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Organizer Arrested During Occupy Parliament Protest

Originally Published by the Ryerson Free Press

by Eric Mark Do

OTTAWA – After a peaceful demonstration at Parliament Hill on May 5th, one of the protest's organizers - who is also the founder of the Occupy Canada Facebook page – was arrested after taking to the streets. Derek Soberal, of Toronto, was detained overnight by Ottawa Police and released on $500 bail the next day. He faces charges of obstructing a police officer, being a member of an unlawful assembly, causing a disturbance, mischief, and breaching the peace. All five charges are criminal code offences.

After a three-hour demonstration on the steps of Parliament Hill, the group marched down the sidewalk of Wellington Street towards Sussex Drive on the way to the prime minister's residence. At Sussex Drive and Murray Street, the protesters took over the intersection - calling for the resignation of Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

“A protest happening in the streets, that's what a protest is, you take to the streets,” said Soberal after being released from jail.

An officer approached Soberal, and asked, “Is there anything I can say or do to make you leave (the intersection)?”

Three seconds later, Soberal was placed in handcuffs as the crowd chanted, “Peaceful protest!” When asked what Soberal could be charged with, an officer at the scene said, “inciting a riot.”

Soberal responded the next day saying, "I've always been peaceful, so obviously I would never incite a riot."

Ottawa Police Constable Henri Lanctot, referring to the police report of the incident, said that “the crowd became very hostile, very violent towards the police when the officer arrested Mr. Soberal.”

While protesters were very vocal – even being told to lower their voices at various times – they were not seen being physical with the police. One police officer however, forcibly moved two people who were standing on the sidewalk - close to where Soberal was being held.

As well, several officers were seen without name badges attached to their uniforms.

About 40 of the demonstrators, including Soberal, had travelled from Toronto on a rented school bus. Soberal took a commercial bus back the next day after the group was forced to leave without him. Two police vehicles waited for the group to board the school bus, then followed them to the highway.

Participants had different reasons for going to Occupy Parliament. “ The main reason would be the election fraud, having our democratic right systematically attacked,” said Michael Boyd. “It's something I take very seriously.

Susan Elliot Sim said she wanted to emphasize decolonization “because corporations have colonized our lives in the same ways that colonial powers...went and colonized countries in the new world.”

Upon arrival to parliament, police stopped two individuals for smoking marijuana. They had their information recorded and were free to go.

A rally against human rights violations in Vietnam coincided with the Occupy Parliament protest, and had at least double the number of participants. At its peak, there were about 200 occupy protesters.

A man who flew in from Calgary expressed his disappointment with the turnout. “The (Vietnamese protest) crowd is more passionate and rowdy fighting for the causes of another land than fighting for our own causes,” said Kurt Virkutis. “We are having continuous violations here in Canada... and yet, we seem to be extremely apathetic... I do find it sad.”

Local activist Jason Paradine disagreed. “It's a positive turnout, it's better than having no turnout right?” he said. Paradine found the event through social media such as Facebook, where over a thousand people indicated that they would attend the event. “I'm sure there's more people that...could come out and support the movement a little bit more instead of being behind their keyboard”

Those who did show up had the chance to voice their concerns, as organizers used an “open mic” format. Issues ranged from Bill-C-30, marijuana reform, the fighter-jet purchase, and more. But the robo-call scandal emerged as the main sticking point.

Anthony James Hall, professor of globalization studies at the University of Lethbridge in Alberta, spoke in depth about the history of the Conservative Party of Canada, and Responsive Marketing Group – one of the companies in the spotlight of the robo-call issue.

“This goes to the fundamental issue of, 'do we have a legitimate government in Canada?' and we do not have a legitimate government in Canada,” he said. Hall's research paper, “Fixing Elections Through Fraud”, details his argument calling for a royal commission into electoral practices in Canada.

Austin Gagne, 7, was fighting for the same cause, as he held up a sign demanding to get fraud out of parliament, and for a new election. “We deserve to be heard, and the government needs to be held accountable for their actions, without a doubt,” said Bernard Gagne, Austin's father. The family regularly attends protests, and arrived by train from Toronto.

Deborah Gagne says they greatly value the democratic process of speaking out against wrongdoings. “It's something we want to pass on to our kids so when they grow up they have the option to do the same.”

On the hill, Cpl. Harold Pfleiderer of the RCMP said the protest was going well. “People have the right to express their opinions in a peaceful manner,” said Pfleiderer.

However, Soberal said that right was taken away from him. “Right here I found out I didn't have the freedom of speech,” he said. “I don't believe that was an unlawful assembly, because we've had assemblies like that in Toronto. Numerous times we've taken to the streets like that.”

He is due back in Ottawa court May 24th at 8:30 a.m.


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Eric Mark Do (Eric Mark Do)
Member since March 2012


Journalism student at Ryerson University. I cover many protests in and around Toronto.

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