Ken Wood wanted to participate in a peaceful demonstration.
For that, he claims he was brutally beaten by police and left lying in the middle of King and Bay Sts., bleeding and unconscious. The incident, captured on videotape, was shown to reporters yesterday as Wood announced the launch of a $450,000 lawsuit against police.
But Wood's nightmare didn't end with his injuries, he said. Five weeks later, about six officers in plain clothes arrived at his door, slapped handcuffs on him and hauled him off to be strip-searched and held in jail for the night, he alleges.
"I wasn't clear about what was going on. It was so long after the fact," the 54-year-old grandfather said. "Police don't just have guns and weapons to scare people. They can intimidate you."
Wood's civil suit names the Toronto Police Services Board, Constable Andrew Hassall and three unknown officers as defendants.
"We have not yet been served with the statement of claim," said Toronto police Staff Inspector George Cowley. "But I would anticipate that we will be defending it vigorously."
Wood said he has never experienced fear like he did the day of the protest, Oct. 15, 2001.
"The last thing I remember was being beaten over the head and blacking out," he told a news conference yesterday.
At least three officers restrained him, beat him and failed to assist him when he regained consciousness several minutes later with blood seeping from his head, said Brian Shiller, Wood's lawyer.
A video shows three officers holding Wood while another strikes him about four times with a baton.
"It was a brutal unprovoked assault that is clearly criminal," Shiller said. Wood required 13 stitches to close a wound on his head.
Five weeks later, after Wood filed a complaint with police, he was charged with assaulting an unnamed officer.
"Those charges were nothing short of a joke," Shiller said. Two years later, the charges were stayed.
He said the official complaint lodged by Wood was later dismissed as "frivolous, vexatious or made in bad faith."
"Chief Julian Fantino is not in control of this police force.... How many isolated incidents does (he) need before he agrees that a systemic problem exists?" said Shiller, who along with lawyer Jennifer Gleitman represents Wood.
In an unrelated case this week, a prosecutor withdrew charges against a man who was charged with assaulting police. An amateur videotape of the incident showed an officer grabbing Said Jama Jama, 21, throwing him against a car and punching him in the face.
Wood alleges he went to the demonstration to protest the former premier Mike Harris' government.
At one point, he says he decided to assist a man in a car trying to get through the crowded intersection by moving a newspaper box that was in the street.
"The next thing I heard was, 'Hey, you.' And I turned around and saw a crowd of police coming at me with their batons waving," Wood said.
"Then everything was just a real blur."
Wood said he suffers from anxiety, social isolation and depression, and on the advice of his doctor, he agreed to find something he believed in and was passionate about. He decided to volunteer at a food bank and peacefully protest for causes he believes in.