Cannabis-legalization activists blocked a major downtown Vancouver street in response to a police crackdown this morning.
Vancouver police reportedly swooped down and pepper-sprayed people while making arrests outside the Vancouver Art Gallery during the 20th annual Cannabis Day party.
Standing off to the side of the intersection was Marc Emery, who told the Georgia Straight that the police conduct reminded him of the "bad old days of 1993".
"It's so unnecessary, right?" Emery said. "Now, they cause all this terrible feeling in the same community that they're going to have to police for the future. It's just a really strangely, militant aggressive move by the VPD against the least aggressive people in the city."
When asked who was to blame, Emery cited the management at Vancouver City Hall, most notably the city manager, Penny Ballem, and the deputy city manager, Sadhu Johnston.
"He's a particularly unsavoury gentleman, as far as I can tell," Emery alleged. "He's totally unsympathetic to the pot movement."
Speaking to the Straight about 15 minutes earlier, his wife Jodie also pinned the blame on Johnston, who wrote a cease-and-desist letter to the organizer, Cannabis Culture magazine, on June 9.
She said that the event had been held peacefully on Canada Day for the past 19 years. She claimed that organizers received an "extraordinarily frosty reception" when they met the deputy city manager to discuss this.
"For some reason, Sadhu Johnston decided to disrupt things and create problems," Jodie Emery said.
The front lawn of the Vancouver Art Gallery is surrounded by fences because of a major renovation project. As a result, tables and booths for Cannabis Day were on the eastern and southern sides of the building.
Neither of the Emerys witnessed the arrests.
John Berfelo, CEO of Green Planet Store Ltd., said that when he pulled up on Howe Street, an officer demanded to see his driver's licence and handed him a $121 ticket.
He said that there were about 30 officers on the scene and they were paying particular attention to three cannabis activists: David Malmo-Levine, Neil Magnuson, and Bert Easterbrook.
"At one point, they gathered and they pounced on them," Berfelo said. "They caused a peaceful protest to turn into a fight."
Berfelo said that when police were asked why the men were arrested, officers replied, "No open sales of marijuana."