The Vancouver Police Department today released the following statement regarding Olympic-related violence in Downtown Vancouver.
For in-depth coverage of the protest and violience, see Carlito Pablo's, 2010 Heart Attack disrupts Vancouver on day two of Winter Olympics.
Vancouver Police Department News Release - Feb 13, 2010
As Vancouver Police faced protestors once again today they encountered a criminal element within the legitimate protestors.
The criminal element apparently willing to wield anything that might cause damage or injury marched among about 200 legitimate protestors this morning beginning at 8:30 a.m. They walked down Georgia Street breaking windows, turning over news boxes and clashing with police.
This group contained more than 100 masked people many of whom kicked and damage numerous parked cars. They used spray paint on cars and transit buses and tore down signs.
They also clashed with members of the public and pedestrians who didn't support them. At one point they used a ladder as a moving barricade.
The demonstration involving a number of anarchists some of whom dress all in black and employ a tactic called Black Bloc. This included a loosely organized group of thugs from central Canada known to attach themselves to any cause, travel to any event that attracts media coverage and promote anarchy wherever they go.
Because the criminal element hid within the ranks of the legitimate protestors it posed challenges to police who had to identify who among the crowd were responsible for the property damage and violence.
Vancouver Police respect the rights of those who wish to express their criticism but that does not give them right to commit crimes and jeopardize the public's safety.
As this group began to escalate their violence and vandalism Vancouver Police increased their presence along Georgia Street to preserve public safety. Members of the Integrated Security Unit also joined the effort to restore the peace. Members of the VPD Crowd Control Unit also participated.
Once the violence began, specifically as some in the group smashed windows at the Bay department store, the bulk of the crowd drifted away distancing themselves from the criminal element.
Part of the group's confrontational strategy is to provoke police. Some of the masked criminals were carrying vinegar soaked rags and goggles fully anticipating that they could provoke police into using tear gas. To further bait police they spat on officers, kicked at them and taunted them.
The Vancouver Police Department has always employed a strategy of cooperation and non-confrontation with protests groups in the hope of facilitating peaceful and safe events. On average the VPD safely facilitates about 175 protests in the city every year.
Police are aware that they must always balance the rights of free speech and protest with the rights of the public to safely and freely enjoy the city.
By noon, police had been able to disperse the vandals into smaller pockets and greatly reduce the threat to the public safety.
Seven suspects were arrested and charges of mischief are pending. A bag with a hammer was recovered. One suspect had a bicycle chain wrapped around his fist when he was arrested.