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Vancouver police arrest casserole solidarity protesters

Vancouver Police arrested seven peaceful protesters at a Casseroles demonstration in solidarity with the student movement in Quebec. Pictured: red squares cover a police car in Montreal during the student protests. Photo sourced from Wikimedia Commons.

Vancouver Police arrested seven peaceful protesters at a Casseroles demonstration in solidarity with the student movement in Quebec, charging them with both obstruction of justice and loitering. Excessive force was used by the VPD, both outside and inside the jail at 222 Main Street, where some protesters were detained for more than 12 hours.

One of the arrestees, Sasha Wiley states: “I am a Vancouver public school teacher and have always maintained a stance of non-violence and non-confrontation. Last night, I was violently arrested but ultimately charged with nothing; my multiple injuries today are apparently what the VPD consider appropriate treatment for loitering.”

This news comes shortly after five similar arrests took place at another Casseroles march last week. 

VPD Sgt. Ken Athans told community organizer Lauren Gill in front of the Art Gallery that he had just returned from training in Montreal, where dissent has been explicitly criminalized under Bill 78. This was later confirmed in a TYEE article: "Staff Sgt. Athans... went to Montreal to observe what tactics and strategies the Montreal Police are using during their protests," said Cst. Lindsey Houghton.

Anushka Nagji, arrested at both Friday and Wednesday's demonstrations was repeatedly assaulted by multiple members of the VPD, until finally being thrown against a concrete garbage can outside the jail and then again, against the pavement inside the VPD garage while being kneed in the back by VPD officers. Her injuries, bruised ribs, are one of a long list including a broken wrist, scrapes and cuts. Nagji, along with another detained participant, is being charged with obstruction as well as assault of a police officer (pending approval).

The VPD are taking a political stance by targeting the student movement here in Vancouver. They are using violence and unjust arrests to quash political mobilization, resistance, and public dissent. This threatens to limit the political expression of citizens — protected under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms — as it intimidates would-be protesters with examples of arbitrary arrest and assault.

The Casseroles movement, which began in Quebec as a protest against tuition hikes, was galvanized by the passing of Bill 78 on May 18th. This law makes it a criminal offense for small groups of students and other organizers to gather in Quebec without permission from police. This legislation has resulted in Canada being put on the UN’s human rights watchlist. Solidarity marches have occurred both weekly and monthly in Vancouver, as well as in communities all across Canada and in the eastern US.

"We are planning to hold another casseroles action next Wednesday, and encouraging everyone who supports civil liberties and the right to assemble to attend - with pots and pans..." said Kim Hearty, a community organizer.

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