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The People's Inquiries into Police Violence
On January 27th, 2005 the Anti-Poverty Committee hosted the first People’s Inquiry into Police Violence and Compliance. This event was the first in a series of public forums to discuss the reality of police violence in Vancouver and beyond, and the lack of justice available to people whose lives have been brutalized by police.
We are continuing the series of forums throughout March, building on the success of the first forum, and the awareness around International Women’s Day, the International Day Against Police Brutality and the International Day Against Racism.
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VPD's racist profiling and war on the poor
February 11, 2005
“These are people that come from another country and are parasites.”
This statement, from Vancouver Police Department (VPD) Inspector Val Harrison, belies the hateful and racist motivations behind the systemic harassment and brutal treatment of Latino residents of Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside (DTES). Her characterisation of the individuals arrested in the VPD’s latest public display of disdain for Latinos in the DTES as ‘parasitic’ is only fitting. The campaign the VPD has been waging against all poor people of colour in and out of the DTES can only be described as one of extermination.
The palatable contempt expressed by Harrison in her address to the media has carried well, with not one reasonable voice being aired or heard. It is completely consistent not only with the political agenda of the police, but also that of poverty pimps, healthcare providers and politicians, to reinforce the idea that a specific population (i.e. Latinos) are responsible for the seemingly invincible open-air drug trade of the DTES. Rather than indict themselves in the creation and maintenance of a drug ghetto, the ‘alien’ people of colour are once again targeted for attack.
Currently there is a make-believe ‘crackdown on Honduran drug dealers.’ In the February 9th, 2005 edition of the Vancouver Province, the names of over a dozen persons charged, but not convicted, of drug dealing were printed. The article went on to describe the strategy employed by the VPD and Canadian Immigration system in a quote from immigration lawyer Richond Kurland, “You detain him on site and keep him detained until you physically deliver him from whence he came.” What Kurland doesn’t mention, however, is the physical and structural violence incurred against these alleged drug dealers for being poor, which is further intensified by rampant and accepted racial profiling from the VPD and other state institutions.
The reality on the street is that there is no special crackdown. Latinos have their heads cracked against the curbs of Vancouver day in, day out. Omar, an organiser for Latinos in Action say, “Sure, we don’t deny that there are Latino brothers and sisters dealing drugs, but we also don’t demonize those who do. You have to understand that we come from a very poor country and a lot of people will do almost anything to feed their families."
Omar is from Honduras, as are many men and women who now find themselves in the Downtown Eastside (DTES). He went on to explain that following Hurricane Mitch, which devastated Central America in 1998, there was a mass migration of newly homeless and landless families who fought their way into Fortress North America to seek economic stability. Many were detained and deported back to Honduras, where the unemployment rate is
The VPD estimate that 400 Honduran adults who survived the 3,200-mile journey to Vancouver are currently involved in the drug trade. No one outside the VPD can verify that number, or any other census or statistics relating to Latinos living in the DTES. This is because the majority live underground in a world where there is no access to healthcare, legal employment or social assistance. Most Latinos live in fear of being targeted as a drug dealer, as that would lead to an arrest and certainly to deportation. For people living without status in this country, there is not even the illusion of justice - the immigration minister can sign a special certificate to oust a person even if they have not been convicted of any crime that they have been charged with and regardless of conditions they face upon deportation.
Prior to the City-Wide Enforcement Team (CET), a policing initiative that is behind the deployment of 50 additional police in the DTES in April of 2003, the VPD had been working alongside the RCMP and officers from Canadian Immigration. ‘Operation Torpedo’ has often mistakenly been described as an effort to break up the concentration of drug use on the corner of Main and Hastings. In reality, it was a push to collect evidence (however circumspect) to facilitate a mass arrest of suspected Latino drug dealers.
