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Vancouver protester arrested Wednesday claims rights violation

Occupy Vancouver member Sasha Wiley-Shaw claims she and other protesters were unlawfully and violently arrested Wednesday during a series of protests asserting their rights to political expression following the arrests of other protesters last week and earlier Wednesday.

The Vancouver Police Department (VPD) defends the arrests. Constable Lindsey Houghton said in a statement e-mailed to The Tyee, "behaviour which involves bullying, violence, threats of violence and sometimes criminal acts is always subject to limitations even when it is done under the guise of a protest."

According to Houghton's statement, officers say they observed a protester banging on an SUV, and two other protesters spitting on vehicles, which Wiley-Shaw denies.

Wiley-Shaw was one of five people arrested during a solidarity rally for two protesters arrested earlier that day. Those two detainees were arrested at a rally protesting the arrests of five people at a Quebec solidarity march in Vancouver on June 22.

Wiley-Shaw, an adult education teacher at the Roberts Education Centre, said she is "shocked and disgusted" by treatment she and the others arrested received.

The first two arrests occurred at Vancouver Art Gallery, the rally's starting point, where protesters were surprised by an "overwhelming police presence" according to Greg Williams, one of the first to be arrested.

Williams said the group decided to get names and badge numbers from the police officers, and as the first officers were approached, the arrests began.

Wiley-Shaw and four others were arrested while participating in a solidarity vigil at the jail where the first two were being held. According to Wiley-Shaw, police were originally blocking traffic around the area, but left quite suddenly, only to reappear about 10 minutes later and begin the arrests.

"When I saw them, I presumed they were coming to block traffic again," Wiley-Shaw said. "Instead I was encircled and my arms were grabbed."

Wiley-Shaw said that as she was being taken to the station, she continually asked the officers why she was being arrested, and received no answer. A YouTube video shows her arrest and the reaction of fellow protesters, which lead to their arrests as well.

The VPD statement said the officers moved in to "prevent any further damage or escalation of violence, and arrest a protester," meaning Wiley-Shaw.

Another protester then "allegedly physically jumped onto an officer, assaulting him, and injuring him in the process," according to the statement.

Wiley-Shaw says she was "treated very roughly" once she had been taken into the station. She described being thrown onto a cement floor and pushed into the ground by two police officers who repeatedly told her to stop resisting arrest.

Wiley-Shaw says she was not resisting, but asking why she was being arrested.

Matthew Kagis serves as the medic for Occupy Vancouver. He said Wiley-Shaw has "a sprained wrist, possible tendon damage to her right arm, possible shoulder damage, bruises and abrasions on her back, knee, thigh, foot" and he is concerned that her kidneys may also be bruised.

Constable Houghton said that since there is an ongoing investigation into Wiley-Shaw's actions, he could not comment on the evidence. He did say that his understanding of the evidence, "including how she received her injuries," is "quite different" from Wiley-Shaw's claims.

Wiley-Shaw was later released without charge, and given a loitering ticket.

"This is the police violence and excessive force I endured for what they claim is loitering, a bylaw infraction. That's like something like a parking ticket. If you can imagine getting a parking ticket at getting treated that way. That's how I was treated."

Wiley-Shaw says she is now "afraid of police in a way that I've never been before in my life," but will participate in another rally next Wednesday, also at the Vancouver Art Gallery.

"Yes I'm scared, but the places where people are scared to express themselves politically are authoritarian states, are dictatorships, and I refuse to be in a Canada that is one of those," Wiley-Shaw said.

The VPD statement said Wednesday's events were all videotaped by police, and video will be submitted as evidence against the five people arrested who face charges.

Hanah Redman is completing a practicum at The Tyee.

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