The first time I met Joey was at an anti-police protest in front of the 52 Division police station in Toronto. Menonite “street preacher” Doug Hatlem was leading the crowd as they chanted “f##k the police!”; dressed in all black, and wearing a balaclava, Joey walked behind and tried to intimidate me into leaving. “What the f##k are you doing here?” he said, “why don’t you leave now”. I stood my ground, holding on to my camera a bit more tightly in case he decided to try and knock it out of my hands.
Always a charmer, Joey would regularly try and intimidate me at protests after that. Sometimes yelling out abuse, other times simply standing close enough to try and scare me. I’d usually just respond saying “hi Joey, nice mask!” and he’d respond by walking away.
My next incident with Joey was at a student fees demonstration a few months later. Like most of the Black Bloc contingent that day, I don’t think he was a student, but he and his friends all loved a good protest. Joey came up to me and tried to cover my camera with his hand, but he disappeared after a few minutes.
The last time I remember seeing him was at a pig effigy burning anti-cop protest organized and led by convicted G20 organizer Alex Hundert, Occupy Toronto leader Dave Vasey, and Chelsea Flook of Occupy Edmonton. Joey left me alone this time; it was Alex who took the opportunity to try to push away my camera. When a fire truck came to put out the fire the anarchists had set in the middle of Queen Street, Joey and Now Magazine contributor Zach Ruiter began charging towards to stop it. Joey kicked the fire truck, they pulled their loud horn, everyone cheered, and the fire truck backed-out in retreat.
Tragic news came out three weeks ago that I only learned of last night. Joey’s life ended abruptly in Thunder Bay on September 7th. Local news coverage claims that he trespassed on a Thunder Bay property, climbed over 200 feet to the top of a grain tower, and failed to emerge after somehow landing the Kaministiquia River. Thunder Bay police Const Julie Tilbury explained in a press conference that his death was caused by “misadventure“.
Judging from his memorial page on Facebook, Joey had a lot of people who loved and will miss him. Byrone Sonne (the guy charged during the G20 for allegedly building a bomb) called him “fundamentally good and decent human being”. I never saw that side of Joey, only raw anger and hate, but I’ll miss him too. I’ll always fondly remember Joey as the man to helped start the Black Bloc’s “Greg Renouf Chant”- an honor bestowed on few, not even Harper got his own…