Vancouver Police say they balance public safety, personal freedoms during protests

VANCOUVER Police on Monday said in a statement that they support peoples’ rights to assemble and protest, but warn that anyone who breaks the law or puts others at risk could be arrested.

“There are hundreds of protests every year in Vancouver, organized by people wanting to express a variety of opinions,” said Sgt. Steve Addison. “We support peoples’ rights to assemble and to express their views, however, we must also balance those rights with public safety and consider the impact demonstrations can have on the public when critical infrastructure is blocked.”

There were 587 protests in Vancouver during the first eight months of 2021. Although most protests are peaceful and uneventful, officers are sometimes forced to arrest protesters who endanger the public, block critical infrastructure, or violate court orders.

“While we support peoples’ rights to assemble, that doesn’t give anyone permission to harass or endanger others, to block emergency vehicles, or to limit other peoples’ ability to move around the city,” said Addison. “Anyone who breaks the law or endangers the public during a protest could be arrested.”

The VPD’s Emergency Operations and Planning Unit monitors and staffs all major protests that happen in the city. These officers often communicate with protest organizers to assess any public safety threats and the risk of disruption before officers are deployed.

“Our officers don’t always agree with what’s being protested, and we understand people might sometimes be upset or offended when they see someone protesting for a cause they don’t believe in,” added Addison. “Our officers must always set aside their personal beliefs in order to balance the democratic rights of protesters while ensuring the safety of everyone else in the city.”