By Sutton Eaves
While pods of tired protesters packed up their banners and headed home, Kashif Shaikh sat alone in the back of a police van, his wrists handcuffed behind his back and the growing lump on his forehead throbbing.
The fourth-year ITM student says he was separated from his comrades, Ryerson Students Against War and Racism, on Saturday afternoon after a peaceful protest turned into an unexpected scuffle between Shaikh and three Toronto police officers.
“Constables were very provocative and heavy-handed,” says Shaikh, who was approached by an officer during the Ontario Coalition Against Poverty rally and asked to move away from a circle of police surrounding an abandoned townhouse near Shuter and Parliament Streets. OCAP protesters were occupying the house to protest a lack of funding for subsidized housing.
Shaikh says when he questioned the request, the officer grabber his shirt and pushed him backwards, knocking Shaikh off his feet and ripping the collar of his shirt.
“I’m not used to this kind of stuff,” says Shaikh, who alleges he was thrown to his knees by three officers who swarmed to the scene. One held his head to his chest and another handcuffed his wrists behind his back, while the third sliced the straps of his backpack to be confiscated.
No other Ryerson students were arrested, but their banner, torn by police during the arrest, is being held at the 52 division police station until the group can prove it belongs to them, a Ryerson Students Against War and Racism organizer said.
After waiting in a police van for about 40 minutes, Shaikh says he was held at 52 division for the rest of the afternoon. Released at 5:30 p.m. on the condition that he return in November for criminal fingerprinting, he says he then waited for seven hours in the emergency room at Mount Sinai Hospital to be treated for injuries to his forehead and hands.
Shaikh says he still gets headaches after having his forehead mashed into the concrete by police officers.
A doctor’s report filed early Sunday morning says that Shaikh suffered minor soft tissue injuries to his head and wrists during his arrest.
Shaikh says he was shocked by what happened to him during his first OCAP rally. Of the six people Shaikh says were arrested last weekend, he was one of two who were criminally charged.
“I did not lay a hand on [the officer],” says Shaikh. “He ripped my shirt and after he did, I stood there motionless.”
But with witnesses supporting both sides, it is Shaikh’s word against the officer he allegedly assaulted. On Dec. 11, a judge will decide if there is enough evidence against Shaikh to send the case to trial.
Officers at 52 division refused to comment on the charge until the details come out in court.
Shaikh says he is confident he will be proven innocent of the charge laid against him.
“I am a humanist. There’s a saying in my culture: if you kill one innocent, it’s as if you’ve killed all of humanity,” he said. “If you’ve saved one innocent, you’ve saved all of humanity. People like me, instead of just praying, we have to do something peaceful to get his message out.”