On Friday, August 31 over ten Transit Police and RCMP officers participated in the assault, handcuffing, and forced removal of three Fire This Time (FTT) newspaper distributers who were peacefully and legally distributing the FTT newspaper at the Metrotown Skytrain station. All three were released without charges later that night and visited hospital emergency rooms with various injuries. This was the culmination of four months of harassment by Translink authorities despite the fact that their own publicly posted regulations specifically state that distribution of non-commercial publications is permitted.
The Vancouver Committee to Defend Freedom of Expression (VCDFE) was formed immediately in response to the growing public outcry since the assault. The committee includes members of various political parties and organizations, trade union members and executives, as well as community members outraged by the blatant attack on civil liberties and democratic rights.
Soon, the BC Civil Liberties Association (BCCLA) took on the case and wrote a letter to Translink demanding an explanation for the assault. The ensuing media coverage on both mainstream and alternative media has meant the case has been brought to the attention of hundreds of thousands of people both in Canada and internationally. The www.stoppoliceassault.com webpage has become an important resource for updates on the case, and over thousands of people have viewed videos of the assault on YouTube.
The assault and initial response were covered extensively in Fire This Time Volume 7, Issue 7 which is still available upon request, and on www.firethistime.net
The VCDFE has continued to been very busy pursing both a legal and political campaign. Two very successful legal and political defense fundraisers have been organized with many of Vancouver’s best artists donating their talents for the evening. The “Mouth Vs. Mic” collective is also organizing a fundraiser for the campaign with over 10 performance artists on Wednesday, January 16th at the Calabash Bistro.
Very importantly as well, the VCDFE has helped support the return of Fire This Time distributors to different Skytrain stations to reassert the right to distribute there. Despite initial harassment, successful distribution has taken place on dozens of occasions with an increased demand for the newspaper. This has been a huge victory for the campaign.
Despite bringing increased attention to the need to defend our civil liberties and democratic rights, and also reestablishing the right to distribute at Skytrain stations, the VCDFE will continue to pursue both the legal and political campaigns. There has so far been no apology for the assault, and the words of Fire This Time’s initial public statement continue to be true:
“Incidents like these remind us that if we do not defend our rights we lose them. We will vigorously defend not only the right of our organization to organize and publish its ideas, but the right of all poor and working people to do the same even if they contradict the current government’s policies and practices. We absolutely refuse to be intimidated by violence and harassment, and call on all peace and social justice loving people to join with us in defending our fundamental democratic rights. United we can defend and extend the rights past generations fought so hard to establish! United we can win!”
For more information on the campaign or to get involved, visit www.stoppoliceassault.com or call 778-889-7664
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