Updates on East Vancouver “no pipelines” police raid and legal defence fundraising
A series of news reports on the June 3, 2014, police raid in East Vancouver, BC, as well as a link to legal defence and communications fundraising. Special thanks to all the comrades who have offered support and members of the public who have donated to fundraising efforts. We will be neither silenced nor intimidated in our defence of Mother Earth!
Activists say police drew guns during ‘No Pipelines’ graffiti raid
By David P. Ball, The Tyee, June 5, 2014
Police confirmed they raided the East Vancouver home of four activists this week, but would not comment on residents’ allegations that two of 16 officers pointed handguns at residents during a search related to “No Pipelines” graffiti.
The Vancouver Police Department said it executed a search warrant at the Parker Street house on Tuesday morning, taking four residents into custody. It did not confirm how many officers were involved.
According to a warrant left behind on the kitchen table, officers were searching for “graffiti vandalism paraphernalia” — likely a reference to spray-painted slogans against bitumen and natural gas pipelines that have defaced walls and post boxes in the neighbourhood in recent years.
The raid came as the federal government is poised to announce its final decision on the controversial Enbridge Northern Gateway bitumen pipeline. First Nations and environmental groups have vowed to block the project from reaching the B.C. coast. But the use of graffiti has divided anti-pipeline activists, many of whom draw the line at civil disobedience, others at lawful protest tactics.
“Safety is our priority and that includes the safety of officers who are involved in this aspect of police work,” VPD spokesman Const. Brian Montague said in an email, when asked about the firearm allegations. “Officers are not required to unnecessarily risk their personal safety.
“Every search is different, every search has varying levels of risk and in every search we have various tools for entry and protection available to us. In potentially dangerous situations, such as entering premises where there are always many unknown factors, drawing of a sidearm and having it ‘ready’ is one of those options.”
One of the residents detained but not charged Tuesday was Gord Hill, an outspoken Kwakwaka’wakw nation artist and activist.
“We heard yelling outside our house, we looked out window and we could see cops on the sidewalk,” Hill said, using a friend’s phone as his was confiscated.
“Me and my girlfriend came downstairs, as we entered our living room, there was a man in plainclothes with a pistol pointing towards us. It was a nine-millimetre pistol sidearm. He said, ‘Get down on the ground’… They pointed it right at us, at our centre mass.”
He said that the suspect named on the warrant left on the table faced six counts of mischief under $5,000, but was released mid-afternoon after being interrogated about the spray-painted “No Pipelines” slogans by members of the VPD’s graffiti task force.
“No Pipelines” graffiti has vandalized landmarks in East Vancouver since at least 2009, drawing criticism from moderate activists concerned it may tarnish the image of pipeline opponents or spark a crackdown by authorities.
Among the critics is Ben West, tar sands campaigner with ForestEthics Advocacy, which supports civil disobedience and other forms of protest but not vandalism. He admitted he is “not the biggest fan” of the spray painted slogans, but sees them as a sign of angst and frustration over perceptions the government isn’t listening.
“In many political and social movements over the years, there’s been graffiti of all kinds. There is a legitimate space for street art, but it’s a shame if people are doing more harm than good,” he said.
“When people cover beautiful murals and people’s vehicles with ‘No Pipelines,’ I’m not sure it gets more people on board. But that said, to see this kind of heavy-handed response to at most an act of vandalism seems pretty extreme.”
Hill said that his blog Warrior Publications and the political organizing of the home’s inhabitants would have made them “known to police, they know what elements are in our household.”
“Considering they used graffiti charges to do an armed entry into our house, when there was no evidence of violence associated with the investigation… it’s definitely politically motivated,” he said.
Hill said that the raid did not surprise him, considering the federal government’s launch of an Integrated National Security Enforcement Team to protect oilsands infrastructure in 2012, made up of RCMP, the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) and local police forces.
The VPD’s Montague referred to Hill’s account of the events as “colourful” and added that in the case of most home search warrants, “an attempt is first made to request all of the occupants exit the home and surrender themselves to officers outside before entering.
