activist defense

on the intersection of activism and legal systems

Tag: group of twenty

one year after his arrest by federal marshals, joel bitar is sentenced to twenty months in jail

In October 2012, Canadian authorities requested Joel Bitar’s extradition from the U.S. for his alleged involvement in property destruction during the June 2010 G20 protests in Toronto. On February 14, 2013, federal marshals arrested Bitar in New York. Six days after his arrest, he was released from custody on $500,000 bail and transferred to house arrest, on the condition that he wear an electronic monitoring device.

On April 16, Bitar surrendered to Toronto police. Today Bitar, who had no prior criminal record, was sentenced to 20 months in jail. He admitted joining the black bloc and shattering the rear window of a squad car during the G20 protests, but said he didn’t know at the time that there was an officer inside. According to a Toronto Sun article,

Bitar said he was a university student in New York majoring in economics and planning to became a Wall St. tycoon when major events changed his goals. When the large-scale perpetrators of the global financial crisis received federal bailouts while “millions lost their homes,” Bitar said he became an activist for economic reform.

Another G20 protester, Kevin Chianella, was also sentenced today. He received two years in prison. There’s only one remaining 2010 G20 protester from the U.S. whose criminal case has yet to resolve.

activist who revealed psuedonym of undercover officer could face up to six months in jail

Julian Ichim was one of the first people arrested during the June 2010 G20 protests in Toronto, for allegedly masterminding the riots that overtook downtown. The charges against him were dropped fewer than six months later. Yet Ichim was charged again after he violated a “publication ban” by revealing the alias of undercover officer Bindo Showan, who infiltrated activist groups and testified against alleged G20 conspirators.

The maximum punishment for violating a publication ban is six months in jail. But the Crown charged Ichim with violating a court order, a violation carrying a maximum punishment of two years. Yesterday Ontario Superior Court Justice Michael Quigley ruled that the Crown could only charge Ichim with the lesser offense carrying the potential six month sentence.

As a person affiliated with the G20 protests, Ichim contended that he was being prosecuted for political reasons. He is currently suing law enforcement related to infiltration, excessive force, and jail conditions surrounding the G20. According to yesterday’s Toronto Star article,

Ichim is … pursuing a $4-million lawsuit against the undercover officer, the province and the Toronto police force. He alleges that Showan, who he once considered a good friend, crossed a legal line by encouraging criminal acts and driving drunk ahead of the G20 summit. The notice of claim also alleges Ichim was beaten by Toronto police and underwent “cruel and unusual treatment” in the G20 temporary jail.

london police apologize for death of homeless newspaper salesman at g20 protest

During a 2009 G20 protest in London, officer Simon Harwood hit homeless newspaper salesman Ian Tomlinson from behind as Tomlinson walked away from police lines. Harwood struck Tomlinson with a baton and pushed him to the ground. Tomlinson collapsed fewer than three minutes later, dying shortly afterward.

A jury examined the incident to determine the cause of Tomlinson’s death. On May 3, 2011, the jury concluded beyond a reasonable doubt that Harwood unlawfully killed Tomlinson. Yet on July 19, 2012, a subsequent jury, in Harwood’s manslaughter trial, found the officer not guilty. Regardless, Harwood was later fired after a police disciplinary panel ruled that his actions constituted gross misconduct.

Following the not guilty verdict last year, Tomlinson’s family initiated a civil case. Yesterday the London police finally apologized to Tomlinson’s family, more than four years after he died. The apology is apparently part of an out-of-court settlement.

joel bitar surrenders to toronto police to face charges related to g20 protests

On February 14, federal marshals arrested activist Joel Bitar in New York. Canadian authorities had requested Bitar’s extradition in October 2012 for his alleged involvement in property destruction during the June 2010 G20 protests in Toronto. According to today’s National Post article,

The G20 riots in June 2010 — defined by images of burning police cars and black-clad protesters smashing store windows — triggered the largest mass arrest in Canadian history and an ensuing wave of civil-rights complaints.

Although Bitar was arrested in Toronto in June 2010, he was released without charges. Six days after his arrest this February, Bitar was released from custody on $500,000 bail and transferred to house arrest, on the condition that he wear an electronic monitoring device. Today he returned to Canada voluntarily and surrendered to Toronto police.

On February 21, federal marshals arrested another U.S. activist, Dane Rossman, for allegedly committing crimes during the G20 protests. (Bitar and Rossman are two of five activists Canadian authorities sought to have extradited to face such charges.) Unlike Bitar, Rossman was denied bail. His extradition hearing was scheduled for today.

police officer acquitted of killing homeless newspaper salesman during 2009 g20 protests

As Ian Tomlinson walked away from police lines during a 2009 G20 protest in London, officer Simon Harwood struck him from behind with a baton and pushed him to the ground. Tomlinson collapsed fewer than three minutes later. A medical student, Lucy Apps, tried to save his life, but he died shortly afterward. He was 47 years old.

A pathologist named Freddy Patel said Tomlinson died from heart failure, but medical authorities have suspended Patel twice due to mistakes he made in other postmortem investigations. Three other pathologists said Tomlinson died from internal bleeding consistent with being shoved to the ground. Today, after four days of deliberations, a jury found Harwood not guilty of manslaughter. The jury was not told about Patel’s prior suspensions.

A previous jury, which examined the incident to determine the cause of death, concluded beyond a reasonable doubt that Harwood unlawfully killed Tomlinson. (Neither jury would have had incontrovertible evidence of Harwood’s brutality had it not been captured on video by a New York resident in London for business.) Tomlinson’s family plans to initiate a civil case.

As police at demonstrations often run amok, endangering protesters and bystanders alike, activists repeatedly see how difficult it is to hold officers accountable. On a Friday afternoon eleven years ago tomorrow, for example, police shot and drove over anti-globalization protester Carlo Giuliani in Genoa, killing him. An Italian court dismissed the case against the officer who shot Giuliani in the head, however, finding the officer acted in self-defense because Giuliani was preparing to throw a fire extinguisher at a trapped police van.