Both UTSU and the GSU are asserting that U of T administration knew more about the events on campus surrounding the G20 than they are letting on.
Adam Awad, president of UTSU, claims that the administration was informed of police plans to push protestors out of the designated protest site at Queen’s Park North, which they estimated would be filled with more than 50,000 people, a number well beyond its physical capacity.
UTSU requested a meeting with provost Cheryl Misak following the announcement that the U of T campus would close for the G20 Summit. At the June 15 meeting, attended by Misak and vice-provost, academic Cheryl Regehr, union members were informed that the campus would be used as a spill-over zone by police during the Queen’s Park protests.
“We found this information to be troubling,” said Awad. “After seeing how this weekend played out […] many of us are questioning if this [was] a planned use of force by police, of which the University’s administration seemed fully aware.”
Awad is unsure as to why the administration did not announce the diversion plans to students and thinks they should have opposed the police’s plans entirely. He adds that even campus closure notices were received by students more through the mainstream media than through the university itself.
Campus police administration were aware of billeted protestors. Anton Neschadim, a GSU executive member and spokesperson stated that U of T administration not only knew of the protestors billeted by the GSU, but that top Campus Police administrators were also notified.
In the early hours of June 27, the Integrated Security Unit raided the GSU building on Bancroft Avenue following what Neschadim claims was an anonymous tip. Executing a very general search warrant, the 70 inhabitants of the building were arrested on the purported grounds of “unlawful assembly.”
The arrest included two GSU executives, Daniel Vandervoort, GSU vice-president External, and a member whose name is currently not being released. They were let go after 48 hours in the detention centre, allegedly suffering ill-treatment in “horrible” conditions.
Though unsure of the specific people being billeted, Neschadim says they included individuals from student movements or those who came through the Toronto Community Mobilization Network.
“Supervision and security arrangements were made for everyone to be accommodated safely, with GSU exec members present on site at all times assisted by volunteers,” he says. Every person present signed a liability waiver and was instructed on appropriate behaviour.
Neschadim claims that while police stated they found “weapons of opportunity,” no weapons were present. Police confiscated items ranging from “containers with vinegar to sticks and black articles of clothing.” These, he says, are items present at the GSU at any given time. He adds that it is unclear whether the items were found inside the GSU, on anyone’s person, or outside the building.
Police have still not volunteered information to the administration or to union members regarding the raid. The GSU will soon hold a meeting with the administration to allow Vandervoort and his co-arrested to provide what they claim will be a more accurate account of the events.
“We are not being blamed for billeting out-of-town individuals, but will review our processes and will work closer with the administration in the future,” says Neschadim.
Despite events over the weekend, Awad claims that damage to University property goes only so far as the raid conducted by police on the GSU building.
The university administration has refused to offer any comment beyond a recently released statement in which they applauded their ability to “ensure that essential services and research activities could continue.” They also cited an incident in which senior administrators personally intervened to avoid ISU entry into the UTSU building. No details were given. While the names of all individuals arrested at the GSU are unknown, stories by or about some have surfaced.
Two members of the UBC Okanagan Student’s Union, services coordinator Grayson Lepp and director-at-large Kirk Chavarie, were held for more than 30 hours before being released, according to VernonBlog.
Québec Solidaire representative Emilie Guimond- Bélanger was detained for 60 hours and decried the conditions she and other individuals were held under.
Student unions and campus organizations have condemned the raids and police violence in a public statement.