Volume 91, Issue 51

Thursday, November 27, 1997

Mike the Knife


Police burn protesters at APEC summit

By Brendan Howe
Gazette Staff

Students protesting the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation summit Tuesday at the University of British Columbia were greeted with pepper spray and physical abuse by police.

Protestors attempted to cross police lines into a security zone which surrounded the Museum of Anthropology – which played host to political leaders from around the world gathering for the APEC summit. One protestor, Dale Lun, said the police started using pepper spray when the fence surrounding the zone was pulled down.

"There was no need for pepper spray at all," he said. "They were using it pretty indiscriminately." A lot of the people being sprayed were incapacitated already and on the ground, he added and said many of the protestors were intentionally getting arrested for symbolic purposes.

Const. Anne Drennan, spokesperson for the Vancouver Police Department, said the RCMP turned to pepper spray to handle the protestors because it was their safest option.

"We consider that the lowest level of force available to us. We would rather deploy the pepper spray than become involved in a physical confrontation," she said.

All but one of the 49 students arrested were released, with one student charged with public mischief after damaging the fence.

Sarah Farina, a volunteer with the Simon Fraser Public Interest Research Group, said police held a gun to one protestor's head. She added two protestors were treated in hospital because of injuries sustained during the protest.

"I think it was appalling. I didn't anticipate anything of the sort," Farina said. "There's no reason for putting guns to people's heads."

She said the majority of the 4,000 protestors were seated while small groups attempted to cross the police line, constantly announcing their intentions. She added people trying to cross the line walked slowly and protestors made every attempt to demonstrate to the police they were participating in a peaceful protest.

RCMP spokesperson Cpl. John Buis said the police were acting under their authority to safeguard internationally protected people.

–With files from Canadian Press

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Copyright The Gazette 1997