Instead of dropping her son off at his first day of high school orientation, Laura Barnaby had to take the 14-year-old to court, charged with possession of marijuana under the age of 18, resisting arrest and assault of an officer.
“The irony in that is sickening,” Barnaby said.
That’s because the mother of two says it was officers who beat up her child during what she has called an “unnecessarily violent arrest” that appears to have been caught on video.
On Aug. 19, Toronto police 31 Division officers were called to the area of Jane and Finch for complaints of loitering and drug use.
When they arrived, police allege Barnaby’s son, who was known to them and cannot be publicly identified due to the Youth Criminal Justice Act, refused to identify himself and that’s when Barnaby said things turned physical.
Multiple videos appear to show at least three police officers tackling a young male and punching him.
“That’s just a 14-year-old kid,” a man can be heard yelling, as the boy screams for his mother before being hauled away in handcuffs.
“I rushed downstairs to see my son hogtied by his legs and blood all over his face, getting thrown into a cruiser,” Barnaby said, holding back tears.
Disgusted, the mother of two posted videos of the arrest online.
The post went viral, with community members weighing in and even coming out to support the family in court Tuesday.
WATCH: (Aug. 21) Mother of teen says ‘violent’ Toronto police arrest has ‘traumatized’ her son
“I thought it was a complete overreach. I thought it was police brutality and I thought, what could justify that for a 14-year-old?” said Sam Tecle who is with Success Beyond Limits, a community-based education program.
Barnaby’s son has been enrolled in the program all summer.
Tecle is just one of more than a dozen supporters who showed up to court Tuesday. Both he and his colleague Nigel Hunter say they are concerned there is a toxic relationship between Toronto police and the Jane and Finch community.
“If they’re going to deal with youth this way … how would that be a relationship? How can you call that a relationship?” Hunter said.
But according to Supt. David Rydzik, the head of the Toronto Police Community Partnership and Engagement Unit, the service is consistently looking at “ways to better engage all residents and community groups throughout Toronto” through a number of community partnerships and programs.
“They justify it in community relations and community policing but this is what is looks like,” said Butterfly Gopaul, an activist with Jane Finch Action Against Poverty, referring to the videos of the teen’s arrest.
She says her group wants to see the service launch internal investigation into the videos.
“It’s a horrific image, hog-tying a human being and he’s 14,” Gopaul said.
Police, meanwhile, said Barnaby can make a complaint with the Office of the Independent Police Review Director — something she said she intends to do.
“We need to stop this. We need to stop this for our children,” she said.
They’re children, Barnaby adds, that are now frightened when they see someone meant to serve and protect.
“I see the fear in his eyes anytime a cruiser comes by or police show up,” she said.
Her son is due back in court on Sept. 17.