Toni Petti LIVE

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Chapter Thirty Three

All three cops swivel to face me. Their surprised faces ask, how did you get there? I seize on their confusion and leap over the steel barrier. Rather than move back, the protesters catch me and hoist me over their heads. I crowd-surf for ten seconds and feel hands all over my body.

I’m not wearing a mask. I’m not even wearing shoes or socks and when they finally set me down again I feel the slippery gross cement under my bare feet. But in my right hand, I still clutch the tiny Hero3 GoPro camera. The protest rages all around my eyes. Thousands of humans press together under the big screens which show a BLM exhorter on stage.

“Toni,” Darnella Foster blocks me. Two dozen women all around her clutch Black Lives Matter signs and chant, “No Justice. No Peace. Abolish the Police."

“Darnella?” I confront her and bring my hands together in prayer. “Please. I’ve got to get upfront...”

“Go Toni. Go!” Darnella rallies her girls. She switches her sign for a megaphone. “Form a line!” The protesters around the Jamaican woman push back on the cops and I bury myself deeper in the crowd. There are hundreds of people ahead of me, and tens of thousands in the square. I squeeze through the mass and hear my name on everyone's lips.

Zero Gun Violence Movement’s Denika Tuey is on stage. “...Public trust in police institutions is at an all-time low. Because what the police say they’re doing, and what we see on video is different. Despite years of advocacy for change, we find ourselves back here again..."

The police helicopter thumps overhead and the sound intensifies as the spotlight searches the crowd. Police whistles screech and sirens wail. Red and blue flashing lights play on the buildings. The crowd seethes around grey windbreakers who squeeze ever closer.

I push deeper towards the center of the square and the protest opens to give me space. I clutch my Hero3 in my right hand and look around, but there’s no sign of Captain Mark Berlette or any white shirts.

Grey windbreakers and cops in tactical gear approach from all sides. I can't be arrested with this camera or its evidence will never be seen. The two-inch square GoPro camera weighs 2.6 ounces. There in the distance, a hundred feet away through the mist above the mass of people I see the booth atop the scaffolding. I retract my arm and catapult the gadget. I watch it leave my fingers and disappear into the night.

The helicopter's spotlight finds me and blinds my eyes. Escape is impossible now. I drop to my knees and raise my hands in surrender. I can feel the wash from the blades move my hair and chill my backside. I’m only wearing a lace bra and underwear. My bare feet are dirty with grime from the concrete. I drop to my knees... I’m certainly no threat.

Cochutemete leads a half dozen grey suits toward my position. The police push the crowd back to make an even wider circle as his troop arrives. Behind him are TV reporters with lights atop their cameras. Instead of insisting the Press move back, the Quebecois agent waves the news media forward to cover his momentous criminal apprehension.

He smiles at me like he’s proud of my run. He’s not all anxious or worried about me harming anyone. He grabs my shoulder and raises me to my feet so he can more easily bind my hands with a plastic zip-tie. I don’t resist. It’s over.

“Thank you Antonia.” Cochutemete speaks over my shoulder, “what a spectacle!” He looks around at the lights and cameras and the helicopter overhead. “Hah. This is wonderful. Much better than I could’ve ever imagined.” Heavily armed police surround us. “All of Canada will sleep safer tonight knowing you’re in custody.”

“The truth will come out...” I say it like a prayer.

Cochutemete waves away the helicopter. This probably makes him feel even more powerful. The TV cameras center on him as he pushes me forward and plays the nation’s greatest hero.

“Looks unlikely now...” Cochutemete smiles proudly for the TV news cameras, including Exter from CP24. “Take a last look around Toni. Say goodbye. These will be your last moments outside in the fresh air.” He’s not wearing a covid mask and he inhales the smoky atmosphere like he's enjoying a spring breeze. Then he turns me around so the Press can see my face. TV news cameras get close and camera-flashes record my sad expression. I hear a dozen questions from a dozen different voices, ”Toni Petti.” “What..? When..? How did you..? Toni..? Where? Why?”

But I ignore the cameras and the reporters. My eyes are up on the big screens all around the square. They are lifeless. Until...

Audio speakers pop, and crackle. I hear Paul Arden’s voice. “...We’re real close to da place you..." I look around. It’s happening. Relief, then amazement. Mark did it. They’re all playing the same video. My video. They’re playing the GoPro camera’s footage and I see the Joseph Sheard parkette, and the hotdog vendor.

"Kerson lane? It’s right there." My finger appears on the huge screens and points out the entrance to the rear alley on Drummond. ”You’re rolling...” I hear myself say. . Paul appears in a medium close-up and and smiles right at the lens. He reaches for the doll. His gorgeous face appears for just a second and it melts my heart and I hear thousands of people gasp as they recognize his blue hair.

