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Violent arrest of Black alum on SFU campus condemned by student society president

Citynews 1130 Vancouver

Last Updated Dec 13, 2020 at 9:04 am PDT

FILE -- Simon Fraser University (iStock image)

Osob Mohamed, student society president, questions why campus security called Burnaby RCMP in the first place

RCMP confirmed a male was tasered, pepper-sprayed, and arrested on campus but say the officer feared for their safety

Mohamed says Friday's on-campus arrest shows SFU's failure to 'walk the walk' when it comes to anti-racism

BURNABY (NEWS 1130) — The president of the Simon Fraser Student Society is condemning the school after a Black alum was pepper-sprayed, tasered, and arrested on campus.

Osob Mohamed says she was contacted Friday evening by a concerned student.

“A Black student who witnessed the event and actually got some footage was feeling pretty distressed and reached out to me to look for some support,” she says.

Burnaby RCMP confirmed a male was tasered and pepper-sprayed on campus Friday evening, and the university has put out a statement addressing “a recent incident.”

Mohamed questions why campus security called in the Burnaby RCMP in the first place, particularly given that she and other students have been pushing the university to recognize the potential dangers of calling the police on racialized people.

“I had a conversation with the director of campus health and safety just the day before this event happened, particularly around de-escalation and the dangers of calling the police on Black folks on campus. For this to happen the next day — I can’t even put into words how frustrated and how ignored we feel,” she says.

“This needs to be a turning point. I don’t think we can have this back and forth with the university anymore where we bring up issues around the police presence on campus and de-escalation and nothing comes of it.”

Adding to the frustration is the fact that Mohamed says this is not the first or only incident of racial profiling on campus she has been made aware of.

“I personally know many people who have been racially profiled on campus just goes to show that there are so many more students who I don’t know who this has happened to,” she says. “This is not a one-time event. It’s happened to people within my circle and outside of it.”

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The statement SFU issued Saturday says it can not provide details of any “individual incident” for privacy reasons.

“We are aware that a recent incident on the evening of December 11, 2020 on Burnaby campus is being shared on social media. We recognize that comments and the videos posted may cause distress to SFU community members, particularly for Black & Indigenous members,” it reads.

It describes the training campus security officers receive, including de-escalation, conflict resolution, and equity, diversity and inclusion education.

“Police are only called when the situation has escalated outside of the role and capacity of Campus Public Safety officers.”

It also references policies brought in during the pandemic restricting access to campus to current students, faculty, and staff.

But Mohamed says she hasn’t seen or heard of this rule is being enforced, and again questions why the RCMP were called in.

“To me, this is targeted,” she says.

“When an individual is on campus — whether they’re supposed to be there or not,  and they’re absolutely not causing any harm — why are the police being called?

Ultimately, she thinks the actions of campus security, and the school’s response show a failure to “walk the walk” of anti-racism.

“This is a time where SFU needs to step up. I think the statement they put out was harmful and beyond inappropriate,” she says, noting the university’s new president has publicly committed to advancing equity, diversity, and inclusion. 

“There needs to be change and it needs to come from them.”

Police officer ‘feared for safety’: RCMP

In a release, Burnaby RCMP says police were called to the dining hall because campus security needed assistance with a “man familiar to them who was refusing to leave.”

“Upon arrival, a single officer located the man inside the dining hall, circling and yelling at several campus security employees. The police officer spent several minutes using crisis intervention and verbal-de-escalation techniques with repeated requests, asking the man to leave the premise,” the statement reads.

“When the man refused to comply with the direction to leave, by both the campus security and the police officer, the police officer told the man he was under arrest for causing a disturbance. While attempting to take the man into custody, the man took the officer by the arm and a physical altercation ensued and the officer deployed oleoresin capsicum spray (pepper spray).

Next the man allegedly “placed an officer in a chokehold” which was when the taser was “deployed.”

“Only with use of both police intervention tools was the officer able to take the man into custody safely,” the statement says.

The man was taken into custody, apprehended under the Mental Health Act, and police say they will be recommending criminal charges including assaulting a peace officer.