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How peaceful protest led to a class-action suit Add to ...

The woman who launched a class action lawsuit on behalf of the hundreds of people boxed in by police during the final night of G20 protests in Toronto says she is now "completely paranoid" about police, and she wants accountability.

Sherry Good, 51, is an administrative assistant who lives in downtown Toronto. In an interview two weeks ago, she told The Globe and Mail that during the G20 weekend, she decided to join the demonstrations "because I didn't think they had a right to tell me I couldn't go out and protest. I didn't think they had a right to scare people away."

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But after the events of Sunday, June 27, Ms. Good suffered panic attacks and missed work. That evening, police detained approximately 250 people at the intersection of Queen Street and Spadina Avenue, in a controversial tactic known as "kettling," as a severe, road-flooding thunderstorm poured down on the non-violent crowd. "It's so not like something I would expect to happen in my city," Ms. Good said. "I don't believe that human beings can do the kind of things they did to other human beings that weekend."

On Friday, Ms. Good and her lawyers announced they would be launching an $45-million class-action lawsuit against Toronto Police Services Board and the Attorney-General of Canada to seek damages for what occurred that night. Lawyers Murray Klippenstein and Eric Gillespie say the suit covers 800 individuals who were arrested that weekend, but never charged. Toronto police refused to comment on the lawsuit.

Witnesses say the police never gave the peaceful crowd a warning to disperse before squeezing all of them into a small space and arresting them one by one. A long-range acoustic device was brought to the intersection, but wasn't used. Many report that bystanders, shoppers, and tourists were kettled along with the demonstrators.

Police say that officers saw black-masked demonstrators, like the ones who trashed stores the day before, blending into the crowd. They also said the group was given numerous warnings to leave. Police Chief Bill Blair eventually made the decision to release the entire group without charges.

Ms. Good's story began on Saturday of the G20 weekend, when she and a 59-year-old friend joined the labour groups at Queen's Park before the 25,000-strong demonstration began marching southward. She had protested before, including against the first Gulf War, but not for 15 or 20 years, she said. "I'm not with any group, never was with any group," Ms. Good said.

When the march reached the intersection of Queen Street and Spadina Avenue on Saturday, she said she saw the Black Bloc anarchists who later caused extensive damage to Toronto's downtown core, but "had no clue who they were." At one point, she picked some golf balls off the ground and put them in her friend's backpack so they couldn't be used to hurt anybody. Protesters had thrown golf balls at police that day.

She and her friend left the protest and went down to the security fence, where they spoke amicably with police, who she says weren't wearing proper identification. Then they went home, and were surprised to see pictures of the damage to the city caused by black-clad rioters.

The next day, she and her friend left for downtown at 2 p.m. Near Queen and Bay Streets, a van pulled up beside them and 15 or 20 police officers piled out, Ms. Good remembered. They searched her and her friend's bags, and wanted to know why they were carrying the golf balls Ms. Good had picked up the day before. One officer mentioned he recognized her from the security fence. She said he told her she had a "big mouth." Her friend, who was wearing a black t-shirt, said he was searched roughly and his iPhone was damaged to the point that he couldn't turn it on.

Ms. Good said she thought, "this is ridiculous, I'm over 50 years old, he's almost 60, we're not troublemakers." The pair were rattled, and after the police released them they decided to go get a beer at the Java House on Queen Street just west of Spadina Avenue. Then they decided to go home, and began walking east on Queen Street.

Minutes later they encountered a group of walkers and cyclists moving west, an informal protest that had evolved out of a bicycle rally earlier in the day. Ms. Good said police were herding everyone westward, so she joined the group going back towards where she had come from. She said the crowd was very peaceful. "I was there, I saw no black masks," she said.

When she found herself at Queen and Spadina again, the southern and western routes were hemmed off by Toronto police on bicycles. Soon, riot police had the group surrounded on all four sides. She looked north and saw police weren't letting anyone through.

By 6:20 p.m., she and a few hundred other people had been tightly squeezed into the "kettle." It began pouring rain just after 6:30 p.m. The thunderstorm that night washed out parts of two highways and flooded a subway station. Police pulled some people out of the crowd to be arrested; others volunteered their arrest in the hopes of being taken somewhere warmer. Ms. Good and her companion took shelter underneath the umbrella of a friendly fellow detainee.

Close to 10 p.m., police told everyone they were being released without charges. "I was completely dazed ... I just wanted to get home," Ms. Good said.

The next day, she missed work. The day after that, she said she suffered from the first panic attack in her life while waiting in a subway station. Now, "I'm completely paranoid of the police, I'm afraid of them," she said.

Ms. Good said Friday's class-action lawsuit announcement was "scary," because she's never been involved with anything like this before.

"I'm hoping for accountability ... from those who were in charge," she said.

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