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by Mark Taylor-Canfield
Monday, Apr. 23, 2001 at 11:42 PM
Anti-FTAA Protests Close Border
ANTI-FTAA PROTESTERS BLOCK US/CANADIAN BORDER AT BLAINE
8 DEMONSTRATORS ARRESTED
FOR CIVIL DISOBEDIENCE
A day long series of Anti-FTAA protests and acts of mass civil disobedience
ended Saturday evening around 6 PM when over 100 Royal Canadian Mounted Police and 50 US police officers converged on protesters at the US/Canadian border at Peace Arch Park in Blaine, WA on Saturday. The border had been closed to vehicle traffic for three and a half hours as demonstrators sat in the road and marched across the border into Canadian territory.
In solidarity with activists in Quebec City, labor unions, environmental organizations and fair trade activists from Vancouver, Victoria, Bellingham, Seattle, Tacoma, Olympia, Portland and Eugene held a rally in Blaine, Washington which began at 10 AM. The program included speakers from Latin American countries, US and Canadian labor leaders, university students, a British Columbia elected official, several musical acts and satirical political theater.
A march was scheduled for 2:30 that developed into a series of acts of mass
civil disobedience, including a march through the customs facilities into Canada without permission. At first the Canadian police and customs officials stood down as protesters marched across the border. Officers in bullet proof vests stood by and watched as 4,000 people marched across the border unopposed.
The crowd then moved to the US Customs facilities on the other side of the
border where thay began to play music and dance at the check point where US law enforcement officers had gathered to confront them. Fair trade and labor activists drew anti-FTAA slogans on the pavement with chalk as the "Radical Cheerleaders" led the group in protest chants denouncing the Summit of the Americas in Quebec City as undemoctratic.
Around 4:30 PM a group of activists decided to sit in the road in an attempt to further delay the opening of the border. When informed by Royal Canadian Mounted Police that they would be physically removed, direct action trainings were given to those who had chosen to commit civil disobedience by two veteran Seattle activists from the WTO protests.
Brief meetings and discussions took place in the street in which a strategy for legal representation and jail solidarity was established. Hundreds of bystanders agreed to observe the arrests and document the treatment of the protesters. They stood nearby as a large contingent of the US police from Blaine and Ferndale moved in military precision to occupy a large portion of the park near the road. At one point it seemed as if they were about to move on the entire crowd of more than 500 people who were assembled in that area of the park. At no time did police authorities try to open dialogue with any of the protest groups involved in the sit-ins. No negotiating teams were organized, nor were any liasons appointed.
Around 5:30 PM the Royal Canadian Mounted Police brought a police van
down from the customs area and a group of RCMP officers arrested eight protesters who had linked arms and refused to leave the road at the border crossing. 400 people stood by in solidarity as seven men and one woman were handcuffed and hauled away by the authorities. The protesters did not resist arrest but they refused to walk to the waiting police bus. It took four police officers to carry each of the people who were arrested.
One man was treated roughly by police who carried him by his shirt and dropped him on the pavement. This man complained that his wrists were cuffed so tightly with a plastic band that he was experiencing great pain, but his screams were ignored by the arresting officers and the other police who were present.
Legal observers noted that many of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police officers either wore no name tags, had the lettering on them blacked out, or had their tags covered by their vests. When a member of the Committee For Government Accountability complained about this lack of identification at the scene of the arrests, he was also threatened with arrest by one of the commanding officers. A heated exchange took place afterwards in which the committee member explained to the RCMP that because of the lack of accountability of anonymous police during the WTO protests, Seattle had passed a city ordinance requiring visible identification with name tag and badge number on every Seattle Police Department officer's uniform.
After the arrests, the remaining group of RCMP moved in lock step like soldiers up the hill where another 50 officers waited. Together they made a hasty withdrawal while the US police stood their ground, forming a line across the grass and the road where the border markings are located. Immediately the park was filled with police from Blaine, Ferndale and the Washington State Patrol who moved into all the parking lots with a parade of police vehicles in an attempt to intimidate the remaining demonstrators. In this they succeeded because the park cleared within 30 minutes as activists and labor unions decided to leave as quickly as possible to avoid further confrontations with police.
The eight protesters who were arrested were taken to Surrey, B.C.and booked on charges of "unlawful assembly" and "intimidation" under a Canadian law titled "Subsection G". Efforts are under way to provide legal defense and trial solidarity for the group. The activists could face a ,000 fine and/or six months in jail. If you would like to contact the Canadian citizens who were arrested, or find more information about their arrests,
contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org
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