Torontonamo Bay: One young man’s personal account

Meet Dan Hamilton. He’s 18, gay, and a new resident of Toronto. And on his first day in that city, something happened to him:

Dan was corralled and carted off to the Toronto East Detention Centre–or Torontonamo Bay, as it’s rapidly becoming known, for its Gitmo-like people-cages and dehumanizing conditions. There he was kenneled in segregation, on account of his being gay (his boyfriend was with him, and a few other gays as well).

What the cops did was the height of absurdity; progressive demonstrators against the G-20 are probably the least homophobic crowd you could hope to fall in with. And indeed, Dan himself has nothing but good to say of them.

I suspect he and his comrades were caged separately not for “their own safety”, as the cops lamely suggested, but to impede the solidarity that people forced to survive in concentration-camp conditions rapidly develop. In Torontonamo Bay, prisoners looked out for one another. When the only toilet in the people-cage was a plastic portapotty deliberately stripped of its door (not by previous prisoners, but by the guards), people barricaded the view with their bodies so their comrades could relieve themselves with some modicum of privacy. Little acts of solidarity can make a big difference to prisoner morale–and, conversely, strike a blow to that of their captors. So anything which disrupts that solidarity–such as the homophobic singling-out of gays, lesbians and other queerfolk–should be read as a deliberate swipe at the mental well-being of the prisoners.

And of course, the “don’t make me abuse you” type of remarks from the riot cops as they were rounding people up are interesting, too. Don’t wife-beaters and rapists say those sorts of things all the time? Like it’s the victim’s fault? Like she has the power to make it stop (which of course she doesn’t)? That’s also psychological abuse and torture–the threat of physical violence is often more traumatizing than the actual thing. Women in the human kennel at Eastern Avenue were so shaken by the threat of rape that being strip-searched soon after was a nightmare for them.

All of this was done very deliberately to send the message: Don’t protest. Don’t dissent. Terrible things will be done to you if you disobey us. You, the victim, will be blamed, because you “provoked” this.

Unfortunately for the cops, they still haven’t figured out how the Internets work, or the fact that this dissent was all tweeted, live-blogged, and YouTubed while they were still smirking and sniggering over the way they’d temporarily reduced human beings to the level of caged dogs. Meaning, the Shock Doctrine may have finally met its match. People are coming together again, in solidarity, to protest what was done to the protesters. And that is a sign that all efforts at repressing dissent…are a billion-dollar EPIC FAIL.

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