Tuesday, February 16, 2010

BC Civil Liberties Assoc. on Hot Seat over taking Orders from Olympic Protester

Questions are being raised about the neutrality of the BC Civil Liberties Association and its director David Eby in the wake of Saturday's violent protest by anti-Olympics anarchists in downtown Vancouver.

Eby told CKNW that the BCCLA had not sent "Legal Observers" to the event. He said the organizers of the protest had asked the BCCLA not to send Legal Observers because they were concerned that they had been infiltrated by the police and that any photos they took could be used against them (an indication that they planned to break the law.)

A CTV reporter who had attended the protest, contradicted Eby. Lisa (I didn't get her surname) told CKNW that she had seen Legal Observers there. I too saw them in photos that a blog photographer had taken at the protest. In fact, as the photographer showed me photos and asked me to help decide which to post and which to delete, I pointed out a couple of Legal Observers in their trademark orange t-shirts in one of the photos. I have since asked the photographer about that photo but it was deleted along with most of the others not selected for posting.

When the CTV reporter contradicted Eby, CKNW gave him an opportunity to respond. In a voice that was a tad stuttering, Eby said that after the violence began, "we received instructions" to send Legal Observers. But by the time the Legal Observers arrived, he explained, the violence was over and they got no photos of the violence or of the arrests.

A woman identified as Lauren Gill interviewed on a video shot by Independent Media at the protest, appeared to contradict Eby's claim that Legal Observers arrived after the violence and arrests were over. In the video posted on Youtube, Gill stood on the street in the midst of violence and criticized police aggressively arresting protesters. "They won't talk to our Legal Observers", she said.

The blog photographer recalls speaking to two female Legal Observers on Georgia St. around Nicola or possibly a short time before they got to Nicola, after the window of a bank on Seymour St and a bank window on Howe St. had been broken but well before the protest ended on Robson St. The blog photographer told the Legal Observers that one of the protesters had hit somebody with a hammer, "Well, these things happen," said a Legal Observer who said she was a law student. "No, these things don't just happen," the blog photographer told her. To hit someone with hammer involves lifting it.

Eby's claim that the BCCLA "received instructions" from protesters, raises concerns that the BCCLA is not neutral, that they are taking orders from a group of anarchists known for violence.

The BCCLA, under Eby, has been vigilante in relation to police abuses of power -- I think Eby has been doing an excellent job of attempting to ensure police accountability -- but, it was pointed out on CKNW, the BCCLA doesn't seem as interested in the illegal conduct of protesters. They seem to be taking sides. Is this how the Legal Society funding the BCCLA intends for Eby to act?

Before becoming Director of the BCCLA, Eby was head of Pivot Legal Society, which works to ensure that the civil liberties of the poor are respected on the Downtown Eastside (although they have always appeared to exempt abuses by unionized workers on the Downtown Eastside such as security guards at Carnegie Centre, while advertising for people to come forward with accounts of abuse by private security guards.) These protesters are people they would defend. Eby may not be adequately distinguishing between his old role at Pivot and his new role at the BCCLA.