About a year ago, Courtney Winkels blew some bubbles. Ten minutes later, she found herself trapped between lines of police in riot gear. Officers grabbed her, threw her against a brick wall, and arrested her.
She spent the next 50 hours in captivity, she said. She was finally charged with conspiracy to commit an indictable offence. At her first and only court date last August, her charge was thrown out.
Ms. Winkels has had some time to think about what happened. Now the 21-year-old woman, whose peaceful act at Toronto's G20 protests made an Internet sensation out of "Officer Bubbles," has filed a lawsuit against the Toronto Police Services Board for $100,000.
She's claiming damages for false arrest, false imprisonment, assault and battery, as well as breach of Charter rights. The police services board is named as the defendant in the claim as the employer of all officers in the Toronto Police Services.
It's been almost a year since protests rocked Toronto's streets during the G20 summit, ultimately leading to the largest mass arrest in Canadian history. Ms. Winkels, from Caledon, was in town the weekend to act as a trained street medic during the protests. She told reporters on Thursday that she felt police actions that weekend were "absolutely unacceptable. There needs to be police accountability, and civilians, people that were there need to step forward and make sure that justice is served."
The subject matter is familiar territory for her lawyer, Davin Charney, the founder of the Centre for Police Accountability. He called the police force hypocritical for asking the public to come forward with evidence against Black Bloc protesters without holding to account the "Blue Bloc" of police officers who violated the law while corralling crowds during the G20 weekend's protests.
While two police officers have since been charged for their actions, Mr. Charney said the lawsuit aims to call on the senior leadership of the force for executing the orders that led to so many citizens' arrests.
"Let's not be satisfied with scapegoating of two police officers - foot soldiers, when the generals who gave the orders are getting off scot-free."
Ms. Winkels said she wasn't even aware she was being filmed when she blew bubbles at Constable Adam Josephs, who threatened her with arrest if one touched him. The video went viral, and Constable Josephs would later himself launch a lawsuit against YouTube and a number of the website's users for defamation over a series of cartoons that contained a person with his likeness.
"I thought [the original video]was kind of neat," Ms. Winkels said; she called the video "a very good way to see some of the ridiculousness of some of the police actions that weekend."
Mr. Charney is also representing a second plaintiff, Jason Wall, in a separate case in small claims court. Mr. Wall is requesting $25,000 for G20-related damages. Both claims were filed on Thursday.
The Toronto Police Services Board declined to comment because of the ongoing nature of the claims.