Update: Someone just shared an interesting video of Sasha Wiley-Shaw (sharing a stage with NDP MP Libby Davies) saying that Davies “has been a political mentor of mine since my childhood”, and then discussing the incident in 2012. Very interesting, and answers a few questions…
Update 2: The arrested cyclist is Jakub Markiewicz, whose prior claim to fame was being arrested after filming a Vancouver mall’s security staff arresting someone. Garth Mullins published an interview with him on his website that ignores the fact the cyclist had already been warned, ignoring his “Help I’m being oppressed” line, and making no mention that the organizers called for violence against the police.
Anarchist May Day marches are a relatively new phenomenon in Vancouver, this year was the third. Last year’s parade was wild, featuring a group of masked thugs with flaming torches marching through downtown streets; and at one point, swarming the entrance of the Pidgin Restaurant (torches and all). Many people questioned Vancouver Police’s lack of reaction to the flaming torches- some predicted this could lead to an escalation.
There were no flaming torches at this year’s march, but the militancy was still there. The event began with a series of speeches that unabashedly called for violence, and three people were arrested after clashes with Vancouver Police. In-between all this, protesters taunted the cops, blasted loud music, lit fireworks, and shut-down traffic on many downtown streets. All of this hapened in the name of the Unist’ot’en Camp, an anarchist influenced indigenous squat on Crown lands near Smithers, BC.
Open Calls For Violence At The Cenotaph:
The protest began at the Cenotaph on East Hastings street, just across the street from Vancouver’s infamous ‘pot block‘. The crowd was a mix of masked anarchists, punk rock kids, and others. About 150 people showed-up, with a large contingent of police who watched over the crowd- two of the officers were walking around with video cameras and catching images of as many people as they could.
Shortly before the speeches got started; a video (at bottom of this article) shows a tall, burly, indigenous man intentionally pushing his way through the middle of three cops who were standing together. The cops followed him, told him off, and let him walk away. The man then made his way over to a friend, gestured to the cops and laughingly told his story.
The host was masked in a balaclava and was carrying a green and black diagonally striped flag (symbolizing Green Anarchism). When he called up the first speaker it turned out he was the same man who had just pushed himself into the police- Dan Wallace, who claims to be a “hereditary chief” and a “Haida Warrior”.
Wallace started off his speech by calling the cops “people in clown suits”, much of it focussed on the police, including making complaints about the cops filming people in the crowd. He next moved on to the obligatory reference to Harper, peppering his speech with expletives. Then, about half way through his speech, Wallace openly challenged the Criminal Code’s restrictions on inciting violence:
“I totally advocate and stand with anybody that wants to destroy a system that’s going to continue oppressing people. I advocate direct violence, direct action- against the cops, they need to be put in their place. I advocate that we actually take a stand and show those motherfuckers who has the actual power- they don’t, we do. I advocate making sure that we put sugar in any engine of any destructive machine that’s making a path, pathway, for a pipeline or a fishing boat. Take out the fucking fish farms, they’re destroying my waters, what I live off of.”
He then went on to give a special call-out to his heroes in the Black Bloc (the angry kiddies wearing masks):
“Screw those fucking assholes, I’m tired of being nice, I’m tired of fucking walking around all being politically correct, and saying the nice thing to make sure that everybody has to actually tiptoe around what I say. Fuck that bullshit, now is the time to make the change, and we got to make that change. And this is how it’s going to happen, more people showing up, and thank you very much – everybody – Black Bloc, yes, we need your protection, we need your help, and we need everybody to do the same thing.”
The second speaker was an anonymous young man wearing a balaclava, and carrying a black flag on an (unnecessarily) heavy wooden pole. He spoke about the anarchist history of May Day- a proud event where police officers were attacked (and killed) with Molotov cocktails. The crowd cheered when he labeled them as “revolutionaries for the destruction of capitalism and the state- completely”. He also made some disparaging remarks against “big labour”.