Jaime Cortez describes his encounter with officers working on Operation Torpedo, “I had just gotten back from Calgary where I use to live for like 10 years. When I came down town to see what was going on a blue van pulled me over and three guys forced me to the side. When I asked what the fuck was going on they said they had a picture of me dealing drugs and they where gonna deport my Spic ass. I asked them where they got the picture and they said they took it two weeks ago. They then showed me a picture that was all blurred cause they must have taken it from a moving car. They said I was the blur with the hat on. I was wearing a hat but I was like two feet taller then that guy. Luckily I still had my greyhound bus ticket in my pocket. The receipt proved I had been away for almost a month and that I just got back.”
In the underground community of Latinos in the DTES, the blue van had become synonymous with the ‘disappearances’. No one knows how many people were disappeared by Operation Torpedo, and almost no one cares to ask.
The Anti-Poverty Committee (APC) has been working closely with the Vancouver Area Network of Drug Users, No One Is Illegal and Latinos in Action for years. We organise around police brutality with the understanding that police violence is racist and sexist because it is poor people of colour who are targeted in the drug war; and that the drug war is just a flank of the larger class war. When the cops shoot homeless aboriginal persons 15 times in a back alley, the APC is there to denounce this system that applauds the murders. When people are stolen from the street and deported because they are poor, the APC will fight with those communities for real justice.
Throughout the month of March, from International Women’s Day through the International Day Against Police Brutality and the International Day Against Racism, the APC invites you to participate in a series of forums we have been calling the People’s Inquiry into Police Violence and Compliance. Within this broader theme, we will be focusing on issues as they affect women, people of colour and people living in poverty.
People's Inquiry into Police Violence
Speech made by Rob, President of VANDU
January 27, 2005
I was invited to speak at the People's Inquiry into Police Violence tonight on behalf of the Vancouver Area Network of Drug Users. Currently, I am president of VANDU that is speaking out loud against the VPD and their current tactics that are used against the residents of the DTES.
I strongly believe that the VPD has the mentality that us drug users are not equal or up to par with the average citizens of Canada. Their actions in the last seven years have proven to me that their main mission is to physically beat us into submission, but they have failed.
Some members of the VPD are now boasting that their tactics and defense is equal if not better than the LAPD. The famous Rodney King incident comes to mind. From that incident the LAPD showed publicly how they dealt with beating people into submission.
The VPD are now saying that some criminals do make it through their rigid screening process. Some criminals? I believe that they are all criminals if they believe that each of the officers of the VPD are above the law and free from criminal prosecution.
We are capable of doing our own internal investigation. Where have we heard that time and time again? Any and all police departments or police states cannot investigate themselves for the simple fact they are biased to themselves! Each and every police department has that code of silence that exists in our streets as drug users.
Police officers are suppose to be professional, yet they adhere to the code of silence rule and punish any member that speaks out against their fellow officers. A perfect example is how the Toronto Police Department acted as bullies to the Mayor who spoke out loud against their policy of shooting people.
One of our brothers of the DTES was brutally murdered on Boxing Day. His name was Gerald Chenary. Different stories come out of that situation. What is the most likely scenario is that Gerald was in the ally shooting up when the two rookie police officers showed up and they demanded that he drop his rig. When a person is flying high on their drug of choice, it is hard for that person to stand still.
One version that I heard an officer of the VPD state is that Gerald was actually on top of this female officer stabbing her, yet the only thing is mentioned is that they both received traumatic counselling, not receiving medical attention.
What about the traumatic counselling that the residents of the DTES need after each brutal attack that the VPD is responsible for? The fear of the lethal attacks that the VPD is using without punity is causing panic and distrust amongst us. Who is going to be next? That question is common amongst not only us drug users but the rest of the residents of the DTES.
The time for action is now! I strongly believe that the VPD need to be investigated by the residents of the DTES, not the VPD investigating themselves. Accountability is something that I strongly believe in as president of VANDU and I believe that now is the time for the VPD to be held ACCOUNTABLE.
ENOUGH IS ENOUGH!!
President of the Vancouver Area Network of Drug Users
Police Officers Face Prosecution for Assaulting Senior Citizen
Press Advisory - For Immediate Release
January 20, 2005
PIVOT Legal Society
Police Officers Face Prosecution for Assaulting Senior Citizen
VANCOUVER - A senior criminal defence lawyer is preparing to prosecute two Vancouver Police officers for assaulting an elderly man in the Downtown Eastside.
Howard Rubin, a former Crown prosecutor, is set to appear in Provincial Court at 222 Main, on Monday, January 24, at 2:00 p.m. to begin proceedings against the two officers. Rubin is acting on behalf of Robert Woodward, a 71-year old senior citizen who lives in Surrey and does volunteer work in the Downtown Eastside.
What makes this case special is that a private citizen is acting as prosecutor, rather than the Crown. Under the Criminal Code, individual citizens can initiate criminal proceedings without the assistance of either the police or the Crown. Rubin took up the case on the request of Pivot Legal Society, an organization dedicated to improving the lives of marginalized persons.
The private prosecution stems from an incident on September 4, 2004. Woodward, who collects toys to give to poor families, was in his car taking Tylenol 3. Woodward has a subscription for the pills because of chronic pain, due to an industrial accident that paralyzed him for 12 years.
"I had put the Tylenols in my mouth when someone grabbed my throat and shoulder and literally dragged me out of the car," said Woodward. "There were two officers. One slammed me into a wall face first, and yelled 'Spit it out!' When I spit out the pills, my teeth came out as well."
Woodward suffered serious cuts to his left hand and right shoulder, and his stomach started to bleed from old injuries that split open. After the incident, VPD officers Swanson and Whittaker refused to give their names or badge numbers. Whittaker has since quit the VPD.
Woodward laid a complaint with the Vancouver Police Department the same day, but nothing ever happened. Since then, he tried six different times to get the names of the officers. It was only when Pivot Legal Society demanded the officer's names were they released.
"This case illustrates how lack of proper oversight and a violent police culture puts everyone in society at risk," said John Richardson, executive director of Pivot Legal Society. "There is no public safety without police accountability, not even for the elderly."
Crown Council serves and protects VPD
November 16, 2004
The Crown has intervened and stayed the charges that where being pressed by myself against an officer of the Vancouver police Department. Constable Wade Rodrique, a known thug within the DTES, has been given a ‘stay out of jail for free’ by Crown Council in a case where the VPD faced a serious of
charges ranging from obstruction of justice to aggravated assault.
Crown Council informed me that “The statements provided by others including police members present are not consistent with the description given by Mr. Cunningham (myself).” What is consistent is the role of Crown Counsel to serve and protect the VPD.
A private prosecution was used as a strategy to by-pass the inherent bias that is shared between Crown Council and the police. We succeed in getting a judge to approve six criminal charges against Rodrique. Up until that point Crown had not involved them selves, most likely they where not ready to take on the PIVOT Legal Society as we had caught them with their guard down. The Crown was finally sent in upon the orders of the Attorney General to crush the case.
I am a member of the Anti-Poverty Committee and never believed that justice would be found through our legal system. Our effort was meant to take this cop off the street. He has since been relocated outside the DTES.
The Anti-Poverty Committee is determined to continue with the legal strategy of private prosecution. We see an opportunity to exploit the legal system along this route. We do not believe there is any reason to pursue police complaints. With PIVOT we played the game and lost. The APC realizes Crown and the entire court system are vulnerable to pressure. We understand that as poor people our only power is disruption. We will make sure that our power is felt in their courtrooms and on our streets.
APC Member Charges Cop with Assault
October 21, 2004
Press Release - For Immediate Release, October 21, 2004
Vancouver Police Officer Charged With Assault
Private prosecution used to hold police officer to account for assault on
VANCOUVER - A city police officer has been criminally charged with assault after allegedly throwing a local activist through a plate-glass window. The criminal charge was approved by a Provincial Court Judge following a private prosecution hearing on September 9, 2004. The officer is scheduled to make a first appearance in regards to the charge at 9:30 a.m. on Monday, October 25, at the Provincial Courthouse at 222 Main St.
