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Police Violence at the June 27 Casseroles Protest: An account by Peter Haywood

Blog posts are the work of individual contributors, reflecting their thoughts, opinions and research.

The Casseroles protest on June 27th was supposed to be a protest of expression to draw attention to localized student concerns about our education system in BC and to be in solidarity with Quebec students. The facebook page that I created for this demonstration expressed the importance for free post secondary education and the pending cuts to adult education, which will have a devastating impact to immigrants, students with learning differences and low income residents. It was also expressed on the page that IQ testing needs to be abolished. IQ testing has a long history of instutionalized discrimination that has flaws and often incorrectly diagnoses those who have learning difference. IQ testing is included in a learning assessment test, which is a requirement while in school every four years that can go as high as 3000$. Getting an assessment does not guarantee that you’ll get all, or the right, accommodation that one needs to succeed in school. Our education system needs to be accessible to all learners, which means not setting students up to fail.

The call out for this demonstration came right after five activists were targeted and arrested on June 22 Casseroles march. On the 27th, we didn’t have a plan other than to take to the streets, but once we got to the Art Gallery it was clear that the Vancouver police had a plan to continue to criminalize our voices. We sat on the ground of the Art Gallery trying to come up with a decision around what we were going to do knowing that we were surrounded with a large amount of police and many didn’t want a repeat of Friday. We were approached by an officer and were told that we could not block intersections – though taking the streets is common with Vancouver protests. We thought it would be safer to go as a group and gather police badge numbers, but as we approached one officer  he put his hand on his pistol as if he was getting ready to pull it out (this can be seen on one of many youtube videos). Quickly we were surrounded by a overwhelming amount of officers and the only female of color was isolated and grabbed by an officer that “supposedly” didn’t know that her no go zone conditions was overturned. Then another activist was grabbed - the officer holding on to his wrist – and while another comrade was trying to come between them he was violently tackled to the ground. Another comrade went to the ground to see if he was alright only to also be arrested. The mood of the demo turned into high emotion and this is when I told friends that I believed that I would be targeted, which later proved to be true.

After our comrades were taken away we marched down to the jail to do jail solidarity. Many of us had the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms taped to our bodies and it was claimed that a protester who had it taped to their back had an officer asked “Is that a kick-me sign on your back”? This is bullying behavior and harassment, which crosses the line becoming a threat of violence, because people put kick-me sings on peoples backs in the hopes someone assaults that person. The bullying behavior continued throughout the night and turned into organized violence by the Vancouver police department.

Once at the jail people were walking back and forth on the crosswalk banging their pots, while officers were harassing and getting into people’s faces, trying to prevent people from expressing themselves. During this time the only person of color continued to be harassed by officers and it was clear that they were singling her out. For a short time there was a police road block and during this time I was harassed by an officer. I was on the corner outside of the jail talking with two friends while others were walking back and forth on the crosswalk. A particular male officer kept asking me "Why are you not over there with your friends? Don’t you support them?” He was really creeping me out and he was always staring at me no matter where I stood. It felt like he wanted me to move over by everyone else, perhaps so he could find grounds to arrest me at some point.

Shortly later the officers met in a group clearing to discuss their next move. They went inside the building across the street and the police road block was removed, so vehicles could drive right up the street towards us. Removing the road block meant the possibility of confrontation with motorists and put us into danger. I realized afterwards that removing the road block was a tactic to allow a unsafe situation to occur in hopes of finding grounds to make a large amount of arrests and disperse our protest. An SUV motorist with USA license plate was unhappy that he was being blocked by our action, so he thought backing up and driving fast forward to ram people was a great idea. He really came close to one person, but other people were close and would have been hit too. During this time people were really angry and the SUV received spit on its front window by one person that we know of, but the police are claiming that it was two people. Then again, they are allowed to mislead the public , as evidenced by the “spin” in the mainstream media of this story. Anyway, who cares? It’s spit, not dead bodies.

The police force’s media spin about this situation shows no concern about the safety of our protest, but then again the police are not in the business of protecting protesters or other vulnerable people in our society . Within many years of activism I have seen many comrades being assaulted by outsiders including myself. I have had a glass beer bottle chucked at my head, threats of violence in front of officers, and shoved, only to hear a female officer say that she didn’t see it even though she was looking right at the incident. If any of these actions had been perpetrated by an activist we would have been arrested and the police would have made the spin that we were the violent ones leaving out their violence and outsiders violence towards use.

Luckily, the woman in the SUV calmed down the man, and got him to disengage from the situation. Shortly after the SUV left the officers came out of the building they quickly grabbed Sasha then the next thing I knew I was being arrested on the sidewalk for mischief and something else (which was nonsense) then two officers were trying to move me inside the jail, but it was while other officers were continuing to assault people that made this hard. When they were trying to move inside the jail I was stuck in between the door and I felt the door on my leg and then you can hear me on a youtube video saying “you are hurting me” then they grab me really hard and slammed me to the ground inside. I felt two sets of knees on my back on different sides of me at two different times. The large male officers said “are you going to be good“ as if I was resisting or “not being good”. I was never resisting but if I was this is still no justification for assaulting me and others and partaking in illegal arrests. Officers are allowed to make untrue clams and abuse their power because they know there are almost never any consequences for their actions.The officer said to me “I am going to get you to stand up,” and “are you going to be a problem?” I replied no then he stood me up and started asking me questions and told me that I was being charged with three things. He wanted to know if I accessed any services in the Downtown East Side because they wanted to ban me.

After their bullshit I was put in into a small cell with another comrade who told me not to be worried about my charges and gave me a handcuffed hug. I was more worried about the next room beside us - which was the strip search room. In 2006 when I was first arrested under other false charges I was pepper sprayed and had to go through a strip search where I had to take off all my clothes and use my pepper sprayed hands one to hold my balls back and my other hand to hold my ass cheek out so two male guards could look up my ass. I didn’t want to be more traumatized and sexually violated, which is something I have gone through in my life many times (two different times by male officers and three times by other males in my life).

When they took my comrade out I was left in this small room for about 10 to 15 min and I heard two officers talking to each other. One asked, “Did you start it?” and the other replied “Yes, I always start things”. Next I was moved into the strip search room, but didn’t have to take off my clothes. They checked my pockets and I remember telling the guards that the handcuffs were too tight but they didn’t do anything about it. The handcuffs were not on my wrist, but were more on the upper part of my hand, and you could see the indents of the cuffs where they had dug into my hand

Then I was moved into anther cold cell and left for a while. I was in pain from the scrape on my knee that I got from either the door being slammed on my leg or being slammed to the ground and I was in a state of shock. When they moved me out of the cell my three charges were dropped and they gave me a by-law ticket for “street and traffic”, but I don’t know how much the ticket is since it does not show. I was in jail for around 2 hours and released around 10:20.

I will be going to City Hall in the week to find more info out about my ticket and if I am told that I need to pay something I won’t, because I don’t pay into state organized crime and would rather go to jail. I feel that the police will try to target the same people that were arrested on June 22 and June 27 to make it harder for us to organize and take part. I’ve been noticing that the focuses has been largely on the women that were assaulted which is for good reason, but to say that they were the only ones is not true and it discredits other marginalized people like myself that was arrested.

Police violence impacts a lot of people in our colonial Canadian society: immigrants, people of color, queers, trans people, sex trade workers, people with mental health and dis(abilities) to women and poor communities. The police want to control everyone else, but they can’t even control themselves their violence is always justified violence.

Peter Haywood, 2012

 

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