Cochutemete sees Blue and hears the crowd’s reaction. All the colour drains from his face.

"You stay ’ere and geh mah sausage,” Blue says, and up on the screen I see myself nod and agree to stay behind. The audience gasps when they see me in the video. Then there’s some distortion as the view changes back to the tall elm trees over Drummond street. Da Pooch leads the camera away towards the shady street and the entrance to the alley.

Cochutemete tries to pinpoint where in Yonge Dundas Square the video player is located. He barks orders at his minions to find and stop the playback. “Hurry.” He pushes me west, towards Yonge Street and towards a Toronto police cruiser he’s arranged for my transport. There’s no point resisting; we march in a vanguard of grey windbreakers through a corridor made by Toronto police. We head towards the Eaton Center in the shadow of the TEC-Tower sign.

My GoPro video still plays on the screens and I look up just as Da Pooch leads Blue around the corner in Kerson Lane. There’s the white Sprinter and two bikers' motorcycles are behind the van. There's six people by the open sliding door, two cops and two bikers deal with two men in grey suits. The boxer dog’s ears perk-up in the foreground as he leads the camera closer to their scrum.

"Not one more step," the words come from a uniformed policeman on the group’s perimeter.

"Just taking my dog for a walk," Blue’s voice says.

"Nah. I recognize this one... ” says a dark-haired figure in a grey suit. Is it Cochutemete?

"Hands up," the uniformed police officer at the front of the group orders Paul to surrender. The video’s perspective rises as the doll is lifted in his hand.

Da Pooch get sprayed with Windex by the other uniformed cop. The dog whines and backs away to rub the caustic liquid from his face with his front legs and paws. The crowd watching all around me in the square murmurs angrily at the policeman’s mistreatment of the animal.

The camera centers on the group. Cochutemete and McKenzie can be seen in the video. They’re the two men in suits at the back. Everyone in the square can see him on the screens.

Cochutemete sees himself on the TEC Tower screen and curses. “Tabernak!” He pushes me into the back seat of the police cruiser and slams-shut the door. It’s okay though, I can still see the screens and I can hear the audio through the half-open driver’s side window.

In the video, the police officer who ordered Blue to surrender now walks closer and the tattooed guy in the black jacket joins him. They both reach-up for the prisoners hands.

"Wrong place at the wrong time lad," the biker helps take him into custody. The doll is lowered but still records the group.

"What’s this?” The policeman discovers Paul’s iPhone in his breast pocket. ”Kid’s recording.” Other voices are heard. ”Better not be live feed," This concern is dismissed by a rotund officer in tactical gear. ”Nah, we’re jamming."

Buzzzzt. Blue gets zapped with a handheld Taser. The azure-flash glows the picture and the sound is unmistakable. He falls and the doll tumbles from his hand. Paul’s body lies on the concrete and we see his face, his teeth clenched in pain. His head lays at the others’ feet. The picture rolls and makes an upside down frame; it's in the perfect position to record how his hands are zip-tied and how he’s lifted off his feet. The camera rises-up with him as someone picks up the doll and now we see the Sprinter’s interior, and how Paul is thrown inside. The live audience of thousands groans audibly, and I can hear Paul protest his treatment. He’s still conscious, and we watch him get punched in the head and then gagged by the cops. The bikers watch and the camera catches one of them smile. The crowd murmurs angrily. The doll is handed to someone... It’s Cochutemete. The special agent gets a close-up.

On screen, Govan Cochutemete’s face looks directly at the lens and we see and hear him give the order. ”Find out who sent him. Cherry Beach." He throws the doll into the van and the image goes dark. Oh my God. That’s incredibly damning evidence! The crowd seethes in a loud response. The angry hum becomes a boiling roar as they react to the video. The loudest shouters cry out, ”They killed him.” “The police killed Blue!”

All the screens go dark as the van’s doors close. Nothing can be heard beyond the angry cries of the people in the square. Is there any more video? Was the GoPro still recording? Did it just capture a dark corner of the van for the next forty minutes? Or does it show what else happened to Paul? Or... Did someone finally get to Mark Dixon in the booth? Did they shut him down? I search but can’t see more than thirty-feet through the mist over the mob.

My eyes dart around the police cruiser’s windows. People are angry. Dozens of arms and fists froth up behind the barricades. ”Free Toni Petti. Free Toni Petti. Free Toni Petti.” The chant rises and there’s violence all around the car.

The police cars are trapped here. What was once a strong position opposite the lane on the south side of the square, is crumbling. The two cruisers here are pointed south but they can no longer escape that way or in any direction. We’re too deep in the ocean. Surrounded, the police ready themselves and affix helmets and take-up Plexiglass riot shields. The protest surges.

