I arrived at the corner of Bank and MacLaren this afternoon as three police officers were trying to put an unconscious, handcuffed woman into the back of a van. She looked like a rag doll.
Then they changed their minds and laid her out on the sidewalk and sent for an ambulance. The female officer slid a piece of cardboard under her, so at least she wasn’t lying in the puddle.
I asked some other bystanders if they knew what had happened. Two men, who said they had witnessed the whole thing, told me that she had been walking down the street smoking a cigarette. A cruiser drove past, stopped, and an officer got out and approached her. She ran. The police caught her. She resisted. She was a tiny little thing, they said, but she put up a helluva fight. It took three officers to bring her down.
“And the big cop, he slammed her face-down into the sidewalk just like she was a huge man,” said one of the men.
Then, he said, they cuffed her and went to put her in the van. She was part-way in when suddenly she just collapsed. Unconscious. She was bleeding from the head. That’s roughly when I came along.
A woman said when she walked by, the young woman was unconscious, her face was grey, she was bleeding from her head, and her abdomen was rising and falling very rapidly, as if she were gasping for air. She thought maybe the police had tasered her.
“You can’t take pictures of this,” he said. His tone was aggressive.
I slid my camera back into its case.
“Okay,” I replied.
“Erase it,” he ordered me.
“I said ‘Erase it’!” he said, “I work undercover and I don’t want my picture anywhere.”
I really didn’t want to erase my picture. Not unless I had to. Besides, if he’s so concerned about keeping his undercover identity secret, he shouldn’t walk around in a police uniform.
“Do I have to?” I asked.
“I told you, I don’t want my picture anywhere.”
“Is it the law?” I asked.
“I asked you nicely,” he said, but he didn’t say it very nicely. It sounded threatening to me.
“Is it the law?” I repeated.
“I asked you nicely,” he said menacingly as he stared down at me, “Are you refusing?”
I looked at him. Maybe if we were in a dark alley with no witnesses, I would have deleted it. But here? In broad daylight, surrounded by witnesses, with a tiny, bleeding, unconscious, handcuffed woman lying on the street? He was probably in enough trouble already.
“Yes,” I said, “I’m refusing.”
“Real nice,” he said in disgust, “Thanks a lot.”
And he turned around and started to walk back to the knot of officers and the unconscious handcuffed woman.
“It’s still Canada,” said a young man in the crowd.
The cop wheeled around.
“You say something?” he demanded of the young man.
“Yeah,” he replied, “I said ‘It’s still Canada.'”
“What’s that supposed to mean?” demanded the cop.
“It means,” said the young man, “that we have rights here. She can take a picture of anything she wants and she doesn’t have to delete it just because you say so.”
“Oh yeah?” demanded the cop, “I told her I work undercover and I don’t want my picture anywhere, but she doesn’t care what happens to me.”
“Maybe she cares about what happens to that person lying unconscious on the sidewalk,” suggested the young man.
“You a lawyer?” demanded the cop, “Cause if you’re not a lawyer then mind your own business.”
Then, inexplicably, the cop said, “You own property? Eh? You own property? Cause I own property. That means I pay police tax. If you don’t own property, you don’t pay police tax!”
Then he wheeled around and stomped back to his cluster of officers and the unconscious woman who was being tended to by the paramedics.
The little crowd that had gathered, we all looked at each other and shook our heads. What does property tax have to do with anything? Quite apart from being wrong about only property owners paying property taxes, was he suggesting that only property-owners have the right to an opinion? That the police are only accountable to a certain class of citizen?
“What an ignorant bully,” said one woman.
“He gets his attitude from that holster,” said a man.