remember a Pastor Niemoller quote from the WWII days saying in essence, at first I didn't speak out because I wasn't a trade unionist. And then I didn't speak out because I wasn't a homosexual, And when they came for me, there was no one else left to speak out for me.
Leadership is sometimes gruelling - and it is especially sad when Geoffrey et al have been doing so much good for the Lansdowne/Bloor area, challenged as it is by crackheads etc., some of whom do use bikes because they're so good for mobility.
Thanks for this post, and it's a testament to Geoffrey's true character that he is shown in another picture on a Sunday, helping do bike repairs by a church.
Be well.

My deepest condolences, Geoff. Unfortunately, you were not alone in receiving brutality at the hands of the cops, though it seems like you got it rougher than many. The cops can easily target people who look different and are more vulnerable.

I hope you've gone to the doctor to confirm the injuries and for treatment. That evidence is very useful in court. Your letter has a lot of details already, but make sure you write down everything you remember while it is still somewhat fresh. That also makes a huge difference. And get a lawyer. Don't be shy to pass around the hat - I'm sure many of us would contribute something to help with that. If you don't know who to contact, start with Albert Koehl - he may have some good suggestions.

It behooves me why people think that they can, in mass form, engage a geographical area, and with their hands in the air claim innocence and freedom. A group of 100's of people, moving in mass, most certainly cannot be stopped by 40-50-60 Police Officers at, say, an intersection.

Clearly the officers were cutting off people and events before they got into 'full swing' and out of control.(READ riot)

Geoff, I truly would like to know what your message was, who was going to hear it, and if you have a complaint, WHAT IS YOUR solution to the problem.

I truly have NO SYMPATHY for you in instigating in excess of 600 people to race head on into a riot zone. Were they hard on you? I most certainly hope so!

A few smashed windows and two burnt police cars is hardly the epic violence worthy of "19,000" police officers.

I guess that doorknob in charge of the police can take his weapons trove to the medieval fantasy game that nerd was going to before the g20 statsi somehow picked him up... that is if the person is still being charged or the police have been embarrassed into letting the poor fellow go.

If you, Paul, think the Toronto police/statsi would treat you differently because you're a good boy who would never get stuck in trouble you're just as naive and that is a shame because there is a chance to change things here and people are instead blaming the victims. Victims who were down there protesting social issues which we ALL have to deal with.

Shame on you Paul.

Paul, that's a very trollish thing to say. Also cowardly, authoritarian, and judgmental.

If you're wondering why people can freely assemble, and claim innocence, the answer is the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

too many people keep repeating this codswallop. Yes, Paul, people can, "in perfect innocence and freedom", use public space, whether some other person has committed acts of vandalism in the city or not. Period. A relatively minor burst of vandalism (2-3 cars totalled and some glass smashed equals the average damage for a holiday weekend in cottage country, minus the drunk driving deaths) does not suffice to nullify our constitution or to justify violence against a citizen against whom the police have no charges to bring.

The handling of this episode has severely damaged the public trust in the legal system, particularly the police. Yes, I know some people in any society will trust the police no matter what; Kim Jong-Il and Robert Mugabe sleep at night because of people like that. But for the rest of us, for whom the sight of a badge does not instantly suspend all fore-brain activity, the police have a long way to go to rebuild the trust they have forfeited.

And Paul, if you don't want your arguments to look completely absurd, look up the Middle English words you throw into your posts before you use them; the word "behooves" makes absolutely no sense in the context in which you used it.

John G. Spragge
Mariner, cyclist, pilot

my condolences.

John G. Spragge
Mariner, cyclist, pilot

PAul B thinks it's ok for peaceful non-violent advocates to be beaten and injured by police.

I mean, they were supporting an organization labelled as terrorist by our Gov't and blocked the Gardiner!

I think I know the answer.

Hope you are feeling better, sir.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xs1TxfuYmpk

Dear Geoff and Veronica,
This article was sent to me where I live in BC. I am appalled by this occurance of what is becoming ubiquitis across Canada. I most often choose not to watch TV news reports or even to read a newspaper as there seems to be a negative component that comes with it. However, after reading the article and Veronica's reaction to the abuse, as well as appreciating her reluctance to put herself in a position that may very well have put her in harms way. I am now inclined to change my attitude about being more informed about what is happening in Canada- a Nation that prides itself for human rights and freedoms that our ancestors fought so hard for.
Best Regards,

Patti

I was impressed with the way Police handled the CM ride on Friday. Then, after watching the vandalism on Saturday that was caused by so called "Black Bloc", I noticed the 'Bike Bloc" ride on Sunday. Due to the obvious correlation, implied or otherwise, between the two, the last thing I wanted to do was join the ride on Sunday.

I strongly condemn the actions that Police took during the mass arrests and forceful interaction with peaceful protests during the G20 Summit, but at some point you have ask yourself if you feel your convictions are overriding common sense.

I too was witness to this unprovoked attack by police. Geoff, I had been riding right behind you when the police pounced. I had to swerve my bike to not fall on top of the police that piled on top of you. A group of us turned to face this blatant police aggression during, as you rightfully point out, a peaceful protest of concerned citizens in the face of the intense militarization of Toronto's downtown and the undemocratic assembly of the G20 and G8, whose policies have consistently not served (or protected) those most in need in our communities around the world. We stood by, as Veronica explains, helplessly looking on chanting "let him go". When I started shouting "stop police brutality" one of the complicit officers pointed his baton at me and shouted "you're fucking next buddy!" I could see officers inching closer to me and knew that I had to leave fast or risk similar violence. I too, like Veronica, regret not having stood stronger in the face of this miscarriage of justice, for this is what the mass arrests and police aggression really were and anyone "impressed" with the police handling of the situation are grossly misled. If police really were to serve and protect the public then they wouldn't be arresting peaceful protesters and non-protesters (especially those with the misfortune of living close to the detention centre). From the very start of the critical mass rally police showed their aggression and contempt towards the peaceful group. Police serve and protect the politicians of the day and it's clear that Harper and McGuinty have no tolerance for those who disagree with their ideas and approaches, and the mainstream media is more or less supporting their agenda.

