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Protestors clash with the pepper spray
By Aaron Wherry
While protests surrounding the Organization of American States conference were largely peaceful, two incidents in particular embodied the tension of the three days.
Sunday, the first day of the general assembly, also served as the climax of the protests. "After the OAS shutdown coalition and labour unions had marched through downtown Windsor, various protesters attempted to hang a large banner from the fencing which separated protesters from the grounds of the OAS meetings," said Andy LaRocque, a parade marshall from the Canadian Auto Workers union.
LaRocque, who said he attempted to restrain the protesters from climbing the barricades, was pepper-sprayed in the chaos. He said while he did not expect to be pepper-sprayed, he remained on the job with tears streaming down his face from the stinging spray.
"We're here to make sure things go smoothly. We want a peaceful protest," LaRocque said.
The second major incident of the day occurred when protesters, blocked a bus carrying three delegates, from entering the restricted general assembly grounds.
As the bus made its way to the gates of the barricade perimetre, protesters moved in front of the bus to keep it from entering the controlled area, approximately 25 protesters sat in front of the bus and refused to move.
After a lengthy standoff, police in riot gear, armed with shields, as the three delegates and bus driver waited, wooden batons and pepper spray moved in to clear the protesters and ushered the bus back behind the gates.
Staff Sgt. David Rossell of the Windsor Police, said the police acted appropriately in the situation.
Deny Tessier, a spokesperson for the Canadian Department of Foreign Affairs and the OAS, said despite demonstrations outside the gates surrounding the meetings, delegates remained largely undisturbed by rowdy or unruly protesters.
"I don't think the delegates noticed what happened outside. The protesters were quite peaceful and civilized. Unfortunately within that group were a small group of protesters who reacted violently."
Many witnesses to the arrests of protesters said the police were unjustly violent and irresponsible. Some claimed, protesters were apprehended without reason.
Spokesperson for the OAS shutdown coalition, Jaggi Singh, said he was upset with the police's handling of the bus incident. He said the use of pepper spray was unnecessary, considering the protesters' relatively civil disobedience and lack of resistance.
Sam Godfrey, a member of the OAS shutdown coalition, said the group was in Windsor to protest the many injustices created or encouraged by organizations like the OAS. Specifically, Godfrey said he was concerned with the oppression of the poor and lack of respect for human rights, he saw in the actions of the OAS.
In the days leading up to the OAS general assembly, Godfrey said the shutdown coalition passed a mandate asking for all coalition members to refrain from using violent methods of protest. He added since there were a large number of police officers in Windsor for the protest, he was concerned with the prospect of the event getting out of hand.
Rossell said all protesters involved in blocking the bus were arrested or detained and released a short while later.
¥ formed Apr. 30, 1948.
¥ currently has 35 member countries, all from the Western hemisphere
¥ another 45 countries, including the European Union have permanent observer status
¥ Canada has been a permanent observer since 1972 and became an official member state on Jan. 8, 1990.
¥ Cuba was a member of the OAS, but was removed when Fidel Castro, took power in 1962
¥ The OAS' charter outlines several key issues it hopes to deal with, including:
Advancing human rights
Promoting peace and security
Tackling poverty, drugs and corruption
-all statistics courtesy of the OAS