Cochutemete pushes a uniformed officer towards the drivers’ door, but the man won’t go. He spins away from the Quebecois and instead of obeying, he picks up a helmet and shield from the supply. “There’s no way out!” He shouts and passes the keys to the cruiser, a red plastic key fob. Then he runs to the barricades to help his coworkers hold the line.

"Free Toni Petti. Free Toni Petti. Free Toni Petti,” the chant continues.

Through the front windshield, Cochuemete looks at me inside the cruiser and smiles. He’s not worried. He’s got me penned-in and he holds the key to the car in his hand. I struggle with the zip-ties that bind my wrists behind my back but there’s no escape.

Behind me, the squad car is bumped and jostled as the barricades slip. Fists and elbows bump the back window and I can hear the steel fence grind against the back of the car. A desperate struggle occurs but the windows only shows all the police jackets. On the other side of the squad car, law enforcement reacts as another sudden push threatens to overwhelm them.

Cochutemete and McKenzie in their grey suits come to the driver’s door of the police car. They stand beside the half-open window and I hear them argue.

“That’s not the same as was on the card she had this afternoon.” McKenzie says and I sense he’s worried.

“The little bitch is a scandalmonger, but we’ll spin it,” Govan assures him.

“What else could she have?”

“After tonight, nothing.” Cochutemete replies.

I shiver.

I can smell the acrid pepper spray and hear the sirens and the honking grunts of emergency vehicles echoing all down the street and all around our position. The crowd parts momentarily and protesters are pushed away by Toronto Police escorting four white shirts.

Captain Mark Berlette enters the enclosure. Detective Portia Man appears in tactical gear with a face shield and mask. Are they here to save me?

Berlette squares off with Cochutemete right beside the door of the police cruiser.

“Where do you think you’re going? There’s no way out.” The barrel chested Community Relations Officer puts his hand on the squad car door to keep it closed.

“Then help me.” Cochutemete tries to reason with Berlette, “You can’t stop me.”

“I believe I must.” Berlette gestures to the crowd and to the screens. “We need to.”

“We’ll discuss this on Monday,” Cochutemete tries to delay. I sense the fear in his voice.

“Surrender. Peaceably.” Berlette demands.

“You’re overstepping,” Cochutemete whistles and gathers his grey suits. McKenzie stands behind him. “Call Chief Saunders before you do anything stupid.”

Mark Berlette backs off and talks to Portia and then points at the reporters and one cameraman in particular. He singles-out Exter in his black CP24 jacket and Steadicam and he motions the news-gathering professional to enter into the secure area behind the barricades.

Exter is helped through the articulating fence by Toronto police. He talks rapidly into his headset and I can only imagine how he’s relating the sudden turn-of-events back to Terry English and Mark Dixon and the rest of the staff in the Live Eye truck. He points his camera at me in the cruiser and I wave just to signal I’m okay.

The crowd roars. The image of me in the cruiser plays on the screens overhead.

Cochutemete doesn’t wait around to find out what Berlette has planned. He wrangles his grey suits to shift the crowd so he can leave with me in the cruiser.

“You’re not taking Toni Petti anywhere!” A familiar voice yells into a megaphone directly ahead of the cruiser. It’s Darnella Foster. She leads the charge to hold the barricades in place. The crowd chants, “Free Toni Petti. Free Toni Petti.

“Stop right there Commander...” Berlett comes forth holding shiny steel handcuffs.

“Back off Berlette,” Cochutemete actually pushes the Toronto Police Community Relations Officer away, “I’ll bury you if you try...”

“I’m placing you under arrest for...” Berlete speaks loud so everyone can hear him. “The murder of Paul Arden.” The burly copper arrests Cochutemete. Exter video records the drama.

The crowd roars as they watch Cochutemete being handcuffed live-on-screen. Portia Mann reads him his Rights and the sound carries over the speakers in the square, but the applause eclipses the words.

Clinton McKenzie raises his legs over the barricade and tries to slip away, but Darnella Foster and her Jamaican ladies shove him back into the enclosure. They use their signs to pen him behind the barriers.

All four the special agents are taken into custody and the mob in Yonge Dundas square applauds the show. There are loud cheers and whistles of approval as thousands of people clap for Berlette. Cochutemete curses and swears in French as he’s disarmed.

The rear door of the squad car opens and a black woman’s hand reaches for me. I accept the help and find the arm connects to Detective Mann. They need the cruiser of course. They need somewhere to put Cochutemete and his crooked special agents.

The mob erupts in thunderous cheer as I emerge from the back of the cruiser. The video of my release is recorded by Exter and broadcast on the screens overhead.

“Toni! Toni! Toni!”

The zip-ties are snipped-off my wrists and I raise my arms in triumph. Exter holds me in a tight shot and twenty thousand people scream. It's absolutely deafening and totally overwhelming. I cry and don't try to hide my tears of joy.

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