“Unfortunately this search is part of an ongoing investigation and we would be unable to provide further details at this time,” he said.
“No pipelines” graffiti leads police to raid home in East Vancouver
by Carlito Pablo, The Georgia Straight, June 5, 2014
The Vancouver Police Department has raided an East Side home in connection with anti-pipeline graffiti.
However, the VPD denied a claim by one of the residents of the Parker Street home that the operation was an act of repression against anti-pipeline activists.
“My only response to that would be that we investigate criminal offences,” police spokesperson Const. Brian Montague told the Straight in a phone interview today (June 5).
Montague maintained: “Criminal offences have taken place, and we’re investigating those. And part of that is executing a search warrant to gather evidence to prove those offences.”
The police officer confirmed that five people were taken into custody.
Montague indicated that no charges have been laid as part of the ongoing investigation.
One of the residents of the house is Gord Hill, a First Nations activist who endorses direct action to defend aboriginal rights and the environment.
In a previous interview with the Straight, the Kwakwaka’wakw artist stressed the importance of a strong Native movement to stop oil and gas expansion.
“It’s the only one that really has the capability of engaging in more radical tactics or the willingness to engage in more radical tactics,” Hill said in that interview.
Using a borrowed mobile phone because police confiscated his and his housemates’ devices, Hill said that 16 police officers were involved in the June 3 raid.
“It’s a big intimidation tactic to try to silence the growing opposition to the oil and gas pipelines, and oil tankers,” Hill told the Straight today (June 5).
According to Hill, the operation served “multiple purposes”.
“It’s also like a big fishing expedition for them to come into our house, document our personal effects and activities, and then also to take our communications devices, and disrupt our public communications and organizing work,” Hill said.
Hill edits the Warrior Publications site, and he posted an account of the raid there.
Vancouver police raid house connected to ‘no pipelines’ graffiti
By Emily Jackson, Metro News Vancouver, June 5, 2014
Police confirmed they raided an East Vancouver house in an investigation connected to the prevalent “no pipelines” graffiti after a blog post surfaced questioning the magnitude of force used during the Tuesday morning search.
Four residents of the house and one guest had guns pointed at them and were handcuffed and locked up in a police transport van during a raid by about 16 officers and a K9 squad, said Gord Hill, a resident and editor of the Warrior Publications website.
Considering the charges were of a “minor nature” (mischief under $5,000), Hill questioned the size of the raid searching for “graffiti vandalism paraphernalia” where five laptops, USB keys, four cell phones, banners, a video camera and a black hoodie were seized.
“I think it’s an intimidation tactic to try to silence the opposition to oil and gas pipelines and tankers that are proposed for our regions here,” Hill said, noting the residents are radicals involved in Indigenous resistance, communications and anarchist projects.
Vancouver police spokesman Const. Brian Montague confirmed Thursday police executed a search warrant in regards to an ongoing investigation that is linked to the “no pipelines” graffiti that has dotted walls, murals and cars across the city.
While he wouldn’t provide specific details on tactics, including the number of officers involved and whether firearms were drawn, Montague said search warrants typically involve a number of officers and that drawing a firearm is an option that would be “quite normal” in certain scenarios.
“As you can imagine, searching a home obviously has some potentially dangerous aspects to it when you don’t know who was inside and you’re dealing with unknowns,” he said.
The residents are “entitled to the perception” that the search was too heavy handed, Montague said.
“If they have concerns about dealings with our officers, they can always make a complaint.”
Five people were taken into custody during the search but subsequently released. “No charges have been laid yet,” Montague said. As the investigation is ongoing, he could not provide any additional details.
As for the residents, they’re organizing a legal defense and fundraising for new electronics.
To contribute to “Beat the Legal Fees, Beat the Raid” GoFundMe:
Posted on June 5, 2014, in Oil & Gas, State Security Forces and tagged anti-graffiti police raid, Anti-Graffiti Unit, anti-pipeline graffiti, no pipelines, no pipelines graffiti, police raid, police repression, Vancouver Police. Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.