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Toronto police board hit with $1.4-million lawsuit over G20 arrests

Lawyer Davin Charney looks on as his clients, sisters Alicia and Devon Ridge and Brian Jeffrey serve papers regarding their 1.4-million dollar claim against the Toronto Police Services Board to representative, Board Administrator Deirdre Williams at Toronto Police Headquarters in Toronto, July 31, 2012, alleging illegal G20 arrest.

Deborah Baic/The Globe and Mail)

The Toronto Police Services Board is facing a $1.4-million lawsuit that accuses the force of making false arrests outside a Toronto pizzeria during the 2010 G20 summit.

The case is part of a wave of litigation that followed the summit, including a class-action lawsuit.

The latest suit, filed just prior to the two-year limitation period at the end of June, 2012, seeks $1.4-million for seven Hamilton-area plaintiffs, arrested outside an Amato Pizza on June 27, 2010. Three of the plaintiffs – Alicia Ridge, Devon Ridge and Brian Jeffrey – delivered the statement of claim to a police services board representative in front of a wall of cameras at police headquarters Wednesday morning.

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The statement alleges, among other things, false arrest, false imprisonment, and sexual assault. None of the allegations has been proven in court.

Speaking at a news conference alongside the plaintiffs, lawyer Davin Charney accused the Toronto Police of using a profile, created by senior officers, to target protesters during the G20.

Mr. Charney said the police unfairly targeted people carrying backpacks, wearing black clothing, or speaking French.

"My clients fit into that profile to some extent," he said.

Dhun Noria, acting chair of the Toronto Police Services Board, declined to comment because the matter is before the courts.

Plaintiff Brian Jeffrey acknowledged that he was in Toronto to protest the summit, but did not offer specifics.

"I'm not going to speak particularly to what I was doing in the streets or whatever but I was just there to show support and solidarity with people that were there that day," Mr. Jeffrey said.

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Alicia Ridge is listed as one of the contributors to a statement on from the Toronto Street Medics, a volunteer organization that provided first-aid to protesters during the G20.

A 2010 Hamilton Spectator article quotes a Devon Ridge as a spokesperson for a group of protesters who demonstrated at an appearance by journalist Christie Blatchford, who was speaking about the Caledonia crisis.

The claim says police approached the plaintiffs as they were leaving Amato Pizza on Yonge Street near College. The plaintiffs were held at the Eastern Avenue detention centre following their arrest.

The claim also says that four female plaintiffs were searched by male officers, despite the presence of female officers, and alleges that one officer sexually assaulted Alicia Ridge. Ms. Ridge characterized her search by a police officer as "a fairly pathetic rendition of a search, in that it was just quick run of a hand up a leg, followed by a swift ass grab."

A report on the incident from the Office of the Independent Police Review Director rejected a claim by Alicia Ridge that police had committed an "unlawful or unnecessary exercise of authority" during the search.

The OIPRD report noted that searches of suspects should be conducted by officers of the same sex, "unless circumstances make it impractical to do so."

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It added that given the ratio of male officers and female suspects, "it would not be unreasonable for a male police officer to ' pat down or frisk' a female prisoner prior to a proper search being done by a female officer."

According to the OIPRD report, the male officer asked a female colleague to perform the search.

The report concluded that one Toronto Police officer committed discreditable conduct when allegedly telling the plaintiffs, "Shave your legs, you dykes."

Mr. Charney cautioned against devoting too much attention to this allegation, saying, "Clearly and unequivocally, this claim is not about 'hairy legs.'"

"This claim is about orders from the most senior Toronto Police Service officers, from the chief, from other officers, to take back the streets."

An OIPRD report released earlier this year stated that following acts of vandalism on the first day of the summit, police were told to "take back the streets."

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