OCAP Trial Told Of `harsh Reprisal'

A York University professor says he saw police lay an unprovoked beating on one of three men charged in connection with an anti-poverty riot that turned violent at Queen's Park.

Political scientist David McNally also testified yesterday that he did not leave after the violence erupted because he wanted to "bear witness" to the "harsh police response" against legitimate protest.

McNally said he was at Queen's Park with a delegation of about a dozen members of the York University Faculty Association on June 15, 2000, when he observed Gaetan Heroux "on the ground, face-down, almost spread-eagled, being hit by police officers with truncheons.

"I thought that he was being badly beaten," McNally said. "Mr. Heroux tried at least once to get to his knees and then he got knocked down.

"There was no one near him. I didn't see him do anything that one could construe as causing that behaviour."

McNally said he leaned over Heroux, tried to pull him up, called for a medic after noticing that Heroux was "somewhat dazed but not bleeding badly," and then moved on after a medic arrived. Heroux, 47, is charged with participating in a riot.

McNally said a couple of moments later he was forced to dive behind a tree after police horses charged "indiscriminately" towards the crowd, and he later learned that an elderly retired professor who was a member of the faculty association had been knocked into the bushes by scattering protesters.

McNally told Robert Kellerman, Heroux's lawyer, that he first saw police horses act "very aggressively" towards a crowd in 1970 when, as a 16-year-old, he attended an anti-Vietnam War demonstration at the United States consulate in Toronto. "Public opinion was outraged that people engaged in legitimate legal protest were subjected to the horses," he added.

Asked by lawyer Peter Rosenthal why he did not leave Queen's Park when the demonstration took a turn for the worse, McNally replied that he thought the use of horses against the crowd was an affront to human nature and that he, and the other members of the faculty association delegation felt obliged to "bear witness" to "an extraordinarily harsh reprisal" against legitimate protest on behalf of the homeless.

Rosenthal represents John Clarke, 48, an organizer for the Ontario Coalition Against Poverty (OCAP), who is charged with counselling others to riot and to assault police.

Pressed by prosecutor John Cisorio about the alleged unprovoked beating, McNally acknowledged that he did not know what preceded his observations. Confronted by Cisorio's assertion that "we saw evidence that Heroux tackled two officers," McNally replied, "I didn't see that ... I saw him (Heroux) there. I saw him being hit."

Asked by Cisorio whether he was troubled by some of the acts he saw on videotapes of the demonstration, McNally replied, "I don't condone what numbers of people did that day. It was foolish and unwise for the cause."

The trial continues today.