Ottawa

Arrested protester predicts police 'aggression' at Bush-Harper-Calderon summit

One of two men charged at a weekend protest in Ottawa says he expects much more "police aggression" at the North American Leaders Summit next week in Montebello, Que.

One of two men charged at a weekend protest in Ottawa says he expects much more "police aggression" at the North American Leaders Summit next week in Montebello, Que.

"I think this is just a taste of the police aggression that people who go to Montebello might be facing," Dan Sawyer, who helped organize the protest, told CBC News on Monday.

Sawyer, 32, and Matthew Morgan-Brown, 31,were arrested and charged with assaulting police after a demonstration by an estimated 50 to 80 people outside the Fairmont Château Laurier hotel on Saturday.

The protest was against the 2005 Security and Prosperity Partnership pact, which will be discussed by Prime Minister Stephen Harper, U.S. President George W. Bush and Mexican President Felipe Calderon at the summit in Quebec on Aug. 20 and 21.

The agreement was signed between Canada, the U.S. and Mexico in 2005 to boost co-operation on security, trade and public-health issues, but opponents of the pact fear it will erode Canadian sovereignty in areas such as natural resources, security and military issues.

Protesters 'confrontational and aggressive': police

The Ottawa police said in a news release that the arrests took place because several of the protesters were "confrontational and aggressive."

Ottawa Police Const. Alain Boucher said Sawyer was arrested after an officer tried to stop some graffiti from happening and Sawyer allegedly intervened, ending up in an altercation with the officer. Boucher said he didnot know the circumstances ofMorgan-Brown'sarrest.

But Sawyer said police approached him and about seven others after the protest ended.

"At the time of my arrest, all I was doing was walking home," he said Monday, adding that he has not been told the time or other details of his alleged assault on a police officer.

Sidewalk chalk crackdown was 'overkill': Sawyer

Sawyer said the arrests are not the only action police tookSaturday at the protest outside the hotel, which was chosen because it is part of the same chain as the Fairmont Château Montebello where the summit will take place.

"What I saw was police charging the crowd, tackling people, grabbing other individuals, pulling them off to the side, threatening to make arrests, threatening with pepper spray," said Sawyer, who added that police seemed to be responding to protesters who wrote on the sidewalk with chalk.

"Which to me seems definite overkill by the police.… It's just chalk."

Police trying to crack down on organizers: Sawyer

Sawyer accused the police of making the arrests to try to quell dissent by cracking down on protest organizers, arguing that the conditions of his bail were proof.

Bothmen were released Sunday after agreeing to abide by a list of conditions, which include engaging in good behaviour, keeping the peace and not going within 500 metres of several sites that include the Fairmont Château Laurier and the U.S. Embassy. In Morgan-Brown's case, they ban him from associating with Sawyer.

Sawyer said he plans to appeal conditions that:

  • Ban him from the area bounded by Rideau Street, Sussex Drive, the Rideau River and the Ottawa River, an area where he says none of the demonstration took place.
  • Prohibit him from participating in or attending any demonstration against the SPP.

"I think that points directly to the reason for the arrests, in that they're trying to get organizers … out of play," said Sawyer, who said the conditions violate his Charter rights to freedom of expression and freedom of assembly.

"I really hope that doesn't dissuade people because SPP needs to be opposed."

Police shoved protesters: footage

CBC footage from Saturday showed protesters chanting "So-so-so-solidarité!" as one man was handcuffed and put in a police car.

Fellow protester Shannon Willmott identified the man as Sawyer.

Afterward, the footage shows a male officer approaching some of the other protesters, shoving two of them, then chasing and arresting a protester who shoved back. That man was Morgan-Brown, Willmott said.

As the men were questioned inside a police station, other protesters such as Denis Rancourt stood outside demanding answers about why the men were arrested.

"I think it's a procedure for discouraging organizers [of protests], for intimidating," he told CBC's French-language service Radio-Canada. "I think they're techniques of a police state."

Police have already said they will have a large presence at protests at the summitin Montebello to maintain peace and order.

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