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Surrounded Part 4 of 6: Inside Eastern Avenue detention center, property bags and panic attacks

Posted on | November 15, 2010 | 1 Comment

jonahhundert4 Surrounded Part 4 of 6: Inside Eastern Avenue detention center, property bags and panic attacks

Photograph of Jonah Hundert by John Packman for Colony of Losers

After a half hour of keeping his hands on his head, Jonah Hundert is talking to an extremely polite police officer.

“You realize that you are being arrested under charges of breaching the peace, Jonah,” says the officer, affectionately known by the name “Sergeant” despite the fact this isn’t his rank.

“No, you are breaching the law right now,” replies Jonah. “The police said the protest was okay. Then you told us we had to go and surrounded us and arrested us after saying we could leave.”

“I see how you could feel that way,” replies Sergeant, looking genuinely concerned. “We’ll try to make this as easy as we can.”  He continues to fill out his form.  Turns to another police officer. “Do you have a property bag for his things?”

“Not enough, Sergeant.”  The other police officer passes Sergeant a property bag and begins to carefully put Jonah’s possessions into it. Jonah mentions that he had $20 in his pocket. Sergeant frantically looks for the missing money, as though worried someone would accuse him of stealing it.

Jonah feels slightly uncomfortable watching the police officer tear his way through the property bag.

“It’s okay,” says Jonah. “I probably left it in my other pants.”

“Let’s get the forms filled out and see if we can move this along.”

“We aren’t filling forms out on these ones,” says another police officer.

“Oh,” says Sergeant, looking down at his half completed form with a frown.

Sergeant puts zip ties around Jonah’s wrists and ties his hands behind his back.  He leads him into the back of a transport truck.

Suddenly he is in a truck with 15 other people he can’t see. That’s because there is a thick line of Plexiglas running through the center of the truck, metal on either side of Jonah and metal behind him.  He can hear another protester from Quebec trying to start a sing-a-long, but he is singing obscure punk music in a raspy out of tune voice that Jonah can’t really understand.  More than anything else he can hear the police asking each other for more property bags.

He tries to count how many times he hears the phrase property bag and loses count.  A half hour passes in transit, which seems odd as they were arrested directly in front of Toronto Film Studios .  The truck travels a short distance, then stops and an intense air-conditioning system turns on. The air dries out and then the air-conditioner shuts off and the truck becomes unbearably hot.

Jonah’s long brown hair is itching against his face and there is nothing he can do about it. Besides try to not think about it. Which isn’t working. He suspects he looks somewhat like Cousin It.

“Whose transport trucks?” shouts a detainee. “Our transport trucks,” replies the rest of the truck.

The door opens just a little bit and Jonah can see bottles of water lying in huge stacks by the doors. Thirst replaces the desire to get his hair off his face.

“Can you get us some water?” he asks, determined to keep dignity in his voice. “Everyone is really thirsty. I’m worried people are going to get dehydrated.”

“I’ll see what I can do.”

The cop walks past the stack of water bottles without looking back.

Jonah takes his first steps inside the makeshift jail at Toronto Film Studios. Cries emerge from the cells, frantic demands to see lawyers, be fed and receive water.  People are shouting that they have been their for eight and twelve hours already.

Now he is no longer dealing with cops, just the security officers who normally man metal detectors in government buildings.

Security guards step forward and uncuff Jonah’s arms, which have been locked behind his back. They re-cuff him with the twist ties in the front this time. It is slightly more comfortable. Now he can get the hair out of his face.

He sees a trailer where he assumes interviews with detectives will take place. There are also several cages lining one side of the room.  Three are packed with men, one with women.

Security guards in their vests pull him into a cage with six of the guys he was arrested with and 20 strangers. The cages are basically metal fences with a neon orange port-a-potty inside. At this point there is no panic, just irritation.

One of the men in his cage is a TTC driver who has no connection with the G20. His name is Benjamin Elroy Yau and, despite being in his uniform and having his TTC identification, he was tackled by police and taken into detention. He doesn’t know why and Jonah can’t figure it out except for the fact that he isn’t white and has spiky hair. He has been in detention for twelve hours already.

The next few hours pass slowly. At some point squashed cheese buns, filled with processed cheese and slathered with far too much margarine, are passed out. Despite his hunger, Jonah has difficulty finishing it.

Thirsty is now a much bigger problem than hungry was.

Apparently, bottles are considered a security risk. The detainees are given small Styrofoam cups slightly larger than shot glasses. Every now and then one of the guards brings a pitcher and dribbles a few drops into the inmates’ cups.

There are more important things on the security officer’s agenda right now.

“You see where that property bag went?”

Security officials have suddenly realized they haven’t properly labeled the property bags. They call out names, show a property bag, sometimes calling names that don’t belong to the bag and often names of people who aren’t even in the cages.

“I have administrative experience,” says one of the men in the cells. “I worked at a hotel. I can help you with this.”

“Whose property bag is this?” asks an officer, holding up a non-descript bag with none of the property showing.

“Our property bag,” says a protester off to the side. A few laughs.

Jonah notices a 17-year-old Korean boy shivering off to the side. Like the others, he is wearing a t-shirt, as he was arrested on a hot summer day.  The aircondtioners are on full blast.

The boy has been working up his courage to talk to the cops so the next time one of them brings a property bag, he goes to the front of the cage to pose his question.

“Is this your property bag?” asks the officer.

“No,” he replies. “I’m 17 and my parents don’t know I’m here. Could I call them? Please. They don’t know where I am.”

The police officer shakes his head as he has shaken his head to numerous similar requests.

Jonah’s eyes start to hurt due to the neon yellow bulbs that provide light for the prisoners. He finds himself constantly squinting, fighting off a headache that goes in and out like waves, following his thirst and hunger as after thoughts.

