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: