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2010-06-28

Journalist Describes Being Beaten, Arrested by Canadian Police While Covering G20 Protest

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Among the hundreds of people arrested at the G20 protests in Toronto were a number of journalists. Jesse Rosenfeld is a freelance reporter who was on assignment for The Guardian newspaper of London. He is also a journalist with the Alternative Media Center. He was arrested and detained by Canadian police on Saturday evening covering a protest in front of the Novotel Hotel. [includes rush transcript]

Transcript

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to turn to a young journalist who was beaten and arrested. Among the hundreds of people arrested at the G20 protests in Toronto was Jesse Rosenfeld. He is a freelance reporter who was on assignment for The Guardian newspaper of London. He’s also a journalist with the Alternative Media Center. He was arrested and detained by Canadian police on Saturday evening covering a protest in front of the Novotel Hotel. We reached him just before this broadcast this morning. He was over at the CBC. And he described what happened to him.

    JESSE ROSENFELD: They started sending in snatch squads and declared a mass arrest. At that point, I went up to them, and I was with some other media and said, "What about the media?" Their first reaction was, "Well, media is also under arrest." And then the officer came up actually [inaudible], said, "If you had an official lanyard from the G8/G20 summit, then you’re actually going to be OK and you can go through."

    Now, it’s interesting, because I filed for my G8/G20 media accreditation on June 11th, back at the deadline, submitted both — you know, all my documentation, including a letter from The Guardian

    . And then, what happened was, while the summit kept saying, oh, yeah, yeah, yeah, I’m approved, they’re just waiting for the final approval of the RCMP background check before they can send me my lanyard or my official media photo ID, that it basically said it had to declare a background check. And that was basically used to prevent me from getting the media pass. So I only had an Alternative Media Center pass on me, which was the passes that the AMC, the Alternative Media Center, not the government, set up. Alternative Media Center had issued to all the independent journalists that were working with it.

    The police told me, "Oh, we don’t recognize these credentials." I explained to them that I was a journalist also with The Guardian, that I was writing for "Comment Is Free." I told them about my editors. I told them about my stories. And they said, "Well, we’ll check your credentials, and then, if it’s fine, we’ll let you go."

    At that point, I was sort of taken to the side, after a bunch of media had gotten through the police line, and an officer walked up to me, looked at my ID and said — my Alternative Media Center press pass, that is — and said, "This isn’t legitimate. You’re under arrest," at which point I was immediately jumped by two police officers. I had my notepads in my hands. Grabbed my arms, they yanked back. My notepad went flying. I was hit in the stomach by one officer as I was held by two others. As I was going over, I was then hit in the back and went down. After I went down and as I went down, I smacked my leg. I had officers jump on top of me. I was being hit in the back. My face was being pushed to the concrete. All the time I’m saying, "I’m not resisting arrest. I’m a journalist. Why are you beating me?" My leg was lifted up, and my ankle was twisted, from while I was on the ground not resisting. And at that point, after I started saying these things, the police then started saying, "Stop resisting arrest," as if to try and provide cover for themselves.

    Something interesting about when I was jumped, as well, is, just a minute or so after, two other officers had passed by, and they identified me as someone who is, quote-unquote, "a mouthy kid." Basically, I had run into them at demonstrations previously in the week and basically been asking tough questions on the front of the riot line as they were either clashing with media, which they did quite violently through the week, or beating protesters. And so, they had identified me as someone who was challenging them publicly and on the record. And it was at that point that I was jumped by the other officers, you know, and beaten and arrested.

    We were then hauled off to jail. I spent — I guess I was arrested at around 10:00, 11:30 in the evening, and I didn’t get out of jail 'til 5:00 or 6:00 the next afternoon. And that was basically on — we weren't charged. We were held on the — we were detained on the grounds of, quote-unquote, "breach of peace," which is not a criminal offense. And the conditions in jail — I mean, I’ve been working from the Middle East as a journalist for the past three years or so, since 2007, and the jails actually remind me a lot more of the ones I’ve seen that Israelis hold for Palestinians or the Palestinian Authority holds. We were in handcuffs, or at least I was in handcuffs ’til nearly 5:00 in the morning, while being processed in different cells and waiting to be processed and in cells of over — overcrowded cells with over twenty people, with a porta-potty, very limited access to water. Then, after I was processed, I was moved to a five-foot-by-eight-foot cell, where there were five other people with me. And there was benches, no washroom, only a concrete floor. And the room was absolutely freezing, not even enough space for us to lie down and sleep all at the same time. It was incredibly difficult to sleep because it was so cold. A lot of the people I was in jail with had been beaten, and beaten quite badly — black eyes, bloody noses, and been hit all over. And also, a lot of the people from — there were several people from the Alternative Media Center who had been taken in for just doing their job, which was reporting from the front lines.


AMY GOODMAN: That was Jesse Rosenfeld, freelance reporter on assignment with The Guardian newspaper in London. He was also a journalist with the Alternative Media Center, arrested and detained by the Canadian police on Saturday evening.

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