Volume 96, Issue 83
Friday, March 7, 2003

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Students arrested at York protest
Pacifists resort to alleged hooliganism

By Emmett Macfarlane
Gazette Staff

Pickets, arrests, an alleged assault and a brief occupation were all part of a York University protest against a possible war in Iraq, sparking anger from at least one member of Parliament.

On Wednesday, students at York University took part in an international day of action against the looming war in Iraq, but the peaceful demonstrations took a turn for the worse, according to Cim Nunn, director of media relations at York.

"We knew there would be protest activity for some time," Nunn said, adding the university was fine with the demonstration, as long as access to the campus was safe and secure.

Nunn said repeated requests were made to protest organizers to clear the picket lines, after public transit buses stopped entering campus and caused a backlog in traffic. Eventually, the police were called to clear campus entrances, and four people were detained for refusing to clear out, he explained.

"The protesters who were upset about the police making arrests made their way to the president's office," Nunn said, adding some protesters briefly occupied the office. On their way to the office, another group passed by an information booth of the Canadian Alliance Association, resulting in an "incident."

The incident allegedly involved protesters trashing the Alliance booth and roughing up the Association's president, Yaakov Roth, according to Alliance MP Grant Hill. Protesters also attempted to burn the club's flags, and stole them after they would not ignite, Hill claimed.

"Peaceful demonstration is a legitimate form of protest in Canada," Hill said, while noting the violent actions taken by some of the protesters is an embarrassment for everyone involved.

Hill said this is an opportunity for organizers of the protest, as well as Prime Minister Jean Chrétien, to speak out against such activity.

Pablio Vivanco, VP-external affairs for the York Federation of Students, said protesters made an attempt to accommodate access to the campus. "We thought the police [were] there to keep the peace.

"Two of the people arrested are board members of the Federation," Vivanco said. "[We] later talked about how the university was behind the arrest of peaceful, tuition-paying protesters."

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