A woman accused of directing black-clad vandals during a riot at the Toronto G20 summit will be sentenced Monday in a downtown court.
Kelly Pflug-Back pleaded guilty in February to seven counts of mischief over $5,000 and one of wearing a disguise.
At issue is whether she played a leadership role on the streets that day, which could affect the sentence she receives. The question has also been central to the cases of many accused protest organizers: Prosecutors have argued that some demonstrators acted as leaders, planning and encouraging the property destruction that broke out in downtown Toronto on June 26, 2010.
Activists, for their part, have largely maintained that, as anarchists with a non-hierarchical organizing structure, they did not issue orders to fellow protesters.
On Monday morning, court heard from Detective-Constable Andrew Hassall, who dressed in plainclothes and marched alongside anarchists at the summit.
He testified that he saw Ms. Pflug-Back on Yonge Street outside College Park, exhorting vandals to “hurry” as they smashed the window of a Bell mobile phone store.
“People would approach Ms. Pflug-Back, they would have a brief conversation, then the people who approached her would go off and break windows,” he told court.
On one occasion, he said, he heard Ms. Pflug-Back tell protesters not to smash a small perfume store.
“She yelled ‘leave it alone, we only want big business,’ ” he said. “Upon Ms. Pflug-Back saying that, people spared the windows from being smashed.”
Court also saw photos Constable Hassall took that show a person he identified as Ms. Pflug-Back wielding a wooden stick to break the window of a police SUV in the financial district and an ABM on College Street. The officer testified he identified Ms. Pflug-Back, who was dressed in black with a hood up and a bandanna covering her face, by a studded silver belt with a skull buckle and distinctive tattoos on her hands.
Under cross-examination, the young woman’s defence lawyer established that Constable Hassall could not remember what any protesters said that day, aside from the times Ms. Pflug-Back purportedly gave commands to them.
Constable Hassall also conceded that, when Ms. Pflug-Back shouted outside the perfume store, no one was actually vandalizing it.
Before the G20, Ms. Pflug-Back was already a high-profile activist in Guelph, Ont., a college town west of Toronto where she worked with a group that handed out free food on the streets and took part in the occupation of a piece of land in an attempt to thwart a developer from building an industrial park.
Her supporters packed the public gallery of the courtroom on the fourth floor of the University Avenue courthouse, occasionally chuckling at the proceedings.
During the day’s lunch break, they surrounded Ms. Pflug-Back as she left the building, covering her face with umbrellas, and blocked news photographers and cameramen from taking her picture.
The hearing resumed Monday afternoon.
You can also read an interview with Kelly here: