Video shows Edmonton Police Service officers drawing guns during an altercation with Black Lives Matter protestors

Protestors gather at the Legislature to fight systemic racism // Jake Pesaruk

A video circulating on social media shows rifle-armed Edmonton Police Service officers confronting Black Lives Matter activists marching towards Whyte Avenue on Saturday morning. This was only a few hours after the “A Fight for Equity” Black Lives Matter protest—which brought out around 15,000 Edmontonians in attendance at the Alberta legislature grounds.

Video provided by “A”

A woman, who only wanted to be identified as “A,” live-streamed most of the interaction until her phone died. She says that once her and the protest group began marching across the High Level Bridge, police in their vans began driving behind them, and she felt like they were “pushing” the protestors to Whyte Avenue.

Once her part of the group reached the intersection on 109 Street and Whyte Avenue, A heard a “commotion coming from behind” her.  

“I turned around and there were about 20 cops, some on bikes, with their weapons out,” she says. 

A saw a short, frustrated, woman yelling at the police officers while other protestors questioned why they had their weapons out.

A’s boyfriend—who is seen in the live stream and only wanted to be identified as J—says when he turned around he saw officers pointing guns at a woman of colour. He adds that one officer —he estimates to be six-and a-half-feet tall—pointed what he believes to be the “barrel of a tear gas launcher” at a “five-foot lady who is a person of colour.” 

The woman began screaming about how she was hit by an EPS police van and reacted by hitting the van’s windshield, A says.

“Then they surrounded us with guns and aimed them at us,” J says. “I did my best to appeal to their humanity and you can hear that in the video. I said ‘I want you to lower your weapon. These people are unarmed and peaceful.’”

In the full live stream you can see J talking to a police officer, whom he identifies as a sergeant, on a bike before reaching the High Level Bridge from the North side of 109 St. 

“The first question I asked him was would he do this job without a gun and his answer was ‘no’ and I asked him ‘why?’ And he said ‘It’s not you that we have the guns for. It’s for the people that want to do harm,’” J says. 

Photos on Twitter that show the officer’s weapons more clearly // @EdmontonAgainst

He adds that the same sergeant remained silent once the police had their guns out and began taking photographs of the protestors. This can be seen in the A’s video. 

Both A and J say the situation was alarming for a few reasons, but the main one was the fact that some of the officers had just taken a knee along with protestors to honour George Floyd outside of Rogers Place 30 minutes before the altercation. 

“Let’s assume that this lady decided to punch a vehicle,” J says. “OK. So the logical response is to surround innocent civilians with guns and tear gas and aim them at them like they’re not human? I didn’t hit anything. Why are they aiming them at me?”

A woman named Tamika, who didn’t want to give her last name, had brought her eight-year-old son to the Legislature protest and marched to Whyte Avenue. She says that it was both terrifying and disheartening when the police pulled rifles on the other protestors. 

“There was a reporter from Global there and the police were biking next to us on the bridge and after the media was gone, this thing with the guns happened,” Tamika says. “I was in very high spirits after hearing speeches from people like MLA David Shepherd about the injustices black people like myself face and I was happy to see the police take a knee, but then this happened and it really angered me.”

Tamika says she ran to the sidewalk before the protestors got to the 109 Street intersection and heard from some other protestors that a woman had been hit by an EPS van and “banged up” the van’s window. 

Tamika watched the scene from across the sidewalk and remembers seeing “20 or so police,” some “with rifles out.”

EPS communications advisor Carolin Maran told Daze that she could not find “any information about a woman that was struck by a police van,” but in relation to the events following the protest, “one male was arrested and charged with mischief after a police vehicle had its window smashed.”

According to Maran, at approximately 12 a.m. Saturday, June 6, 2020, a male demonstrator was “reportedly blocking a police vehicle in the intersection of 109 Street and 82 Avenue and then smashed the vehicle with his sign.” 

The male in question was released a short time later. During this incident, a female demonstrator also reportedly struck a police officer in the face. She was briefly detained and then released. No charges have been laid.

A few hours before what a few people have called “the standoff” on various social media sites, NDP MLA Shepherd gave an impassioned speech on the Legislature grounds saying protestors have a right to be angry, frustrated, and feel deep sadness, fear, and pain. 

Tamika says that during the Legislature protest her son asked why they went to the rally and “how come it’s so long?” Tamika answered “Because people treat us differently based on the colour of our skin and you won’t learn this in school.” 

Her son replied “But mom, that’s wrong.” 

A few moments later Tamika’s son said he wanted to stay for the whole protest and picked up a “Black Lives Matter” balloon before they both listened to Shepherd. 

“To say it [racism] does not exist is to inflict further violence,” he said to thousands of attendees. “To say that all lives matter is to ignore the fact that all lives are not treated equally … We will not find a solution by hiding from these difficult truths. There are serious problems with our government, with our police and with our local systems and at some point enough is enough because I don’t believe we can keep going on like this do you?” 

“David [Shepherd] said ‘Racism exists here. In our city and in our province’ and he was right,” Tamika says. 

J says the altercation ended after he and the protestors decided to walk away. 

“By the end of it, there were a lot more of us than there were of them. When it started there were maybe 15 of us,” he says. “The truth of the matter is the only reason they didn’t start shooting was because they got scared. At least, that’s my opinion.”

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