Home / Pro-Palestine community members detail police brutality and suppression; continue calls for arms embargo with Israel

Pro-Palestine community members detail police brutality and suppression; continue calls for arms embargo with Israel

səl̓ílwətaʔɬ (Tsleil-Waututh), xʷməθkwəy̓əm (Musqueam), and Skwxwú7mesh (Squamish) Territories (Vancouver, B.C.)

Pro-Palestine community members who were violently dispersed from a rail blockade in East Vancouver on May 31, 2024 spoke out today about police violence and injuries they endured from the Vancouver Police Department (VPD). 

Sukhi Gill, present at the rail blockade, described:

“As I stood with other protestors side by side, that was all we did. We stood and chanted. We did not punch, we did not kick, we did not twist arms, we did not pepper spray, we did not headlock, we did not drag or throw human bodies to concrete. Those were all actions used by the VPD, while all we did was stand.”

At a press conference outside the VPD offices on Cambie Street, Gill and others were joined by lawyers Meghan McDermott and Veronica Martisius from the BC Civil Liberties Association who announced that the organization would be joining the demonstrators in pursuing legal action against the VPD. 

According to Meghan McDermott, Policy Director of the BC Civil Liberties Association (BCCLA),

We denounce the extreme police violence used against peaceful people in acts of civil disobedience. BCCLA will be actively pursuing a number of legal avenues to ensure accountability from the VPD for egregious use of force and anti-Palestinian racism.

On Friday May 31, 2024 at approximately 2:30pm, pro-Palestinian community members who were blockading the CN railway tracks were violently attacked by VPD and other police forces. A number of legal, Indigenous, and human rights organizations have condemned the police violence, calling for accountability from all police forces involved and the withdrawal of charges for those arrested. This includes: BC Civil Liberties Association, Union of BC Indian Chiefs, Parents for Palestine, West Coast Legal Education and Action Fund, Pivot Legal Society, Worker Solidarity Network, Vancouver Area Network of Drug Users, and World Beyond War

Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, President of the Union of BC Indian Chiefs stated,

“UBCIC firmly stands with all victims harmed by police brutality. Videos from the day show VPD officers acted with excessive force and disregard for the safety and human rights of peaceful people, including Indigenous Peoples holding a sacred fire. We demand an end to the tremendous historical and ongoing harm of police violence that disproportionately targets Indigenous people and people of colour, rooted in colonial violence.”

Community members were protesting Canada’s ongoing complicity in Israel’s genocide in Gaza, and demanding a full and immediate arms embargo and sanctions on Israel. The rail blockade was an act of escalation after the Israeli air strikes on Rafah, where over one million Palestinians were told to gather in humanitarian safe spaces but were then targeted and burnt alive. 

During the blockade on the railway tracks, people laid out 303 children’s clothes on the tracks to mourn the deaths of over 15,000 children in Gaza. Indigenous Elders lit a sacred fire, sending prayers to the people of Palestine.  

Amanda Dominguez, of Parents for Palestine, said,

“There is no excuse for the deplorable violence carried out by the VPD when they violently attacked peaceful demonstrators and observers, including a pregnant woman.  At a time when Canada remains complicit in Israel’s violent genocide that has killed over 15,000 children, it is no surprise that the state apparatus remains more focused on suppressing dissent than carrying out true justice.”

VPD officers charged and attacked the blockade; about 100 pro-Palestine elders, parents, students, and community members were violently dragged, punched, kicked, pepper sprayed, choked, and strangled. The VPD continued to violently assault and arrest people after the blockade had dispersed.

The police and RCMP have always worked on behalf of the state’s agenda to destroy Indigenous sovereignty and relationship to the land. The police violence we witnessed at CN Rails blockade is a prime example of the VPD doing its job and exerting the power of the colonial state. The police have never been for the people but for the state,” 

said Jada-Gabrielle Pape, Coast Salish counselor and advocate.

The blockade on Friday followed escalated actions around the world demanding an end to the genocide. Israel has murdered over 36,000 Palestinians in Gaza (estimations of the true death toll exceed 200,000) in the last 8 months, while deliberately targeting hospitals, residential buildings, schools, refugee camps, and places of faith in Gaza.

Community members vow to continue to escalate until Canada imposes full sanctions on Israel and refuse to be deterred by escalated and unwarranted state violence.  

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