Unique about this case is the fact that an individual citizen, rather than the Crown, initiated the criminal proceeding and a private prosecutor, rather than the Crown, is conducting the prosecution. Under the Criminal Code, individual citizens are authorized to initiate criminal proceedings without the assistance of either the police or the Crown. However, the procedure is rarely used.
"Private prosecutions in Canada have proven to be an effective way of holding officials and companies to account," said Doug Chapman, a former government prosecutor and Sierra Legal Defence Fund lawyer who has launched many private prosecutions. "In my experience private prosecutions are an important legal tool for all Canadians to enforce our laws when there is a reluctance among government officials, including the police, to do so."
The assault charge against Vancouver Police Constable Wade Rodrigue stems from an incident that took place on April 28, 2004, in the City's Downtown Eastside. According to victim and witness statements, David Cunningham - an outspoken anti-poverty activist who has been highly critical of police - was held with his arms pinned behind his back and thrown through a drug-store window after a verbal confrontation with the officer.
Cunningham complained to the police about the alleged incident. However, three months after making his complaint, internal police investigators still had not contacted key witnesses. Cunningham approached Pivot Legal Society, who asked lawyer Cristen Gleeson to act as private prosecutor in the case. Acting in a pro bono capacity, Gleeson presented Cunningham's case to a Provincial Court Judge, who approved the charge against the Vancouver Police Constable on September 9, 2004.
John Richardson, Executive Director of Pivot Legal Society, says that the current reliance on police to investigate themselves make private prosecutions an important remedy for individuals who have suffered police misconduct. "Generally, a criminal charge will only get to court if the police press charges. However, police are often reluctant to press charges against their one of their fellow officers. Private prosecutions are an alternate way to hold police accountable for criminal acts."
Gleeson has refused to comment publicly on the case while it is proceeding. However, Richardson is calling upon the Attorney General to take a closer look. "The evidentiary groundwork for this prosecution has been laid, and a Provincial Court Judge has approved the charge. The test for proceeding with a criminal prosecution has been passed. Now, we are asking the Attorney General's office to get involved in the prosecution,either by assisting in or taking over the trial."
The Attorney General will state its position to the Court on Monday, October 25. If the Attorney General does not intervene in the prosecution, lawyer Cristen Gleeson has undertaken to see the case through to its end.
Canadian criminal law is normally enforced using a two-step process: The police first investigate a crime, and then Crown prosecutors try the case in court. It is a little known fact, however, that individual Canadians are also authorized to initiate criminal proceedings, without involving either the police or the Crown. This process, known as a private prosecution, allows private individuals to act as criminal prosecutors.
Private prosecutions are not a new phenomenon. From the early Middle Ages to the 17th century, private prosecutions were the main way to enforce the criminal law. Indeed, responsibility for preserving the peace and maintaining the law generally rested with private citizens. Since that time, the police and the Crown Counsel's office have assumed most of the responsibilities for law enforcement. However, under the common law in Canada, every person has the right to initiate a private prosecution against an alleged offender in any matter that constitutes a violation of the Criminal Code. Individuals can also initiate private prosecutions to enforce a statute, such as environmental legislation, that provides penalties for the violations.
A private prosecution occurs when an individual, or a group of individuals, gathers evidence of a wrongdoing and swears an Information setting out the particulars of the alleged crime. Rather than the police initiating charges, as is normally the case, it is the individual who initiates criminal proceedings in a private prosecution.
This is how the process works: a.. Any person can go before a Justice of the Peace and swear under oath that an illegal act has occurred. This process is known as "Laying an Information." b.. A Justice of the Peace who receives an Information must refer the matter to a Provincial Court Judge. c.. The individual who has laid the Information then appears before the Judge at a special hearing. If the Judge is satisfied that there exists substantial evidence that an offence has occurred, the Judge will issue a summons and order the accused to answer to the charge in court. d.. If the Judge allows the charge to proceed, the individual (or their lawyer) can act as the prosecutor in conducting the legal proceedings.
