|Andrew Cadotte, 19, and Darius Mirshahi, 25, pause outside the London courthouse Wednesday. They were arrested and held overnight for allegedly putting up protest posters on government-owned property. (Sue Reeve, QMI Agency)
LONDON, Ont. - About 200 kilometres from where world leaders will soon gather, two London political activists spent the night in city police cells over posters inviting people to Toronto to protest the G8 and G20 summits.
Darius Mirshahi, 25, and Andrew Cadotte, 19, flashed a peace sign and stood on the courthouse steps moments after their releases Wednesday afternoon and ripped open the police-issued, clear plastic bags containing their personal effects.
As the wind whipped up and papers flew, defence lawyer Dale Ives cautioned them: "Don't let that blow away guys or they'll charge you with littering."
Mirshahi, a founder of the Fanshawe College social justice club and Cadotte, who raises money for the Red Cross, Greenpeace and Amnesty International, are accused of gluing protest posters on government-owned mailboxes and hydro boxes.
They're each charged with seven counts of mischief.
But observers think the message, not the crime, was what kept them in custody.
The two men agreed on a release order that they promise to maintain their residences and "keep the peace and be of good behaviour."
Justice of the Peace Robert Seneshen toughened up the language to include "obey the laws of the land contained in the Canadian criminal Code.
"I would have thought young people taking part in the political process would have
been applauded not arrested," said London lawyer Gordon Cudmore, co-counsel for Cadotte.
In court, assistant Crown attorney Michael Thompson outlined what led to their arrests: The men, neither of whom has a criminal record, were seen by officers with a box of papers and a jug of paste and putting up posters that had slogans such as "Disrupt G20", "Let's Crash it" and "Crisis is Business as Usual."
Their next court appearances are June 29.
World leaders are meeting in Toronto in a week in what's called the G20 summit.
London police said the men's call-to-protest kept them behind bars for a night.
"The officers discovered the negative message with content relating to the disruption and resistance to the G8 and G20 on the posters and continued a prudent investigation of the intent of the two accused males," said London police Const. Amy Phillipo.
The police wanted to "fully investigate whether the individuals are a threat to community safety."
It's not unusual for people caught defacing property to be held overnight in cells, Phillipo said, adding, "Gluing is a form of graffiti."
Damage to the boxes was estimated at $700.
The glue, Ives noted, was environmentally friendly wheat paste in a grey milk jug.
The two accused were instructed by their lawyers not to discuss the charges.
But on the courthouse steps, Cadotte lit a cigarette and said his night in jail was "brutal."
Mirshahi said, "I mean, like, we're in custody for 20 hours. I told them I'm vegan. I don't eat any animal products, All they brought me over the course of 20 hours were two coffees -- which, I don't drink coffee -- and two Nutragrain bars which have milk and eggs in them, which I can't eat."
Mirshahi said he believes everyone should take part in the political process.
"Apathy in this culture is sad... We need to everybody to take part in the process of creating a better world because things are really going down the drain right now"
Ives and Cudmore said they plan to defend the charges "vigourously" and suggested they could have everything to do with intense national security issues for the upcoming summit.
"I think it perhaps reflects too great a concern on the part of the government to try to keep under control legitimate protest by individuals and not really something one would expect a government in Canada to be trying to do," Ives said.
"Frankly, I see no reason why these individuals couldn't have been released from the police station."
Syd Usprich, law professor at the University of Western Ontario, said the alleged mischief appears to be no different than any posting of a sign for a garage sale or a lost puppy.
"Either one is allowed to put up posters or one isn't. Presumably the police shouldn't be picking and choosing," Usprich said.
"If it's illegal everybody should be charged. If not, then nobody should be."
Usprich said holding the pair overnight in police cells is "absurd" and "This seems like a wild over-reaction."
Cadotte said he still plans to "peacefully assemble in Toronto."
"If this really is a democracy I shouldn't be criminalized for it," he said.
- With files by Free Press reporter Kate Dubinski