BY ANDREA HOUSTON – There was no shortage of shocking behaviour at Toronto City Hall on Tuesday night. The latest report comes from local queer activist Ashleigh, who is now speaking out against Toronto police, saying she was pepper sprayed, choked and punched in the chest while protesting the budget.
"I can still taste the pepper spray," says Ashleigh, who asked that only her first name be revealed. She was one of hundreds of protesters who tried to get into the building during the budget debates but were blocked by a long row of police standing behind barricades.
"I got punched in the chest around six times," she says. "Then he punched me in the face and knocked the lenses out of my glasses. The cop then grabbed the frames off my face and bent them in half for no reason other than to be a dick. At that moment another cop was choking me and holding my face while spraying pepper spray directly up my nose and in my mouth. Then I got pepper spray in both eyes and punched in the face like four more times.
"I wasn't even arrested. The people who got arrested got it a lot worse."
A video of her confrontation was recorded by Andrew Moran with Digital Journal. In the clip, Ashleigh can be seen being aggressively pushed by police at the 7:54 mark.
Volunteer medics with Occupy Toronto treated Ashleigh and others on scene.
Not surprisingly, Toronto police are denying any such confrontation occurred.
Stop The Cuts snapped an amazing Flickr gallery of the scene.
While City Hall was under siege outside, inside the building, leftwing and "mushy middle" councillors celebrated a victory over Rob Ford.
A slew of threatened cuts were taken off the table, including Community Partnership Investment Program (CPIP) community grants, which includes funding for HIV programs and drug prevention.
CPIP funds 42 AIDS-prevention projects, 38 community drug-prevention projects, 465 school communities (representing 685 student nutrition programs) as well as community festivals, like Pride Toronto, and special events.
The night belonged to rookie Josh Colle, who came out of obscurity with an omnibus motion that rescued $15 million worth of services.
The Grid's Edward Keenan summarizes the day nicely.
". . . reversing planned cuts to community centres in poor neighbourhoods, child-care centres, community-grant programs, leaf collection in the suburbs and the TTC, and saving from closure a series of pools, arenas and homeless shelters. The money to pay for this, he said, should be taken from the $154 million surplus from the 2011 budget, which the mayor and budget chief had insisted should go to paying down capital debt obligations coming due in a few years from the TTC. He described the motion as a “slight tweak” representing less than 0.2 per cent of the $9.4 billion operating budget, and he praised the hard work of Del Grande and Ford. But Team Ford did not accept this as a slight tweak. Its members threw a fit, one after another rising to rant at Colle."
The Toronto Star's David Rider explains the game plan here.
Not everything was saved; there are some bitter pills to swallow in the budget. The Toronto Public Library is still scaling back on staff and collections, and the TTC will still need to reduce service on three dozen bus routes.