Today’s Heroes | Tomorrow Saviors | Protesters injured as ‘flash mob’ disrupts House of Commons
Protesters injured as ‘flash mob’ disrupts House of Commons
David Akin, Canwest News Service Published: Monday, October 26, 2009
David Akin/Canwest News Service Protesters chant slogans outside Parliament’s Centre Block in Ottawa on Oct. 26, 2009, after 120 of them were forcibly evicted from the House of Commons after a well-organized, noisy demonstration.
OTTAWA – Five people were arrested and released, and two were injured — one bleeding from his mouth — after more than 120 people were forcibly removed from the House of Commons on Monday after interrupting question period with a climate-change protest.
The demonstrators hollered at MPs and chanted slogans, urging legislators to pass Bill C-311, an NDP bill that would commit Canada to meeting aggressive targets to cut the greenhouse-gas emissions that cause climate change. The protesters said they were not affiliated with, or organized by, the NDP.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff were not in the House.
One of those arrested, Jeh Custer of Edmonton, was seen bleeding from the mouth after his head struck the concrete walls inside the House of Commons. Custer was observed with his hands handcuffed behind his back, being escorted by two uniformed RCMP officers into the basement in Parliament Hill’s Centre Block.
Protest organizers identified the arrested individuals as Custer, affiliated with Sierra Club Prairies; Eriel Deranger of Fort Chippewayan, Alta., affiliated with the Rainforest Action Network; Chelsea Flook of Ottawa, Dave Vasey of Walkerton, Ont., Ian Brannigan of Ottawa, and Adam MacIsaac, who was from Prince Edward Island.
All those arrested were said to be aged 21 to 30.
Parliamentary Hill security authorities said the arrested individuals would be released after being given written warnings not to return to Parliament Hill.
Protest organizers said they would continue with protests — what they called "Flash Mob Mondays" — until a key climate-change conference begins in December in Copenhagen. They would not say if they would protest in the House of Commons or elsewhere.
The protesters said they wanted to pressure Ottawa to do more to battle climate change.
The protest began shortly after 2:30 p.m. local time, as NDP Leader Jack Layton rose to ask his first question of the government.
At that point, a young man stood up in the public gallery behind the Speaker’s Chair in the House of Commons and shouted at MPs. As soon as the blue-shirted parliamentary security guards removed him, another protester stood up and did the same thing. A third and a fourth followed in quick succession.
Then, once all those individuals had been removed, another man, who later identified himself as Joe Cressy, stood up and led about 120 people in a series of chants. Security guards physically evicted the entire crowd.
Flook, one of the protesters, was seen being dragged, kicking and screaming, through the Centre Block’s normally quiet corridors and down granite stairs.
Veteran parliamentarians said they could not recall a protest in the House of Commons that had ever involved so many people or which seemed as well-orchestrated.
Access to the public galleries in the House of Commons are provided on a first-come, first-served basis and those who wish to enter must pass through a security checkpoint to be screened for weapons. No one, though, is required to present identification or receive background checks to watch proceedings in the House of Commons.