VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) — Criticism is being levelled against the Vancouver Police Department after Monday night’s rally at Sunset Beach featuring an anti-gay preacher from Toronto.
The LGBTQ+ activists who attended were treated as the aggressors and that’s the problem, said one of them.
Colin McKenna, one of the activists, said he watched officers clear a path for preacher David Lynn Monday night, so he could baptize followers in the ocean.
“These guys can set up shop at Davie and Thurlow and yell their brains out on a loudspeaker. They are chanting homophobic and transphobic things and we all have to stand there and listen to it,” he said.
“Why are we having to deal with that in the first place?”
McKenna was concerned about what he saw.
“I saw police shoving a few individuals. I saw a trans individual who went down like a ton of bricks in front of me, cut her leg open on a bike, that I believe was there because of the police,” he added.
When officers cordoned off an area, they lined it with bikes and she hit one when falling, McKenna said.
“And she did come back later and had, a big bandage on her leg because she’s a hell of a trooper, I’ll tell you. But that was the result of a localized police brutality. I saw it. She got pushed,” he added. “She’s very loud. She’s a very proud member of the community, but she certainly didn’t deserve that.”
‘City, police need to do more’
McKenna said the city and police need to do more to stop systemic issues, such as hatred and do a better job of protecting marginalized people and communities within the city.
“News for the mayor, the hatred is here. It lives here, and we deal with it on a regular basis,” McKenna said. “And those of us in the community want to know what is the city doing to deal with things that can easily be dealt with, even with a noise bylaw.”
The police action he saw on Monday didn’t amount to brutality, but McKenna said several skirmishes could have been avoided.
“If there was support in the community, ahead of time, before it gets to that, then we don’t need 50 police lining the streets because somebody has come to threaten us or that they feel that they need to protect the speaker,” he said.
“It doesn’t have to get to that point, it’s dealing with systemic issues before they get to that, if you’re in that situation.”
‘Keep everyone safe’
The Vancouver Police Department says the primary role of officers at the demonstration was to keep everyone safe, although one officer was injured.
“As our members were pushed from the beach to the roadway, one male did grab on to an officer’s bike and attempt to pull it away from him,” said Const. Tania Visintin.
She added the officer deployed pepper spray, hitting several people.
Const. Lee Marten said in a tweet he injured his hand during the demonstration and is now recovering at home.
“While using my bike as a barricade, several protesters tried to steal it and a tug-of-war ensued,” he wrote.
Injured my hand and now recovering at home after a large dynamic protest at Sunset Beach last night.
While using my bike as a barricade, several protesters tried to steal it and a tug of war ensued.
— Cst Lee Marten (@Canuckula) September 1, 2020
Visintin said for any protest or demonstration, officers have to keep a neutral view while trying to prevent criminal acts and keep the public safe.
“Our job is to be there to protect everyone, whether or not you agree with their side or not.”
She added the elements of that constitute a hate crime were not met at the demonstration.
“What went down last night essentially would not meet the Criminal Code threshold, so, yes, we were there to create a shield to let him leave safely,” she said of Lynn, the preacher.
‘Police consult ahead of time’
Visintin said the VPD is in contact with organizers of protests and demonstrations ahead of time to determine the number of officers need to keep everyone safe.
Lynn was also shouted down by protesters in Victoria on Saturday after planning a rally in that city. He planned to visit Jasper, Banff, and Calgary next.
Lynn’s events come after an anti-gay street preacher was arrested and charged in Vancouver following a violent altercation earlier in August.
Dorre Love is accused of attacking Sportsnet 650’s Justin Morissette, who was attempting to stop him from spreading homophobic messages. Morissette is said to have taken Love’s microphone away while the preacher was in the West End on Aug. 22. Love has claimed he was acting in self-defence.
Meanwhile, Vancouver Mayor Kennedy Stewart told NEWS 1130 he wants to set up a bubble zone around the Davie Village, similar to those protecting women who visit abortion clinics.
“A bubble zone basically creates a physical distance by which you can conduct those activities,” he explains.
Stewart tells @NEWS1130 "This absolutely has to stop and it has to stop for good. It can't be stop one group and then, another group comes back in."
He adds a bubble zone would be more effective than ticketing someone for violating noise bylaws. #vanpoli @NEWS1130
— Marcella Bernardo (@Bernardo1130) September 2, 2020
-with files from Sonia Aslam, Nikitha Martins