Protesters vow to return despite arrests in Vancouver

So-called casseroles marches spread west from Quebec

Protesters sympathetic to the Quebec student protest movement are vowing to return to the Vancouver Art Gallery for another noisy march on downtown streets Wednesday night after the last two resulted in arrests.

More than two dozen protesters, with red squares pinned to their shirts and jackets and clanging pots and pans, marched from VAG on June 27, disrupting vehicle traffic and drawing the attention of more than 40 Vancouver Police officers. Seven people were eventually arrested after scuffles with police, four of them charged with obstructing or assaulting a police officer. A June 22 protest on the Burrard Bridge resulted in five arrests for alleged obstructing a peace officer and mischief.

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"Behaviour which involves bullying, violence, threats of violence and sometimes criminal acts is always subject to limitations even when it is done under the guise of a protest," said VPD Const. Lindsey Houghton.

Elementary schoolteacher Sasha Wiley-Shaw, one of the arrested, sported a bandaged wrist and was nursing various scrapes and bruises during a news conference last Friday outside the Provincial courthouse on Main Street.

Wiley-Shaw said she brought 25 copies of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms sections 1 and 2 with her for participants to tape to their backs. The sections protect freedom of expression and peaceful assembly.

My focus that evening was about educating the public and the people about their rights and the violations and infringements that were occurring, Wiley-Shaw said.

Wiley-Shaw said she had a brief discussion with a lawyer and may file an official complaint against police about the injuries she said she suffered.

I definitely feel like I was the victim of crime and I don't intend to be quiet about it or to let it be swept under the carpet. That is something that I would like to do, to be totally candid right now Im very scared of police, she said.

Houghton said Wiley-Shaws actions are under investigation and claimed the evidence is different than what she is claiming.

The so-called casseroles marches spread westward after Premier Jean Charests government passed a controversial emergency law in May that requires Quebec protest organizers to give police eight hours notice. The United Nations High Commission on Human Rights said the move infringed upon the right to peaceful assembly.

Houghton told The Tyee that Staff Sgt. Ken Athans had visited Montreal for training to deal with student protests, but claimed that such trips are standard across the force. The information came to light during a conversation protester Lauren Gill said she had with Athans on June 27.

"This isn't necessarily the criminalization of dissent, it's the preliminary criminalization of dissent, Gill said. They're trying to stop a movement before it gets started.

Many of the protesters were involved with the anti-corporate Occupy Vancouver camp on the VAG north plaza last Oct. 15 to Nov. 21 until the B.C. Supreme Court granted the city power to dismantle the camp and for police to enforce the land use bylaw.

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