Vancouver police seek witnesses to violent confrontations at transgender rally
VPD has released 2 profanity-laden videos and images showing shoving, pushing
Warning: This story describes details of violence and contains links to footage showing violence.
Vancouver police say they are investigating two violent confrontations at a rally in the city marking International Transgender Day of Visibility.
Investigators have released images of two people, as well as video from Grandview Park that shows the two people involved in incidents where others were shouted at, grabbed, and thrown to the ground.
The Vancouver Police Department (VPD) says the video and images it posted online come from someone police describe as a victim. Police are making them public with the hope that more people who witnessed the altercations will come forward with information.
"Investigators believe there may be additional witnesses who have not spoken to police, as well as bystander video that may show different perspectives of what occurred," said a release from VPD.
Detectives are reviewing bystander video, eyewitness accounts and victim statements from the event.
Police estimate between 75 and 100 people attended the rally at the park, including those who were there to protest the event.
Police say they believe at least two people were assaulted.
CBC News attended the rally and witnessed the confrontations, one of which included a group of people chanting profanities at Chris Elston, a man well known for protests and counter-rallies focused on consent for medical procedures and what he calls "gender ideology."
Elston was grabbed by another person and thrown to the ground, CBC News witnessed, and the videos show.
VPD said it has also contacted a person who posted a video of the assault online, for that person to provide a statement and share their footage.
One of the speakers at the rally was 15-year-old 7even Perks, who uses the pronouns it/its and came out as non-binary three years ago.
It said at the rally that it was important for people to be able to gather and support each other.
"The one thing that I felt is that we were the only ones going through this ... but the reality is you're not," Perks said at the rally.
Police did not say if any arrests were made at the park on Friday, where more than a dozen officers were in attendance.
On Sunday VPD's Deputy Chief Howard Chow said over social media that he was "appalled'' by the "vile and abusive comments'' officers have received on Twitter about policing the rally.
In a separate Saturday tweet, Chow said policing demonstrations and protests are challenging, and protecting the right to free speech is "one of the most important'' aspects of the job.
Well, what I am embarrassed and appalled about are the vile and abusive comments this officer and other officers have had to endure on Twitter. This is <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/NotOkay?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#NotOkay</a>. The incident is being investigated. <a href="https://t.co/ZMMLCUTkb3">https://t.co/ZMMLCUTkb3</a>—@DeputyChow
In the original release the department said it supports everyone's right to peacefully gather and express views.
"When violence and disorder occurs, our priority is to restore order quickly and to prevent further escalation of violence," it said.
It has not said what charges the force may recommend to the B.C. Prosecution Service based on its investigation.
- This story has been updated to add context and attribution about one of the confrontations captured on video.Apr 03, 2023 12:30 PM PT
With files from the Canadian Press