The right of an individual to conduct a private prosecution is not unlimited. The Attorney General has the ability to take over a private prosecution. If the Attorney General decides that the prosecution is against the public interest, it can be stopped. In some cases, the Attorney General and the private prosecutor will work together, sharing the responsibility.
If the accused is found guilty as a result of the private prosecution, punishment and a criminal record will follow in the same way as a prosecution by the Crown.
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Vancouver Police Brutally Assault Eight Eastside Residents
For Immediate Release
March 5, 2004
At approximately 2:30 AM on Sunday, February 29th, members of the Vancouver Police Department attacked six women and two men returning home from a show at the Waldorf.
The eight eastside residents were walking up Hastings Street, when police arrived on the scene, and confronted the residents.
Women from the group asked why they were being stopped. Responses from the attending officers were hostile as one of the women questioning their actions was shoved and told to "shut up" by the officers.
Officers refused to respond to any other questions, provide reason for detainment, or acknowledge their badge numbers to the group, and responded with hostility. The officers became physically aggressive and grabbed one of the women under the guise of trying to arrest her.
At this point, several other back up officers arrived at the scene and began to assault the others from the group.
Batons and pepper spray at close-range were employed on all of the seven resulting in injuries from bruising to fractured ribs.
One woman was hospitalized with an injury to her eye and head, and four people were knocked unconscious at the scene.
A 911 call was made at the scene by a witness bystander. Seven people required medical attention on the scene and at the police precinct.
“I saw five police kicking and punching one woman who was handcuffed, face down and her feet restrained, she was screaming for help, and I was telling them to stop,” said eyewitness Kathleen Yearwood.
At the height of the police riot, there were approximately 30 police and 15 cars, and Hastings Street was shut down for two hours. People on the street who were requesting the police stop the violence were threatened with arrest.
After the assaults and arrests which continued for over an hour, seven people were held in custody for 18 hours and are now facing criminal charges for obstruction, mischief and assault on police officers.
It is suspected that police were particularly cruel to these individuals as they are well-known political activists from the Downtown Eastside community.
Witnesses to the event were shocked at the illegality and unprovoked violence from the police.
On March 9, 2004 at 9am the seven defendants will be in court for their first appearance. We are asking for your support and donations to assist in legal defense and in moving forward with legal action against the Vancouver Police Department.
This is not an isolated incident. This happens to people everyday in the Downtown Eastside. We cannot allow the increased police forces in Vancouver to barricade us in our homes for fear of violent reprisals.
Corporate Media Report
The Globe and Mail - Vancouver police face accusations of violence
Upcoming People's Inquiries Into Police Violence
Tellier Tower - 16 East Hastings St.
6:30pm, March 24th
People of Colour and Police Violence
Please join the APC this Thursday, March 24th for speakers and discussion of racist police brutality. Speakers will touch on topics such as racial profiling, the 'crackdown' on Latinos in the DTES, RCMP harassment of the Skwelkwek'welt defenders, and other topics.
6:30pm, March 30th
6:30pm, April 6th
Women and Police Violence
What is APC?
APC is...The Anti-Poverty Committee is an organization of poor and working people, who fight for poor people, their rights and an end to poverty by any means necessary.
The poor face constant attack under the capitalist system and these attacks have only intensified under the BC Liberal government. APC is committed to fighting the brutal policies of the BC Liberals through direct action, mass mobilization, and casework.
We oppose racism, sexism, homophobia, and all other forms of oppression. APC is an independent and democratic organization open to anyone who agrees with our basis of unity. We are committed to working in solidarity with the struggles of other progressive movements — locally, nationally, and internationally — to end poverty and injustice.
Contact us :
332 Carrall St.
Coast Salish Territory
Canada v6b 2j3