Three Black Lives Matter protesters accused of dousing statues of racist Confederation-era politicians in paint were released from custody early on Sunday morning, as accusations swirled over whether their Charter rights were infringed upon while they were detained.

A group of 40 or so demonstrators gathered around a statue of Egerton Ryerson on the Ryerson University campus Saturday, and later around a statue of John A. Macdonald at Queen’s Park.

Both were doused in a coat of pink paint.

Ryerson is widely considered the architect of Canada’s residential school system, which for more than a century kept Indigenous children from their families and subjected them to systematic abuse, disease and hunger.

Macdonald, Canada’s founding prime minister, once boasted openly in the House of Commons of denying Indigenous territories food so that they would cave in negotiations with the federal government.

Rodney Diverlus, co-founder of Black Lives Matter, said Sunday that the paint was little different than the damage the Egerton statue sustains each year when Ryerson’s engineering students pepper it with stickers as part of frosh activities.

“(And) they’re actually rewarded for that – not arrested, not held for 17 hours, all this pomp and circumstance that you saw yesterday by police. All the theatrics was about pink paint. The same sort of action that white kids have been doing across this country since time immemorial and been celebrated for.”

A group of the protesters were later arrested by Toronto police and three of them were charged with mischief and conspiracy to commit a summary offence.

Hours later, the three accused had not yet been released, prompting a large crowd to gather outside Toronto police 52 Division demanding they be let out.

A lawyer for one of the three, Saron Gebresellassi, said she had been denied access to her client several times, accusing police of making a political show out of the arrests, on charges which are relatively minor.

She also said police blocked the delivery of medication to one of the detainees, but police said medication was brought in to the station by the detainee’s family.

Coun. Josh Matlow joined the crowd outside the division and said he witnessed police block Gebresellassi from entering to be with her client several times.

Syrus Marcus Ware of Black Lives Matter said she agreed the arrests were turned in to a political show because the movement advocates defunding police.

“Why was pink paint on that statue more important than the lives of Black queer women, of mad queer women, of activists who were brought in and driven around with no explanation? After finally being released 16 to 17 hours afterwards; You know with white people they book them and then release them within an hour.”

Police Chief Mark Saunders said that the release of the three hinged on whether they signed forms promising to appear in court at a later date, which he said they had refused to do so on Saturday evening.

“Some have chosen to perpetuate a false narrative about the access to Counsel and the custody of these three individuals. As is the case in all similar arrests, each of these individuals was provided the opportunity to sign a release, agreeing to appear in court. Each had access to counsel in the mid afternoon," Saunders said in a statement on Sunday afternoon.

"Despite two indicating they would seek release, they later refused and instead chose to remain in custody for many hours longer than was required and in to the evening and early morning hours. It is important in these critical moments that the truth be told by all sides."

Saunders said it is unfortunate that a narrative has been "manufactured" that does not advance the issues of anti-Black systemic racism and the dialogue around police and the community.

He noted that a lot of misinformation about the case is being pushed "with the intent to create division."

“Most of the many protests in Toronto, which have been successful in getting people’s attention and focus, have been peaceful and lawful. I expect and hope that will continue," Saunders said.

"The Toronto Police Service supports the right of the public to demonstrate and protest and we will always be there to keep the peace. We just ask that the truth be told when we have these moments as a city.”

Saunders said all the proceedings were recorded and will be provided as evidence in court.

Gebresellassi said the suggestion everything hinged on signing promise to appear forms was a lie.

“What ordinarily would take an hour on any normal occasion, took 12 hours – that is unheard of,” Gebresellassi said on Sunday.

At about 3:30 a.m., Gebresellassi said all three protesters were released.

She said that a Crown attorney looking at the cases against the three protesters should think of the taxpayer and drop them.

“The Crown cannot waste taxpayers’ dollars on three criminal cases for this,” she said.

Court dates for the three protesters were scheduled for Sept. 30 at Old City Hall.

Diverlus said the group would continue asking for the Toronto police service to lose 50 per cent of its funding, and military-style equipment such as armoured vehicles and semi-automatic rifles.

“We’re not going anywhere – this will only grow – the pressure will only grow.”