The unsettling thing for me is the overwhelming public support (i.e. the Paul Bs in Canada and the rest of the world) for the police actions during the G8/G20 weekend and for Canada hosting (let alone taking part in) the G8/G20 in downtown Toronto in the first place. This was apparent during the Pride parade in Toronto this past weekend where the Queers Against Israeli Apartheid were condemned for drawing attention to the human rights violations perpetrated by the Israeli government against Palestinians. (For those who argue this isn't a 'gay' issue, Israel is a popular tourist destination for homosexuals around the world and these tourists should be aware of these issues, especially when they are so similar to the plight of homosexuals in other countries around the world). Why this condemnation and none towards the corporatization of the parade, or to the mayoral candidates or political parties that participated. And why the applause for police but relatively none for those carrying signs that say "there was no pride in the G20 detention centre"? This is a real gay rights issue right here in Canada!

We need to keep our voices loud and strong and draw the attention away from the minor property destruction on June 27th and towards the real destruction that is being caused when government and business, particularly on the global stage, go unchallenged.

In solidarity,
Matthew

RE: Geoffrey Bercarich's criminal assault by police -
I did not witness Geoffrey's reprehensible assault by police but I did witness many other assaults by police on non-violent protesters on Toronto streets during the G20 summit. I have profoundly and forever been changed by the acts of violence perpetrated by police against peaceful, lawful G20 protestors that I witnessed over the course of those three days. I will never be able to trust police again; I will never believe their lies again. "To Server and Protect"? Whom? What? Not the law abiding public and its democratic rights, that is certain. The rampant criminal violence by police I witnessed was intentionally directed towards innocent people exercising their alleged democratic right to demonstrate peacefully. During the course of just a few days democracy and freedoms in Canada were shown to be what they really are: An illusion. Through the actions of the police and those that would defend them, I have, we all have, forever been dis-illusioned.
It is critical that we demand an independent inquiry into the police actions during the G20 summit in Toronto ... and continue to demand it, loudly and tirelessly, until it is achieved.
In solidarity,
Bernard

Hi Geoffrey,
I am so sorry you were attacked.

The problem with any state is the civil servants that run it have as their primary goal self-preservation, thus those who run any state will sacrifice "citizens" to keep their power. Self-organized groups, which have no leader and no power granted by the state are scary to the state because they undermine its power.

By playing on Hobbes' fear-mongering on the necessity of the government to protect lives, though essentially states exist to protect wealth/property, governments sell themselves much like anyone running a protection "scam". Ordinary people have in fact on occasion done quite well when running things collectively, as "consensus" democrats.

Marina

Hello Matthew, Geoffrey and all others who witnessed or experienced police brutality,

Please please please consider filing a complaint against police aggression and violence wherever and however you experienced it, during the G20 weekend. (This includes intimidation and threats, amongst others.) The Canadian Civil Liberties Association (CCLA) is lodging a public complaint regarding the issue. In their own words:

"Public accountability is the reason I am writing you. The CCLA is lodging a public complaint regarding the conduct and policies of the Toronto Police Service and other Ontario police during the G20. The complaint is being filed with the Office of the Independent Police Review Director (OIPRD – www.oiprd.on.ca) – an independent, civilian body that is responsible for overseeing the investigation of complaints against Ontario police. There is strength in numbers! The more people who stand up and speak out about potential misconduct, the more likely our calls for accountability will be heard. That is why we are asking members of the public – like you – to join CCLA by filing their own individual police complaint alongside ours."

Goeffrey, your story is one of the nastier ones I've heard - please consider filing a complaint.

Matthew, what you experienced is also definitely worthy of a complaint. What that officer said to you probably constitutes verbal assault, threat of assault, or some such offence. I myself have filed a complaint as a third party witness to Geoffrey's assault. (I was part of the ride but came along only after Geoffrey had been taken into the garage. I stuck around until after he was taken away, and only after asking witnesses in the pub nearby did I find out some of what had happened.)

You can file your complaint directly to the OIPRD by filling out the form available at https://www.oiprd.on.ca/CMS/Complaints.aspx You can also send it through the CCLA at www.ccla.org.

Further info from the CCLA:

"You do not have to be a victim of police misconduct to file a complaint. The complaint can be about something that you saw happen to someone else or about a policy of the police more generally. You also do not need officers’ names or badge numbers. You do not have to meet with the officer who is the subject of the complaint if it would be traumatic or abusive for you. There is also no fee or cost involved.

We are asking for individuals to return their completed police complaint form to us by FRIDAY, JULY 16 as we intend to submit them on Monday, July 19. Your voice and your story are important. Public accountability is possible but only if we stand up and speak out. We hope you will join CCLA’s public police complaint! If you have any questions of concerns, please feel free to call or email me.

OTHER G20 ACTIVITIES:
Please consider signing the CCLA petition for an independent inquiry by emailing your name to g20petition@ccla.org It's a small thing but it can make a big difference."

Also consider signing Amnesty International’s petition requesting an independent inquiry into security measures and policies. It can be found at http://www.amnesty.ca/iwriteforjustice/take_action.php?act...

Let's do what we can to bring about some change in our policing system!

To justice, Paula