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B.C. liberties group filing violent arrest complaint in pro-Palestine protest

May 31 incident involved blocked traffic at Vancouver intersection
The policy director for the British Columbia Civil Liberties Association says they will be filing a policy complaint with the Vancouver Police Department’s civilian oversight board, saying police used “excessive use of force” at a pro-Palestinian protest last month. Meghan McDermott, policy director for the BCCLA, speaks at a news conference outside Vancouver Police Department headquarters, in Vancouver, B.C., Tuesday, June 18, 2024. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Brieanna Charlebois

The British Columbia Civil Liberties Association says it will be filing a complaint with the Vancouver Police Department’s civilian oversight board alleging officers used excessive force at a pro-Palestinian protest last month.

The group’s policy director Meghan McDermott says the association was “horrified” by police actions on May 31, and their complaint will also cite “ongoing surveillance of people attending” protests and rallies, calling it “intimidating” and “invasive to privacy.”

Sgt. Steve Addison with the Vancouver Police Department says in a statement that officers used “lawful authority and reasonable force to arrest people breaking the law,” calling misconduct allegations “absurd and unproven.”

He says the group was given more than three hours to protest before officers removed people from the rail crossing, noting they ignored warnings that if they didn’t leave the would be arrested.

Sukhi Gill, a protest organizer, says officers twisted arms, used pepper spray, put people in headlocks and threw some of them to the concrete.

But Addison disagreed with the claims, saying protesters began shoving officers who tried to clear the blockade, they resisted arrest and one officer was punched in the face.

“The hostile dynamics of the crowd dictated the level of force used by police,” Addison said. “No force would have been required had the protesters just complied with lawful police direction, and had members of the group not become violent.”

Police said in a news release on May 31 that they were called to the scene where “100 protesters, some masked with balaclavas, were blocking vehicle and train traffic in the intersection of Kaslo Street and Grandview Highway.”

The release said protesters who were blocking the railway refused multiple requests to move and 14 protesters were arrested for mischief and obstruction.

Addison did not provide an update on the status of potential charges associated with the arrests.

“If anyone has concerns, they should report them to the Independent Investigations Office or the Office of the Police Complaint Commissioner so a proper investigation can take place,” he said.

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