Activists say police assaulted them for handing out newspapers at SkyTrain station

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      Activist Thomas Davies says he and two fellow members of Vancouver’s Fire This Time Movement for Social Justice were assaulted by police while distributing their free newspaper.

      Davies told the Straight he can only think of one reason why TransLink police and RCMP officers roughed them up.

      “They’re trying to target and silence independent voices,” Thomas said in a phone interview today (September 10). “It’s obvious we were following every rule and regulation. The proof is that they released us immediately after without charges.”

      The incident happened on August 31 at the Metrotown SkyTrain station in Burnaby, where Davies, Shakeel Lochan, Mike Larson, and a female colleague were distributing copies of the Fire This Time newspaper.

      Davies emphasized that they were following the rules posted on the large boards in SkyTrain stations regarding the distribution of publications on TransLink property.

      According to these rules, “printed material for non-commercial purposes will be permitted on transit properties, other than transit vehicles or fare-paid zones”, provided distribution does not impede transit traffic or operations.

      Despite explaining to police officers that they weren’t in breach of any rules, Davies, Lochan, and Larson were arrested.

      “There’s no reason for why this would happen,” Davies said. “We weren’t breaking any laws. We have a great relationship with the community. And we’d been there for an hour without incident. We’ve been distributing this newspaper since 2002. We’re very careful to be respectful of the laws.”

      Transit police hadn’t made a spokesperson available for comment at time of posting.

      According to Davies, his group has experienced harassment by transit police over the last four months.

      “The police insisted that it did not matter what the posted rules state and that there are other rules that are not posted,” a Fire This Time news release says of the Metrotown Station incident. “When we asked what those rules are or how they applied to this situation, they refused to answer. Instead, the police stated that because they were asking us to leave the station and we were refusing, this was justification for our arrest. This sort of Catch-22 argument never answered the fundamental question as to why they demanded we leave in the first place!”

      The same release claims that in response to Davies’ “peaceful questioning”, a police officer “grabbed his neck, pushed pressure points on his head and slammed him into a corner”.

      As this was happening, Larson began filming with his phone. “Once the officer realized the assault was being filmed he responded by grabbing Mike’s arm and putting him in handcuffs as well,” the release notes. “The officer attempted to take away Mike’s phone, but he was able to pass it [to] another FTT activist who was consulting with a lawyer and documenting the assault.”

      In the phone interview, Davies described Fire This Time as “a grassroots organization that promotes social justice, mainly through the publication of a free newspaper that we distribute around the Lower Mainland and internationally”.

      “We also participate in everything we can to promote peace, dignity, and social justice whether that’s locally or internationally,” he added.

      The nameplate of the Fire This Time newspaper features a quote from the late international revolutionary Ernesto “Che” Guevara: “We are realists. We dream the impossible.”

      An ad-hoc committee has been created to pursue options for how Fire This Time will deal with police. The committee will have its first meeting on Tuesday (September 11) starting at 7:30 p.m. in Joe’s Café (1150 Commercial Drive).

      The Fire This Time Movement for Social Justice documented the August 31 incident with this four-part sequence of videos:

      Comments

      24 Comments

      GregEh

      Sep 10, 2012 at 12:42pm

      These are the activists that are a cult, right? MAWO?

      Colleen Mitchell White

      Sep 10, 2012 at 12:56pm

      Looks to me like the police caused the disturbance. They should be arrested for that and assault. Pretty low-life if you ask me.

      Martin Dunphy

      Sep 10, 2012 at 12:59pm

      GregEh:

      I believe they formed as a result of some acrimony within the Anti-Poverty Committee years ago.
      I'm not sure about any link to MAWO.

      eCoyote

      Sep 10, 2012 at 1:32pm

      As far I can see, one cop accuses all of them of assault, thus justifying their arrest. Another says they are being arrested for causing a disturbance and yet from the visual evidence that doesn't appear so. Subsequently, no charges of those or any kind are laid, thus making those charges unquestionably baseless, which the video confirms.

      This apparent falsification of the facts is revealing and disturbing. Is this the kind of testimony that cops bring to the courts to convict people? The story recalls the Dziekański affair, where cops entered into evidence contradictory testimony to what the video evidence showed.

      So then, is this apparent harassment including violent force against seemingly peaceful and law abiding people going to be tolerated? If so, this essentially means police can do as they please in the name of the law, or in this case, the unwritten law?

      These folks should visit the Office of the Police Complaint Commissioner website -- http://www.opcc.bc.ca/ -- and file a complaint. Let's see if this office is what it says it is?

      0 0Rating: 0

      YasaM

      Sep 10, 2012 at 1:50pm

      GregEh:
      Cult or not cult, this is an issue of freedom of expression and democratic rights! May be is a cult to you and good activists to others! What is your point, eh?

      jonny .

      Sep 10, 2012 at 2:00pm

      Im not scared of drug dealers. Im not scared of the Hells Angels. Im not scared of being attacked at night on a dark street. But I sure as hell am scared of the RCMP. They are a power tripping bunch of thugs.

      egg eater

      Sep 10, 2012 at 2:08pm

      Fucking pigs.

      0 0Rating: 0

      erling

      Sep 10, 2012 at 2:14pm

      They're essentially the same group, run by the same guy. There's a organizational chart on this blog, with posts by former members detailing the abuses they experienced (and perpetrated) while members of FTT/MAWO. http://ivandrury.wordpress.com/fire-this-time-criticism/

      do we really need transit police?

      Sep 10, 2012 at 2:52pm

      (I don't know all the facts, but let's look at distributing printed material at a station.)

      So the Translink rules say distribution is ok, but the list of offences also says authorities can refuse access and tell people to leave. Breaking the rules or committing an offence results in a $150 fine but doesn't appear to warrant an arrest.

      Rules:

      9. No distribution of merchandise or printed material, except:
      (a) distribution of printed material for non-commercial
      purposes will be permitted on transit properties,
      other than transit vehicles or fare-paid zones, provided
      such activities:
      (i) do not hinder access to ticket vending machines,
      (ii) do not impede the movement of passengers,
      (iii) do not result in littering, and
      (iv) are not otherwise incompatible with the
      provision of transit services; or

      Offences:

      16. Failure to obey refusal of access, order to leave or non-entry order

      If you go to the actual government regulations under the Act ( South Coast British Columbia Transportation Authority Act) and read section 6(2) of the Greater Vancouver Transit Conduct and Safety Regulation. It says that a person 'breaking the rules' may be ordered to leave (or be refused access or be banned for 24hrs). If you go further to section 9, you can see clearly that breaking the rules themselves is not an offence, but refusing an order to leave would be (among other unrelated things). So if you were breaking the rules, it wouldn't lead to a fine until you refused an order to leave.

      So what happens when there's an order to leave but the rules aren't being broken? Regs aren't very helpful there are they?

      Based on the comments by the officer in the video the authorities here seem to fall back to the old catch all 'disturbing the peace' despite the fact that the people who caused a commotion were the authorities themselves.

      Link to the translink rules:

      http://www.translink.ca/~/media/Documents/rider_info/Safety%20and%20Secu...

      and the Greater Vancouver Transit Conduct and Safety Regulation:

      http://www.bclaws.ca/EPLibraries/bclaws_new/document/ID/freeside/10_87_9...