The third speaker was a young woman who came to the event with her baby. The toddler was left to crawl around on the pavement (in a park not unknown to have needles), and at one point was climbing on the unsecured (and stolen) shopping cart that held the blasting loud PA system. Her speech promoted ‘Diversity of Tactics’, the activist doctrine that says it’s okay for comrades to participate in violence:
“We were talking a lot in the last three years about Diversity of Tactics, and saying we need it all. And I think that the Diversity of Tactics was a good line to be calling for people, it brought in their perspectives, and it made people stronger in the face of oppression. But, really, we don’t need it all; we don’t need the politicians, we don’t need the fucking cops, we don’t need to be consulted any more- into our own demise.”
After the speeches were over, the organizers directed the crowd towards the street. At one point in the video a young woman walks by telling her friends how she’d gave a presentation in Copenhagen. It’s important to recognize that, despite their “class war” cover, many who engage in these protests (including many of their leaders) come from highly privileged backgrounds.
Street Battling The Cops, And Claims Of Police Violence:
The crowd was aggressive from the moment they stepped on to the road. The police tried their best to keep the protesters on one side, but the crowd outnumbered the police and did their best to spread across the whole road. They carried banners with messages including “Solidarity with the Unist’ot’en”, “Stop Pipelines” and “Rich Scum Beware, Class War”. A man walked in the middle of the crowd with the shopping cart, blasting anti-authoritarian punk.
A few minutes into the march the protesters tried to go on both sides of a city bus. This was a dangerous situation, as it would have put protesters outside the view of the police (and beside unguarded windows). When the cops told them they wouldn’t be allowed to pass, about 15-20 protesters started trying to push their way through. The video shows one cop pushing Dan Wallace, drum in hand, back away from the line. The people in the crowd yelled and swore at the cops.
A couple men were taken into custody by the police. Right when the second man was arrested, the video shows a cop pulling a third man off of his bike- the protesters later identified him as a “high school student”. It was less than a couple minutes before the conflict that the same man was given a warning by one of the cops (it appears that he was gesturing to stay on the proper side of the police line).
The video is quite shocking. At first, the man being arrested was almost mocking the cops yelling out like in Monty Python “help, I’m being oppressed!”. The man was clearly struggling with the police while they tried to put on the handcuffs. As the cop pulled his arm back he continued to struggle, the cop then twice forced his knee into the man’s ribs. It’s hard to judge how hard the man was struggling, or if this was necessary force- but, many people have been quick to judge.
A Quiet Ending, A Warning About The Police, And A Very Interesting Lawyer:
Nothing exciting happened from this point of the march. They walked around a few more streets until they ended-up at the back of the art gallery (the site of the former Occupy Vancouver encampment). One of the organizers left the protesters with a parting message:
“There’s going to be a series of demos going through the summer, with a similar flavor, similar message to what we had on May Day. As you disperse, make sure you disperse with somebody else- you’re generally safer from getting picked-off by the police that way, and questioned and harassed and all that. And if anybody has not written the lawyer’s number down, they should do so now- just in case, it would be a good idea”
The lawyer whose phone number they shared turns out to be an interesting character. His name is Jagdeep Mangat, and was formerly a member of the notorious Anti-Poverty Committee- the militant anarchist group that split-up and was the foundation of No One Is Illegal (NoII’s leader Harsha Walia has participated in the Unist’ot’en camp). Mangat should have no problem understanding the three new clients he inherited that day- he was arrested in 2004 in a protest against George Bush.
Vancouver Police Make A Naive Sounding Statement:
Vancouver Police Department spokesman Brian Montague issued the following statement after the mayhem:
“The Vancouver Police Department facilitate hundreds of peaceful protests in the city ever year and unfortunately there are those that try to hijack demonstrations with the intent on committing criminal acts and jeopardizing public safety. That of course includes the safety of lawful demonstrators.”
It’s a strange comment, indicating that the parade was hijacked by a small group who came to pervert it. That simply isn’t the case here, the march was organized accepting Diversity of Tactics- the few people who engaged violent resistance did that with the crowd’s consent. The keynote speaker openly advocated “direct violence”.
Montague’s statement is reminiscent of the 2011 hockey riot; when the police and Mayor Gregor Robertson gave conflicting reports of “anarchists” being responsible. Are they really that clueless, or is there some reason they’re bending the truth?