TORONTO – The criminal conviction of a Toronto police officer for assaulting a protester during the G20 summit three years ago was hailed as a victory for the hundreds of demonstrators who were rounded up and arrested that weekend.
Const. Babak Andalib-Goortani was convicted Thursday of assault with a weapon after a judge found he used excessive force during the arrest of protester Adam Nobody on June 26, 2010, on the lawn of the Ontario legislature.
Andalib-Goortani didn’t need to forcefully jab Nobody with his baton several times as his fellow officers were trying to cuff the man, Ontario Superior Court Judge Louise Botham found.
“A police officer is not entitled to use unlimited force to affect an arrest,” she said.
Video footage of Nobody’s arrest shows him on the ground with officers piled on top of him. Moments before Andalib-Goortani delivers his second set of blows, another officer can be seen kneeing Nobody in the face, Botham said.
“I accept that in a dynamic situation, arrests need to occur quickly and officers may well need to use force to ensure that happens…(but) even on the defendant’s evidence the resistance offered by Adam Nobody was minimal,” Botham said.
“(Andalib-Goortani’s) explanation that he was responding to Adam Nobody’s resistance is nothing more than an after the fact attempt to justify his blows.”
Nobody clapped as the verdict was announced, but said later that though he was pleased, he was surprised, as police are not often found guilty of criminal offences.
“Hopefully this helps vindicate the 1,100 people that were arrested and forced upon that day, including myself,” Nobody said outside court.
“It’s just a great feeling after three years…Justice is served and officers, you know, they can’t get away with stuff like this. They can’t attack citizens and it just feels really great right now. I’m elated.”
More than 1,000 people were detained by police that weekend after protesters using so-called Black Bloc tactics broke away from a peaceful rally and ran through the downtown, smashing windows and burning police cruisers.
The vast majority of those detained were released without charge within 24 hours.
Andalib-Goortani was one of two officers to face criminal charges stemming from the arrests, but earlier this year Const. Glenn Weddell was acquitted.
Assault with a weapon carries a maximum sentence of 10 years, though it’s unlikely Andalib-Goortani would see such a sentence. A sentencing hearing is scheduled for Nov. 8. For the moment, Andalib-Goortani is on restricted duties.
Toronto Police Association president Mike McCormack said outside court that Andalib-Goortani may appeal.
“He’s very distraught and again, very crushed by this decision,” McCormack said.
“We do stand by the system, we’ve always stated that position, but in this case we just feel that the judge came up with the wrong conclusion.”
McCormack called Nobody’s arrest an “isolated incident.”
“I think that our members, our police officers, did a great job overall the day of the G20 and they’re extraordinary circumstances and I still stand by our membership and that every officer’s actions have to be assessed on their individual actions,” he said.
After the G20 summit some protesters said they couldn’t file complaints against individual officers because they had no identification on their uniforms.
In her judgment, Botham called it curious that Andalib-Goortani did not have a name tag or badge number on his uniform in the videos of Nobody’s arrest. She also called it “surprising” that fellow officers who testified for the defence had such a “vivid recollection” of Nobody’s behaviour that day, three years ago, among a crowd of thousands.
“I am troubled by the fact that, although they all now identify Adam Nobody as a significant and memorable troublemaker, none of these senior officers recorded anything in their notes about him that day,” she said.
Nobody was clearly verbally confrontational to police that day, Botham found, and while the officers may have perceived him as more aggressive than Nobody believes he was, he was not quite the rabble rouser the defence made him out to be, she said.