Chelsea man gets cut of G20 protest settlement
When asked how he’ll spend the money awarded to him as part of a class action lawsuit over the police response to the 2010 G20 protest in Toronto, Chelsea resident Nicholas Lamb said, “student debt.”
The Carleton University legal studies master’s graduate said his settlement cheque of about $6,500 is in the mail. Lamb was one of 1,100 protesters arrested during the G20 summit in June 2010. The lawsuit, Good v. Toronto Police Services Board, reached a settlement on Oct. 18, 2020.
Once keen on political activism and protests, the 35-year-old from Sarnia, Ontario said that his treatment at the hands of police officers and what he saw during the protest caused him to not be as politically active as he once was and has kept him from any major protests since. His trauma derailed his path to a Ph.D, kept him from seeking counseling or therapy, and left him struggling with addiction until about two years ago when he started to develop better habits and came to terms with his experience at and after the G20 protest.
“I feel like I’m in the best spot ever right now,” Lamb said.
Lamb moved to Chelsea in August 2020. He lives with his fiancé and works as a research analyst and policy advisor for the federal government.
“We love it here,” he said about his new home.
In 2010 Lamb, then 25 years old, lived in Ottawa and was studying policing at Carleton, when he heard about the G8 and G20 summits – also called Group of Eight and Group of 20, which are international government forums – in Toronto. He said he saw it as an opportunity to study how police control mass protests first-hand.
On June 26, Lamb donned his protest gear: a Che Guevara-style bandana over his face, a T-shirt that denounced the G20 as a plutocracy, and a black and orange jester hat that he said he wore as a satirical symbol of dissent, but which police used to identify him.
He walked downtown to the protests with two friends and fellow protesters. On their way toward the fenced-off G20 compound, they stopped in a Shoppers Drug Mart to buy a small bottle of vinegar and some bandanas to fight the effects of tear gas. Afterwards, he became separated from his friends, at which point he saw a police officer hit a protester on the head with a baton. Lamb stopped to help the man who lay convulsing on the ground with his head split open. He stayed with the injured man until a street medic, someone with first aid training, arrived to help. Despite the massive crowd of protesters, Lamb found his two friends again and they continued marching with the crowd.
Near the intersection of Queen Street and Spadina Avenue, a line of police in riot gear stopped the protesters from marching further. Lamb said he saw the police put their gas masks on. Thinking that tear gas was coming, he said he pulled the vinegar, bandanas, and plastic sandwich bags from his friend’s knapsack, putting the bandanas in the bags and poured vinegar over them, then closed the bags and put everything back in his friend’s bag.
“Little did I know at that time there were three undercover officers right beside us,” Lamb said, which he learned about this during his trial.
Those undercover officers, dressed up as protesters, told their supervisors that they were making Molotov cocktails, he said. A Molotov cocktail is typically a glass bottle filled with fuel, such as gasoline, and a rag, which is often ignited, and the bottle is thrown.
“They totally fabricated the story that it was a true Molotov cocktail, when it was vinegar in a sandwich bag,” Lamb said.
While near the same intersection, the cops rushed in and began snatching protesters up and dragging them behind the police line. Lamb was quick to escape, but looked back to see his two friends being detained.
For the next few hours, Lamb said he wandered around downtown Toronto joining in marches and with smaller groups of protesters. At one point he came across an intersection with two unguarded, older-model police cars that protesters were spray painting and sitting inside flipping the sirens on and off. Lamb said he thought that was suspicious, so he left the area quickly. Those two cars ended up being torched.
While walking alone down Blue Jays Way around 6 p.m. near the large fence that had been erected around the Metro Toronto Convention Centre where the summit was held, he noticed police watching him. An officer came through an opening in the fence, sprinted straight at him, “football tackled” him to the ground, and pushed his head into the cement.
“They kept yelling ‘Stop resisting! Stop resisting!’ — I could not have been resisting less,” Lamb said.
His hands were restrained tightly behind his back with plastic ties and he was taken behind the security fence. He asked why he was being arrested and was told to shut up. One officer eventually said, “I was just told to arrest the jester,” Lamb said, adding that police later accused him of setting fire to a squad car.
Lamb said he was eventually thrown into the back of a paddy wagon and assaulted by an officer, while his hands were still bound behind his back, before being taken to a makeshift jail, where he was held in a cramped, cold cage without food. He was interrogated by plain clothes officers about his political and religious beliefs. Lamb said he hadn’t eaten in 30 hours by the time he was given a crummy microwave meal.
His cousins bailed him out on June 28.
In court on May 10, 2011 Lamb faced two charges: possessing and carrying a Molotov cocktail.
At one point in the hearing, the prosecuting attorney presented video evidence from an undercover officer in the protest that supposedly showed Lamb making the Molotov cocktail. It showed Lamb pulling a bottle out of his friend’s backpack. The lawyer, who was narrating as the video played, told the court that the bottle was full of gasoline, Lamb said.
Lamb can be seen opening the bottle and drinking from it and passing it around to other protesters who also drank from it. There was confusion in the courtroom, Lamb said, as the judge asked the prosecutor if the video showed Lamb drinking gasoline. The court went to recess and when it came back the two charges were dropped, Lamb said.
“Just like that, it was over.”
For more information on the class action settlement, visit g20classaction.ca.