Update: see previous posts – December 10, 2011 McGuinty to Declare the1939 Public Works Protection Act Null & Void in the New Year, November 23, 2011 11 G20 Defendants Set Free, November 3, 2011 G20 – Chair of Toronto Police Services Board concerned about G20 Photo’s (June, 2010), October 27, 2011 G20 Arrest for Weapons Charge Results in Acquittal, October 5, 2011 G20 Review by Toronto Police Services Board is Expected to Conclude by March, 2012, August 12, 2011 Toronto Deputy Police Chief Tony Warr Defends Actions of Police During G20 (June, 2010), July 29, 2011 Judge Rules that Man Arrested at G20 Should Have Been Provided Counsel, July 23, 2011 Twenty One (21) Month Sentence for Man Who Set G20 Police Vehicle Ablaze, July 22, 2011 G20 Investigator Wants Law to Ban Disguises After 17 Suspects Unidentified, July 21, 2011 Toronto Police Chief Blair’s Report on the G20 is Deferred, June 25, 2011 G20 Summit Toronto – First Anniversary (June 26 & 27, 2011), June 18, 2011 Harper Falls Short on Toronto Businesses’ G20 Claims, June 10, 2011 G20 – Final Public Hearing for the Toronto Police’s Civilian Review, June 10, 2011 G20 – Another Arrest, June 7, 2011 G20 Update – Who Assaulted Adam? Nooobody!, June 1, 2011 Ottawa Police Enjoy Their Share of the G20 Money Pie, McGuinty to Scrap the Secret G20 Law (1939 Public Works Protection Act), March 31, 2011 The “G20 Bump” Translates into a 60% Increase of Toronto Police Making the 2010 Sunshine List, March 19, 2011 Harper Screws Toronto’s Businesses, March 18, 2011 New G20 Lawsuits Launched Against Toronto Police Board, December 7, 2010 Ontario Umbudsman André Marin Delivers Report on G20 “Caught in the Act”, August 8, 2010 G20 Litigation, August 1, 2010 Damage$ Flowing from Charter Breaches
In the months after the G20 riot in Toronto, prosecutors portrayed the incident as organized mayhem, directed by a handful of activists. As proof, they described a planning meeting where participants discussed breaking off from a labour march and starting a smashing rampage, a scenario similar to the one that ultimately played out on the streets.
But Leah Henderson says this narrative is wrong. In an interview before beginning a 10-month prison term Tuesday, the anti-G20 anarchist organizer contended the disorder on the streets started spontaneously. She said her group, the Southern Ontario Anarchist Resistance (SOAR), never even planned to attack the G20 security fence.
“If you look at who was on the streets on [the principal day of protest], it wasn’t SOAR members,” the 27-year-old said. “There was the black bloc, and in front of the black bloc were unmasked organizers in Toronto that were reading the streets, they were reading what police were doing, and they took a moment that they saw.”
Ms. Henderson, who holds a paralegal licence and has no criminal record, has been involved in various political causes, including opposing the Vancouver Olympics. She played a major role in co-ordinating logistics for G20 protests, including helping to find a meeting space in downtown Toronto for activists to use during the summit.
In that capacity, she developed a friendship with one of the undercover officers, Constable Bindo Showan, who helped arrange deliveries of samosas to feed protesters and designed a wheelchair ramp for the meeting space, she said. He shared her love of food, and they often went for goat roti after planning meetings. The officer also attended her house-warming party.
In pre-trail hearings, prosecutors laid out details of what they alleged was a wide-ranging plan to create chaos on the streets. Activists had compiled a list of corporate offices for protesters to vandalize and talked about how to disarm police officers. At times, they had even spoken in code, the crown alleged: a conversation about “cupcakes,” for instance, was really about Molotov cocktails.
Last month, the 17 remaining defendants reached a deal with prosecutors. Six agreed to prison time on reduced charges and 11 others walked free. Ms. Henderson pleaded guilty to encouraging people to break windows in the run-up to the summit.
On Tuesday, her supporters packed the courtroom, interjecting regularly and jumping to their feet to chant her name. On two occasions, Justice Lloyd Budzinski intervened to demand quiet.
Crown attorney Jason Miller told court that incarceration was necessary to deter others from vandalism.
“The actions of Ms. Henderson and others caused harm to the rights to free expression of lawful protesters, whose message will be forever forgotten,” he said. “She has a degree of maturity that is beyond that of the others we have dealt with. This cuts both ways: Ms. Henderson ought to have known better.”
Before she was led away in handcuffs, Ms. Henderson delivered a statement, which she closed by arguing the evidence against her had been taken out of context: “Sometimes a cupcake is just a cupcake.”