Suddenly the women’s cage fills with shouting.

An officer goes to go see what the commotion is all about.

“Help her,” shouts a female voice.

“She needs medical attention.”

Loud screaming.

The cage opens and a woman comes into view.

Apparently she is having a full blown panic attack. She struggles to breathe as the security guards go in search of the doctor.

“It’ll be okay,” says an officer, without much feeling in his voice.

The doctor who finally arrives doesn’t look particularly professional. Jonah notices his gut sticking out of his pants and his un-tucked shirt. He talks to the frightened young woman for a few moments, then she is put back into the tightly packed cage with the rest of the female prisoners.

Mundane problems  must be dealt with. Like how do you wipe yourself if your hands are cuffed?  And what do you do if the port-a-potty that has very little toilet paper also lacks a door? The security guards watch as protesters go to the bathroom. The women create a system. When one goes to the bathroom they’d yell “wall” and the women would block the port-a-potty with their bodies to shut out the inquisitive gaze of the security officers.

By now, the 17-year-old kid has asked two or three times to call his parents.

An alarm goes off. Jonah recognizes it as coming from his cell phone. He’d set it the day before to wake himself up for guard duty. At least now he knows what time it is: it’s a little before six o’clock in the morning.

Jonah walks up to the front of the cage.

“Hey officer,” he says, putting as much kindness as he can into his tone. “I know you are having a problem finding that alarm. It’s my phone. My name is Jonah Hundert and it’s in my bag. I can turn it off. Just bring the phone here and let the kid call his parents. It’s six in the morning and they don’t know where he is.”

“Let me see what I can do,” says the officer.

The police officer walks over, picks up Jonah’s bag, deliberates for a moment and then chucks it back into the pile.

Laughter and yelling is coming from the cage on the left.  Jonah can’t quite hear what it is about over the cacophony of yelling back and forth between security and the detainees.

Finally the security officer cracks.

“If you don’t shut the fuck up, I’m going to fuck you in the ass.”

It takes a second for this comment to sink in.  Did he just threaten to rape an inmate?

Unfortunately for the security officer, he is wearing a nametag and his badge number in plain sight.

The prisoners begin to chant his name and badge number.

At first the guard snickers and laughs it off. Then another cage starts doing it.  Soon he is looking concerned.

He walks away and is replaced by security guards who don’t give a shit about the yelling.

Then it’s back to the mundane game of waiting to be processed. Someone has used up the last of the toilet paper. The guards won’t give them anymore.  Detainees demand to talk to be either released or processed.  Security explains there is a lot of paper work to deal with.

An indy journalist from Montreal slowly bangs his head into the wall in rhythm with an imaginary beat. Softly he mutters:

“My civil liberties are not dependant on your fucking paper work.”

A long time later they are taken out of their cages.

The excitement in the air is palpable.

This is all going to be over soon.

Now they are in a new room with all these offices where detectives are interviewing people.

The guards march them right through the room without stopping. Into a room filled with pay phones that no one is using.

“Can I make my phone call?” asks Jonah.

“Keep walking,” says the security guard in charge.

So they continue walking until they pass through another door.

As it opens, all of Jonah’s hopes for freedom collapse.

They are now inside what appears to be a gigantic warehouse.  The room is a maze of cages filled with hundreds of prisoners shouting, begging, demanded their rights. At this point he has already been at the detention centre for eight hours. He isn’t being processed.

They are putting him into another cage.

He has 12 more hours left.

Check Part 5 here.


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One Response to “Surrounded Part 4 of 6: Inside Eastern Avenue detention center, property bags and panic attacks”

  1. Surrounded#3: The Dance Master of Eastern Avenue | Colony of Losers- Surviving the Depression of Being A 20 Something
    November 16th, 2010 @ 1:43 pm

    [...] Surrounded Part 4: Inside-eastern-avenue-detention-center-property-bags-and-panic-attacks [...]

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    Michael Kimber is a 26-year-old journalist who suffered a nervous breakdown on November 3rd, 2009. On March 28th, 2010 when he recovered from mental illness, he began writing a blog called Colony-of-losers. About falling on your face to figure out who you are and the hilarious antics of a blond jew. What began with a few friends and his mother reading has become a cult phenomenon, averaging 10,000 views a week, receiving praise from Commonwealth Award Winner Shandi Mitchell and many others. On, November 3rd, 2010, the one year anniversary of his mental breakdown he signed with Anne McDermid and Associates, the largest literary agency in Canada. In a year he went from wearing pajamas, making his couch depression HQ to leaving his hometown for the Toronto, where he exclusively wears business suits and the armor of ancient Greeks. Don't worry, he's still choking on the feet he contently sticks in his mouth and making moments awkward just by being part of them. During these struggles he met other talented bastards and drew them into his circle. Peter Diamond became his illustrator. Patrick Campbell his video editor and part time photographer. He recently added the incredibly talented John Packman as Colony of Losers Toronto photographer. Without the support of the Colony of Losers, Michael Kimber would be nothing. Welcome to the losers and the success that comes from utter and complete failure. You aren’t alone. Follow him on twitter.com/colonyoflosersand twitter.com/quimbo. If you’d like to hire him for a public speaking engagement for mental health events in Toronto, like to arrange an interview, offer millions to publish his book or for another reason contact Michael please email him. And join his facebook Colony of Losers.

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    I’m not a trained psychologist. Just a fellow traveler. If you need help seek it from the professionals. The Canadian Mental Health Association provides a help locator. You can find crisis resources provided by the Canadian Association for Suicide Prevention. If you are in the states check here. It will give you services by zip code. I’d also recommend checking out Mindyourmind.ca. I think they do great work and have been a help to me personally.

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