Three men who encouraged others to damage property during the Toronto G20 summit used the courtroom as a soapbox Monday before being led off in handcuffs.
Erik Lankin, Adam Lewis and Peter Hopperton were each sentenced to less than a year for counselling others to commit mischief during the 2010 world leaders’ conference, where peaceful protests were overshadowed by a small group of Black Bloc vandals who smashed store windows and torched police cars in the downtown core. The three men, who did not participate in the riots, were among six G20 accused to plead guilty last week in a deal that saw charges dropped against 11 others.
Justice Lloyd Budzinski rejected the group’s contention that they were victims of a political prosecution.
“The morality or beliefs of these people are not what is being punished here,” Judge Budzinski told the court, packed with friends and family members of the three accused.
“[You] placed your beliefs above the safety and rights of others… Your conduct is serious. Custody is necessary to reflect the gravity of your actions.”
Crown attorney Jason Miller said it was their “chosen means,” and not the underlying values, that brought the three accused to this point. Their actions “caused harm to the freedom of expression rights of all lawful and peaceful protesters,” Mr. Miller said.
Lankin was sentenced to five-and-a-half months in prison, Lewis to four months and Hopperton to nine months, but each will see weeks of that time shaved off to account for pretrial custody and restrictive bail conditions. The sentences came after joint submissions from the Crown and defence.
All 17 members of the G20 group initially faced conspiracy charges after undercover police infiltrated “anarchist groups” planning protest actions associated with the G20. Audiotape evidence from one of those meetings reveals a discussion about staging a riot and using groups of peaceful protesters “as cover.”
Lankin, Lewis and Hopperton were each given a chance to address the court before Judge Budzinski passed sentence.
In a brief manifesto supporters later posted online, Hopperton — who co-wrote a 2010 memo urging G20 protesters to become “uncontrollable” in the streets — compared his group’s struggle against societal injustice to the Arab Spring and the worldwide Occupy movements. The G20 memo was not simply a “call to chaos and destruction,” he said.
“The larger significance of this feeling is more in line with the question posed by the freedom fighters of Tahrir Square…. Once we have taken back this space, how do we go about creating freedom?” Hopperton said. He went on to criticize the “manufactured budget crisis” at City Hall and his own “deeply political” prosecution, while Lewis in turn lambasted the G20 as “a day of massive repression by various police and security forces.”
“Apparently daring to dream is a dangerous affair,” Lewis told the court, noting despite his guilty plea: “I still do not believe that organizing to create something better in a world rife with injustice should be any crime at all.”
When Lankin was called on, he deliberately turned his back to the judge and began praising the large group of supporters who packed the room. Citing courtroom decorum, however, Judge Budzinski cut the display short.
“This is not a drama,” he said. Of more than 1,000 people arrested during the G20, 330 were charged with various offences, but more than half of those charges have been stayed, withdrawn or dismissed. Updated numbers on convictions will be released next month, the Ministry of the Attorney-General said.