Police conduct is being questioned after a group of Indigenous youth protesting the Trans Mountain Pipeline expansion were forcibly dispersed and four were arrested by Vancouver Police on Feb. 19.
A video circulating on social media shows officers shoving protesters and grabbing their hair.
The youth had been protesting at the Vancouver offices of insurance companies backing the project. For three days, they stood in lobbies and outside the corporate buildings. They held protest banners, sang songs and hung red dresses, which have come to symbolize murdered and missing Indigenous women and girls.
Police did not intervene on the first two days, but said in an emailed statement that on Friday, Feb. 19 protesters began blocking access to a building, not allowing people to enter or exit.
Vancouver Police Department (VPD) spokesperson Steve Addison said the VPD tried to negotiate with protesters, but “they refused to engage.” Some protesters became confrontational, he said, prompting the VPD to bring in extra officers to “regain control of the situation and remove the protesters from the building.”
Four adults were arrested for mischief and obstruction. They were taken to jail and later released with orders to appear in court on May 19.
The video has been shared with VPD’s Professional Standards Section, which has notified the civilian oversight board, the Office of the Police Complaint Commissioner.
The protesters, partly organized by a group called Braided Warriors, made up of Musqueam, Squamish, Tsleil-Waututh and other First Nations, are demanding an end to the pipeline expansion.
In a statement Monday, the group said police violently removed them from the building where they had been peacefully sitting. They also say ceremonial items were damaged in the altercation.
The youth’s protest against the Trans Mountain Pipeline expansion is related to the lack of prior and informed consent given by First Nations whose territory the pipeline expansion will be built. Protests have continued for years, often joined by environmental groups against the expansion, and people in support of Indigenous rights.
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