By Beacon Staff
The Calgary Police Service is being lauded by the Rocky Mountain Civil Liberties Association in a new report that offers police, protesters and policy-makers guidelines for avoiding violence and protecting civil liberties at large protests.
The report delves into the CPS’s handling of the 2002 G8 Summit in Calgary and Kananaskis, which is considered by many to be a success story for non-violent protests.
“One of the big things the report found was the police attitude here in Calgary was really different from the get-go,” said Kelly Ernst, a board member of the Rocky Mountain Civil Liberties Association. “They’re mindset was people have the right to protest, a right to assembly and the police’s role was to facilitate it, not shut it down.”
The report was never completed in 2002, after the Alberta Civil Liberties Association disbanded. The Rocky Mountain group had reports filed by many civil liberty observers from the 2002 summit and used those to compile the new report entitled “Nonviolent Dissent in Connection with the 2002 G8 in Calgary and Kananaskis, Alberta, June 26 – 27, 2002”.
The group says the report was necessary to contrast Calgary police’s handling of the event with the fiasco that blew up in Toronto at the G20 protests last year and determining what went right and what can go wrong.
“Given what went on in Toronto … our organization tried to find those documents, bring them back and compare them to what went on especially in Toronto,” Ernst said. “That’s why we’re publishing this now. We think it’s really important to contrast the different events. The Calgary event was so differtent and so peaceful compared to the Toronto event.”
The report lays out specific guidelines for ensuring safe protests, including communication and planning between police and protesters. Ernst says police also need to understand protests are legal in Canada.
“The other key piece of that is mere understanding by police that non-violent dissent is OK,” he said. “In Calgary … you get the sense they really do want to work with the protesters to ensure that protest does occur.
“The attitude from what we can understand in Toronto was very different. Their attitude was clearly to shut it down. They set up barriers and put up fences …”
Other guidelines set out in the report include:
“Understanding by protesters and media that violence is not necessary to effectively communicate a message of dissent;
“Organization of associated events providing for reflective consideration of evidence and arguments about substantive issues;
“Presence of impartial observers, accredited observers being most desirable;
“Absence of a fence or wall that might provoke protesters.”
Ernst added that the recent Occupy Calgary protests were also a good example of a safe, non-violent protest and credits organizers and police for working together.
Gillian Steward, vice president of RMCLA, will be leading a panel discussion on the new report this Saturday October 22 at 9 a.m. at the University of Calgary, Faculty of Law, Murray Fraser Hall, room 2370. The panel entitled, “Public Order Policing: The Canadian Experience and Lessons Learned: is part of the 2011 RightsWatch conference, hosted by the Canadian Civil Liberties Association and co-sponsored by RMCLA.
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