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Fallout continues after Black SFU alumnus violently arrested on campus

Citynews 1130 Vancouver

Last Updated Dec 13, 2020 at 7:31 pm PDT

Summary

An open letter from a former student says the decision to call the police in the first place was dangerous, unnecessary

SFU's President Joy Johnson has committed to an external review of the 'distressing' incident

BURNABY (NEWS 1130) — More members of the SFU community are speaking out following the violent arrest of a Black former student on campus.

Burnaby RCMP was called by campus security and Mounties have confirmed an alumnus was pepper-sprayed and tasered while being apprehended on Friday.

A statement from police says the officer feared for their safety, but that explanation does not ring true for Giovanni HoSang who shared video of the lead-up to the arrest Sunday. Further, HoSang says the decision to call the police in the first place was unnecessary and put the man in danger.

“The university should not be calling the police on Black people or anybody when there’s no harm to anybody being done. I think de-escalation is the way to go, and racial sensitivity around these issues,” he says.

“The university should reevaluate its relationship with how RCMP or any other police are called on campus.”

The Burnaby RCMP have said the alumnus’ refusal to leave the dining hall is what prompted the arrest. A statement from the university’s Chief Safety Officer Mark Lalonde cites COVID-19-related restrictions that limit who can and can not be on campus.

But HoSang questions whether it was urgent or necessary to enforce this policy in this instance.

“He was told to leave peacefully but he was peaceful,” HoSang says.

“When it comes to the execution of certain policies that can disproportionately impact Black alumni, for example, we have to be very careful about how we go about enforcing these. Additionally, I think police as a while shouldn’t be called unless there is some real threat or harm to people. It is inappropriate for security for whatever reason — after they have control of the situation — for them to continue to escalate and call the police,” he says.

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

HoSang has written an open letter describing how “the RCMP statement mischaracterizes the whole context,” he tells NEWS 1130.

He says the pepper spray was deployed when the man was calling out for a lawyer, and that the RCMP left out an important detail regarding the taser.

“The police then proceeded to escalate the situation using pepper spray until he was in pain and disoriented, and left to try and defend himself from being tasered. He was later brought to the hospital where he was treated to remove the electrode from his skull. He was not detained under the Mental Health Act and was discharged. He is now recovering in privacy,” the letter reads.

Hosang says the effects of this incident widens distrust between the university and Black and Indigenous Students, and he calls on SFU to improve racial sensitivity training for security, re-evaluate its relationship with the RCMP, and examine its COVID policies concerning people on campus.

 

University president commits to external review of ‘unsettling event’

SFU President Joy Johnson committed to an external review of the incident in a statement released Sunday.

“An unsettling event involving a Black SFU alumnus, campus security and the RCMP occurred in the Burnaby campus dining hall recently, and is raising important questions about our processes and protocols. I want to acknowledge that this incident is distressing for many in our community, particularly for those who are Black, Indigenous or persons of colour,” it reads.

“Keeping our campus community safe, particularly during a pandemic, is our first priority. However, this task is not without complexity and challenge. There are many layers to the situation that occurred, but supporting the individuals involved by protecting their privacy means we will not have a full public debrief of events. At the heart of this situation is an individual who deserves privacy and support.”

With files from Lisa Steacy