Download this Paper Open PDF in Browser

Political Protest, Mass Arrests, and Mass Detention: Fundamental Freedoms and (Un)Common Criminals

16 Pages Posted: 12 Apr 2012 Last revised: 12 Jul 2012

Debra L. Parkes

Peter A. Allard School of Law

Meaghan Daniel

Falconer Charney LLP

Date Written: November 1, 2011


“No Justice. No Peace.” The mass arrest and detention of over 1,105 people during the Toronto G20 summit in June 2010, including author Meaghan Daniel, prompted reflection on the connections between justice and peace and in particular, between peaceful protest, policing, detention and the justice system. The record breaking weekend of mass arrests and temporary detention of people described as “innocent bystanders” and “peaceful protestors” provoked an ongoing conversation about the criminalization of protest. It is the authors’ hope to extend this conversation beyond these (un)common criminals to the “every day” processes of criminalization and imprisonment that go largely unquestioned in this country. The article shares the narrative of Meaghan’s arrest and detention while participating as a legal observer during the G20 summit weekend. In the course of telling that story, the authors briefly reflecting on two themes: (1) the criminalization of dissent, including through the power to arrest for “breach of the peace” and the apparent impotence of constitutionally entrenched rights to free expression and peaceful assembly to restrain such police power; and (2) connections between the experiences and activism of the G20 detainees and the thousands of other prisoners in Canada – these “common criminals” with whom progressive social movements have not always seen common cause.

Keywords: Political protest, criminalization, social justice, prisoners' rights

Suggested Citation

Parkes, Debra L. and Daniel, Meaghan, Political Protest, Mass Arrests, and Mass Detention: Fundamental Freedoms and (Un)Common Criminals (November 1, 2011). Available at SSRN: or

Debra L. Parkes (Contact Author)

Peter A. Allard School of Law ( email )

1822 East Mall
Vancouver, British Columbia V6T 1Z1

Meaghan Daniel

Falconer Charney LLP ( email )

8 Prince Arthur Avenue
Toronto, Ontario M5R 1A9

Paper statistics

Abstract Views