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    On August 31,2012, at Metrotown Skytrain Station near Vancouver, Canada, Transit police officers and the RCMP assaulted, handcuffed and removed three activists that were peacefully distributing the Fire This Time newspaper (FTT). Because FTT is a non-commercial, free social justice newspaper, the officers had no legal ground to stop the distribution. It is clear that the aim of the assault was to intimidate and harass social justice activists which is political targeting as FTT publishes many articles against war and in support of social justice struggles in Canada, from Indigenous rights to labour organizing. This was an attack on our fundamental civil and democratic rights which include freedom of expression and the right to organize and demonstrate without violence and intimidation. It is also a case of police brutality, which is a disturbing trend growing in Canada.

    AUGUST 31: Fire This Time Activists Brutalized and Assaulted by Transit Police and RCMP

    On the day of the assault, we were distributing the FTT newspaper without incident at the Metrotown Skytrain Station. After an hour, two transit police officers arrived and immediately began telling the four of us that we needed to leave the station and stop distributing. We showed the officers and read aloud the publicly posted Transit rules available on large boards in every skytrain station. These rules state that, “printed material for non-commercial purposes will be permitted on transit properties, other than transit vehicles or fare-paid zones,” provided distribution does not impede transit traffic or operations.

    The police insisted that it did not matter what the posted rules state and that there are other rules that are not posted. When we asked what those rules are or how they applied to this situation, they refused to answer. Instead, the police stated that because they were asking us to leave the station and wewere refusing, this was justification for our arrest. This sort of Catch-22 argument never answered the fundamental question as to why they demanded we leave in the first place!

    Drawing the attention of many passers-by, who took videos of the escalating police harassment, we continually asked the police, “Why are we being arrested?” “What have we done?” “What laws have we broken?” These questions were never answered. Soon, Shakeel had his arm wrenched behind his back by the officer putting him in handcuffs. During this assault, Mike, another FTT activist, began filming with his phone. Once the officer realized the assault was being filmed he responded by grabbing Mike’s arm and putting him in handcuffs as well. The officer attempted to take away Mike’s phone, but he was able to pass it another FTT activist who was consulting with a lawyer and documenting the assault.

    At the same time, another officer was harassing Thomas, the FTT activist who had been explaining the posted Transit rules. Holding tightly onto a stack of FTT newspapers, Thomas continued to ask the officer “Why are you doing this?” The officer ignored this question, threatening him with arrest and saying he would “hurt” him if he tried to move away. In response to Thomas’ peaceful questioning, the officer grabbed his neck, pushed pressure points on his head and slammed him into a corner.

    When back-up Transit and RCMP officers arrived, they made the total officer count more than ten, and took Mike and Shakeel out of the station in handcuffs. On the street outside of the station, both had their bags searched without consent and were put in the back of two RCMP patrol cars. Thomas was kept in the station and continued to ask the officer what laws he had broken and why he was being arrested until he was viciously rammed up against the stair railing by three officers, tackled to the ground, handcuffed, and taken out of the station. During this, Thomas was told he was being arrested for “creating a disturbance”. Thomas was put in the back of an unmarked SUV.

    After some time in the vehicles Thomas, Mike and Shakeel were each told separately that they would be released without any charges but banned from the Transit system for 24 hours. It was clear that the police officers had no reason for arrest, as Thomas, Shakeel and Mike had broken no Transit rules and had been targeted because of the political nature of the FTT newspaper.

    Thomas, Shakeel and Mike were separately driven to a Burnaby Community Police Station and released. All three of us had to visit the Emergency Room for medical treatment following the assault.

    Following the harassment and assault, we were never issued a ticket or any written documentation. We were never told on what basis we were asked to leave the Skytrain station in the first place. During this incident 150 of our newspapers were taken and we have video footage of a police officer holding some of them. Immediately upon his release from police custody, Shakeel checked his phone for the video footage he had taken during the assault and it was not there. This video had been erased during the time that an RCMP officer had his phone.

    This was not an isolated incident, but the culmination of four months of repeated harassment of FTT activists distributing the newspaper. However, in most cases Transit officials and police officers were forced to allow us to continue distribution after we pointed out the publicly posted Transit rules and defended our right to continue distribution. The August 31 assault was an escalation of this campaign of harassment and intimidation. We have video footage available for many of these incidents.

    Stand Up for Democratic Rights!

    Why is it that after over an hour of harassment and brutal assault we were released without charges and without being told that we were in violation of any Transit rules? Without a doubt if police had had any justification or valid legal reason they would of pursued further action or charges. This makes it clear that the police and transit authorities were politically targeting Fire This Time activists.

    This assault on our democratic rights is happening in the context of the new era of war and occupation. Since September 11, 2001 the U.S. and its imperialist allies including Canada have begun a new era of increasing war and occupation; from the continued occupation of Afghanistan to the bombing and war against Libya and now threats, sanctions and covert foreign intervention in Syria and Iran. Whenever imperialist governments like the U.S. and Canada wage brutal and devastating wars abroad it is always accompanied by a crack-down against those who defend social justice and protest war at home. As an independent social justice newspaper, Fire This Time spreads a message against this war on working and oppressed people at home and abroad. This assault and continued harassment is an attack on our democratic rights and freedom of speech and expression in order to silence independent voices for peace and social justice.

    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!

    We must join together to demand:



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