Pubdate: Thu, 02 Jul 2015
Source: Metro (Vancouver, CN BC)
Copyright: 2015 Metro Canada
Author: Matt Kieltyka
Page: 3


Advocates Accuse Police of Being Too Aggressive

Arrests and political haggling cast a dark cloud over the annual 
Cannabis Day event outside the Vancouver Art Gallery on Wednesday.

The protest and marijuana festival faced official opposition this 
year from the City of Vancouver, which ordered organizers to cease 
advertising the festivities and insisted the unsanctioned event 
required permits to exist.

A new wrench was thrown in the works Wednesday morning when vendors 
arrived to the north plaza of the art gallery and discovered the 
city, within the last two days, fenced off the entire area.

Under the watchful eye of police and city officials, the protest site 
relocated south of the gallery on Robson Street, but it wasn't long 
before chaos erupted when police moved in to arrest a man allegedly 
selling marijuana to youth.

"When the VPD observed someone overtly selling marijuana, including 
to young people, officers asked him to stop and warned that it may 
lead to him being arrested," said Vancouver police spokesman Const. 
Brian Montague in a statement. "He refused and told police he 
intended to openly sell to anyone despite police requests and 
warnings. The man was arrested, and officers were immediately 
confronted and swarmed."

Pot advocate Eric Einarson said that as soon as a large contingent of 
police officers moved in on the man, he and about a dozen fellow 
protesters joined the fray and attempted to prevent the arrest using 
a technique called "hug power."

With the protesters holding on tight to each other, police used 
physical force to separate them, and Montague confirmed pepper spray 
was used on at least one person.

"Police were very organized and violent," said Einarson. "They were 
very determined, very aggressive. There was definitely pepper spray. 
(Cannabis Day) is something that's happened 19 years here without 
violence and without an issue. For (police) to do something like this 
is absolutely unbelievable."

The man arrested may face potential trafficking charges, police say. 
Three other people were also arrested.

The arrests come at a bad time for organizer Jodie Emery, who had 
been fighting with the city to keep the event going in the lead-up to 
the protest.

She accused police of using "aggression on peaceful people."

"Now the city is going to tell everyone how so expensive it was to 
enforce today, whereas there's never been a problem before," she 
said. "Any disorganization today is 100 per cent the fault of the city."

A couple hours after the incident, Emery's husband, well-known 
activist Marc Emery, addressed hundreds of people gathered at the 
event to denounce the arrests and rally the crowd.

Deputy city manager Sadhu Johnston told Metro earlier in the day that 
the city doesn't support the event because it had become too big for 
the space (which competes with other, sanctioned Canada Day 
festivities) and, with commercial vendors selling marijuana and 
pot-related paraphernalia, could no longer be considered a protest.
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