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Press Release

PSAC condemns police brutality at G20 summits - Mass arrests, detentions and abuses of power are an affront to democracy

Canada NewsWire

OTTAWA, June 30 /CNW Telbec/ - The Public Service Alliance of Canada condemns the mass arrests of peaceful protestors in Toronto at the G20 demonstrations this weekend and joins the growing cry for a public inquiry into police actions.

PSAC members were among 25,000 people who protested against the G20 on Saturday, June 26. But despite a largely peaceful convergence, more than 900 people were arrested over the weekend, in an alleged attempt to apprehend the small group of people responsible for acts of vandalism.

While PSAC remains committed to non-violent, peaceful protest, the union is joining the thousands of Canadians who are critically concerned about the vicious and disproportionate nature of the police presence in Toronto on Saturday and Sunday.

As reports from both mainstream and citizen journalists have revealed, police officers caged in peaceful protestors, charged at them with horses and shot rubber bullets in their direction. This includes people who gathered at the makeshift jail on Eastern Avenue on Sunday morning to find out where their loved ones had been taken.

As people are being released from prison, the stories they are telling are chilling. This includes young people who were arrested for merely crossing the street, and journalists whose credentials were not respected. First-hand accounts describe inhumane conditions in prison - including alleged strip searches, threats of violence, sexual assaults, denial of food and water and limited access to medication and medical care.

In the days leading up to the summit, it was revealed that the Ontario government had secretly passed a law, expanding police powers to search and arrest people who stood within five metres of the security fence. Yesterday, the Ontario government and Toronto Police Chief Bill Blair admitted that they had lied and that no such law had actually been enacted.

"As union members, we are seriously concerned about the erosion of civil liberties in Toronto this weekend," said John Gordon, PSAC National President. "Freedom of expression and the right to gather peacefully are guaranteed in the Charter of Rights. People should not have to fear the police officers who were supposed to protect them," he said.

Both Amnesty International and the Canadian Civil Liberties Association have denounced police violence at the G20. PSAC joins them in demanding that the Toronto Police, and the Harper and McGuinty governments be held to account for the abuses of police power that took place over the weekend.

PSAC represents more than 172,000 members across Canada, including 130,000 federal public sector workers. In addition to condemning police brutality at the summit, the union is speaking out against the so-called "austerity" measures proposed by the G20.

"We have already seen the impact of this kind of political strategy here in Canada. Jobs are being cut at Canada Post, the Canadian Human Rights Commission, the National Gallery and Citizenship and Immigration Canada, among others," said Gordon.

"This is having a harmful effect on small communities such as Antigonish and in areas that rely on public sector employment, such as the Ottawa/Gatineau region. Communities rely on people with decent jobs to support local businesses and contribute to the tax base," he said. "The G20 and the Harper government are headed in the wrong direction."

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