RCMP officers made the first arrest of a demonstrator after the month-long demonstration atop Burnaby Mountain today, hitting a man’s head against a car and then throwing him to the ground after trying to enter the protesters’ camp.
Just after 2 pm today, three RCMP officers in two cars arrived at the top of Burnaby Mountain and spoke to protesters. The atmosphere was peaceful and the officers spoke calmly to several people along the road.
One officer then approached the entrance to the encampment area, largely covered by tarps, and tried to get inside. Mel Clifton, an elder from Tsimshian and Gitxan nations, who was standing at the entrance when the officer arrived, Clifton refused to allow the officer through.
“I’m a sovereign citizen. You’re on unceded territory,” Clifton said. The officer told Clifton he would arrest him for obstruction, and Clifton continued to stand in the way. The officer then grabbed Clifton by the arm and slammed him into a parked vehicle, then put him in a squad car.
He was taken to the Burnaby RCMP detachment and held for several hours, then released after signing a Promise to Appear guaranteeing he would appear before the court on an appointed date.
Staff Sergeant-Major John Buis said Clifton had been arrested for obstruction, but it was not certain yet whether charges would be officially laid.
Corporal Brad Gibson, who was present at the scene, said the three officers on the mountain were carrying out routine duties, including photographing the area, and that the RCMP has been closely monitoring the protest for weeks now. They weren’t responding to any call about the protesters.
“It’s a public park and public space, and everyone has a right to be in the park,” he said, adding that the officer who arrested Clifton was just doing his job in attempting to document every part of the area. “Generally speaking, people are not allowed to interfere with police and their duties.” Clifton’s refusal to move out of the way constituted obstruction, and led to his arrest.
Clifton said he was in a significant amount of pain following his arrest, and planned to visit a hospital to be fully checked out.
Scott Knowles has been arrived on the mountain shortly before the arrest, and filmed the video.
Knowles said he began filming the officers as soon as they arrived, the arresting officer asked him why he was filming on public land, and asserted that he wasn’t doing anything wrong. Knowles said he told the officer he wanted to document everything that happened on the mountain for the safety of the demonstrators. He turned off the camera after several minutes, and turned it back on again when he heard the confrontation begin.
He said the incident validated his decision to film.
“I wanted film him playing nice guy and being buddy-buddy, because I knew it would happen later that they stopped being buddy-buddy and started assaulting us. I wanted to have both sides so people can see they’re putting on a face to try to build a relationship with you, and as soon as they feel they need to or are told to, they’ll throw you on the ground and arrest you.”
Representatives for Kinder Morgan weren’t on the mountain at the time of the arrest, and a media spokesperson said they wouldn’t be able to comment. The company was in court all day today, along with some of the protesters named in the injunction the company is seeking. The court was adjourned until Nov. 17, though the judge could release a decision sooner if he reaches one.
A small group of demonstrators has been occupying the camp at the top of the mountain in addition to monitoring another site partway down the mountain and one on Drummond’s Walk. RCMP had had contact with demonstrators, but no one had been arrested until today.
Last Wednesday, a group of demonstrators blocked Kinder Morgan surveyors from conducting tests on the mountain and in the woods alongside Drummond’s Walk in Burnaby. One person chained himself under a work vehicle, and he was arrested and placed in a squad car, but released shortly thereafter without charges. The following day, Kinder Morgan filed for an injunction and launched a case against several protesters, including SFU professors Stephen Collis and Lynn Quamby.
While today’s decision to adjourn for ten days makes it likely the case is closed, it’s possible for either side to request the case be reopened to consider more evidence, such as the video of today’s arrest.