Campus LifeNews

Protestors attend city council to protest Edmonton Police Service

After a rally at the University of Alberta for the Palestine solidarity encampment that was removed, protestors attended a presentation of the Edmonton Police Service 2023 annual report at city council.

On May 14, University of Alberta students and community members made their way to Edmonton City Hall to protest Edmonton Police Service’s (EPS) removal of the Palestine solidarity encampment from Main Quad. The protest was scheduled for the presentation of the EPS 2023 Annual Report.

On May 11, University of Alberta administration asked EPS to remove the encampment, which went up on May 9, because of the “serious and potentially life-threatening risks associated with the encampment” according to President and Vice-chancellor Bill Flanagan. “Special munitions” and batons were deployed against encampment participants, and they were pushed back to Saskatchewan Drive Northwest.

A rally organized by Faculty for Palestine Alberta occurred at noon on May 14 in front of the South Academic Building (SAB) at the U of A. The rally was organized in support of the People’s University for Palestine YEG, a student-led movement that organized the encampment. Speakers and protestors called for Flanagan’s resignation.

During the rally, a protest against EPS occurred in front of City Hall. After the rally at the U of A ended, protestors headed to City Hall to join those who were already there for EPS presentation at 1:30 p.m..

Once council chambers reached capacity, protestors filled the viewing area where a livestream of the meeting played. For Brandon Robinson, a former U of A student, it was “absolutely fantastic seeing all these people show up.”

Robinson was sent to the hospital for injuries he sustained while being removed and arrested from the U of A encampment by EPS.

“My experience at the encampment is a fraction of what Palestinian people in Gaza and Indigenous peoples here experience every day,” Robinson said.

“The police are funded directly by my taxes. The [U of A] campus is funded by my taxes. When the police are in favour of genocide and taking actions to brutalize people using my tax money, that is something I cannot stand silently and watch.”

Protestor disrupts meeting, councillor says “very reasonable questions are going unanswered”

The EPS 2023 Annual Report was presented by Brian Harker, director of strategy and innovation for EPS. Harker was joined by Edmonton Police Commission (EPC) and EPS representatives. After the presentation, city councillors were given speaking turns. Mayor Amarjeet Sohi reminded those in the chamber that inappropriate comments or gestures would not be tolerated.

Councillor for Ward papastew, Michael Janz, said that not including use of force metrics in the report is a “critical piece of public oversight,” and cited the 2021 annual report that referred to it. “The commission has accepted a report that is so thin on information, we can’t have a meaningful discussion,” Janz said.

The U of A is located within Ward papastew. During intermission, Janz told The Gateway that “every Edmontonian should be deeply disturbed by what happened at the U of A.”

“The police continue to thwart through whatever policy channels they can [for] any avoidance of accountability. Very reasonable questions are going unanswered.”

During the meeting at 4:29 p.m., a protestor began to shout “defund the police” and “free Palestine.” Sohi asked for the individual to be removed, and viewers in the chamber began yelling “shame.” The meeting resumed after a couple protestors left the chambers.

Councillor for Ward Karhiio, Karen Tang, addressed those “who are interested in changing [and] dismantling the system” during her concluding speaking turn. She said it’s important to understand how the system works, “whether you agree with it or not,” to understand where “the levers of power and where the levers of influence can be.”

“I encourage those who are interested to continue to follow, to participate, to learn,” Tang said.

Sohi thanked those remaining in the chambers for their decorum. He said that although “outbursts” aren’t allowed in the chamber, he can “understand why people would react that way.”

An EPC meeting scheduled for May 16 in the River Valley Room at City Hall was moved online due to “safety considerations,” according to the EPC’s X account. People’s University for Palestine YEG encouraged people to speak up at the meeting through an Instagram post.

The meeting will be held online, and registered individuals will receive five minutes to address the commission.

-With files from Leah Hennig

Lily Polenchuk

Lily Polenchuk is the 2024-25 Editor-in-Chief of The Gateway. She previously served as the 2023-24 Managing Editor, 2023-24 and 2022-23 News Editor, and 2022-23 Staff Reporter. She is in her second year, studying English and political science.

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