Students Demand Dropping of Charges and Public Inquiry
The following two press releases were issued by Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, in response to a violent assault and mass arrests by Canada’s national police force on a political protest/cultural rally at the university on April 4.
Police jailed about 25 students, charging 19 with obstructing a police officer and one with assaulting a police officer. They were released the following day after a lengthy bail process.
SDS is vigorously protesting the police action and has launched a public campaign to defend the arrested students, including a public meeting for Friday, April 11.
For more information on the campaign in the coming days, go to the group’s website at www.sdsubc.ca. Media contacts at SDS are: Steven Klein, UBC student and witness of the arrests, 604-240-1344; Tristan Markle, Vice President, Administration of Alma Mater Society (student union), 778-836-9877; Margaret Orlowski, UBC student, 604-781-3195
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Police Brutality At Knoll Aid
Press Release, April 5, 2008 — Late yesterday, a peaceful celebration in defence of public space at the University of British Columbia (UBC) was violently quashed by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. All the events discussed herein have been either captured by camera or can be corroborated by multiple eyewitness accounts.
On Friday, April 4, UBC students loosely associated with Trek Park and Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) held “Knoll Aid 2.0,” a musical celebration of public space on campus. Knoll Aid 2.0 was part of a larger campaign against the commercialization of campus, the demolition of the grassy knoll, and the development of a $40 underground bus-loop. Knoll Aid 2.0 was an overwhelmingly peaceful event and featured local musicians, free food, and three simultaneous petition drives. It was attended by primarily UBC students.
Knoll Aid 2.0 began at noon. At around 8:00/8:30 pm, RCMP and the Fire department arrived at the area known as “Trek Park” (a liberated space near the grassy knoll) because some students had created a small bonfire. Citing a bylaw violation, the RCMP approached one student, Stefanie Ratjen in a rather aggressive manner and began speaking with her. After a dialogue, the contents of which are still unknown, Stefanie was grabbed by an RCMP officer and thrown to the ground, pinned, and handcuffed. Her face was shoved in a puddle of mud while an RCMP officer sat on top of her.
After this uncalled-for act of police aggression, fellow students came to her aid. One musician was immediately arrested for questioning the RCMP officer’s treatment of Stefanie. For approximately two hours, students formed a chain to protest RCMP action and several students attempted to peacefully negotiate the release of Stefanie and the musician (whose name at this point is unknown). During this time, approximately 30 RCMP cars with officers from across metro Vancouver came to UBC. Campus security was also present and threatened to discipline students if they did not cooperate with the RCMP.
Police officers systematically attempted to break the human chain students had formed by pushing, shoving and kicking. RCMP officers randomly arrested any student present at the scene including Bahram Norouzi, who was arrested in the middle of a CTV interview. At around 10:30 p.m., approximately 25 students were arrested and detained. They were brought to a detention center at Main St. and Hastings St. where they presently remain.
This press release would like to draw attention to the conduct of the RCMP. A university is intended for students, not the police. Upon entering student space, the police should have had the decency, at the very least, to deal with students in a respectful and dignified manner. Instead, RCMP officers were highly aggressive and belligerent. RCMP officers committed gross abuses of power by, for example, threatening to release dogs on students and pointing taser guns at students that were already pinned down to the floor. The actions of RCMP officers are testament of police misconduct, if not brutality.
- We demand the release of all students arrested and demand that all charges be dropped.
- Furthermore, we demand an inquiry of the RCMP’s actions in relation to this event and the treatment of students.
- Lastly, we demand that UBC administration defends student’s rights to a peaceful protest.
To repeat, this was a peaceful celebration/concert in defence of public space. The RCMP had no right to violently quash a peaceful student protest.
Trek Park for the People
Students for a Democratic Society
Student Environment Center
Social Justice Center
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Musical Concert Against Commercial Development at UBC Ends in Mass Arrests; Students Demand Public Inquiry
Press Release: April 5, 2008 — UBC students are calling for a public inquiry into the behaviour of the RCMP and UBC Campus Security following mass arrests at a musical concert against commercial development at the university. The event, KnollAid 2.0, was meant to be an awareness-raising musical concert against the planned construction of a poorly planned underground bus loop and the commercialization of the centre of campus.
Students have been outraged at the lack of meaningful consultation and undemocratic actions of the UBC administration in developing this space. The focus of the musical concert was the grassy knoll, a centre of social life at UBC that is slated for destruction by the administration.
As the concert wound down, Campus Security, the RCMP, and the Fire Department arrived and successfully put out a bonfire that had been created by some of the concertgoers. In the process, Campus Security and the RCMP arrested two individuals for allegedly interfering with the firefighters. Students peacefully protested what they saw as the wrongful arrest of one of the individuals by locking arms with her and sitting down. They then convinced the police officer to remove her handcuffs and she was released.
Immediately after, students surrounded the police cruiser and attempted to convince the police officer to release the other student who was being detained.
Over the course of the next two hours, well after the original situation with the bonfire was under control, over 18 police vehicles and 30 police officers descended on UBC campus. They included members of the Vancouver Police Department, Richmond RCMP, and Transit Police. These reinforcements verbally threatened to use police dogs and tasers to disperse the protestors.
Around midnight, they descended upon the protestors peacefully protesting in front of the police cruiser. They indiscriminately arrested many bystanders, including an individual who stumbled upon the scene while biking home. They trained tasers on students who were already being forced into the ground by multiple police officers. One individual was handcuffed and detained immediately after giving an interview with CBC news. Observers were shocked at the confrontational attitude and brutal tactics of the police.
Since then, the RCMP has attempted to cover up its behaviour by distorting the timeline of events and outright lying. RCMP spokespeople are claiming that police backup was called because they were unable to put out the bonfire. In fact, the additional RCMP detachments were called well after the original situation was under control.
They are claiming only one individual was arrested while they were putting out the bonfire. In fact, two individuals were arrested but one was released.
They are claiming that the situation was dangerous until the additional officers came and made the mass arrests. In fact, the RCMP officers on the scene stood around and exchanged friendly chatter with students while they waited for two hours for reinforcements.
They are claiming that they issued multiple verbal warnings. In fact, not a single warning was issued in the two hours that the RCMP waited for reinforcements. Immediately before the arrests, they asked a student to issue a verbal warning before issuing one themselves.
Only a public inquiry can establish why the RCMP is distorting the events of April 4th in this manner.
Students are demanding that the UBC administration initiate an internal inquiry into the behaviour of Campus Security. At the concert, many witnessed them using force while assisting in the arrest of the two students. When witnesses asked them about it afterwards, the Campus Security officers denied any involvement. Campus Security has a long history of harassing and intimidating students peacefully protesting the commercialization of campus.