Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Grannies in handcuffs

The downtown eastside must be all cleaned up and gang violence eliminated from Metro Vancouver, because police are now cracking down on the next threat to tranquillity in the Best Place on Earth: raging grannies.

Von DehnThe similarities between Sissy Von Dehn and Betty Krawczyk are striking. Both are grey-haired B.C. protesters, non-violent, and out to warn the world about the damage being done to God’s creation.

Both have been arrested, and both were recently hoping for sympathetic supreme court appeals that might lift some of the restrictions from their right to protest. Both were disappointed when courts recently ruled otherwise:

Krawczyk is an environmentalist who has been getting arrested and imprisoned since the early ‘90s for defying court orders related to logging and highway developments. Her media coverage is expansive and generally sympathetic. Last month the B.C. Court of Appeal dismissed an appeal of her conviction for protesting highway construction at West Vancouver's Eagleridge Bluffs.

Von Dehn is a pro-lifer and a representative of Nurses for Life who on Fridays goes to the Everywoman’s abortion clinic at Commercial and Broadway. Like Krawczyk, she was hoping for a favourable Supreme Court appeal, this one for fellow protester Donald Spratt, who was challenging his jail sentence for protesting outside the same clinic in 1998. The Supreme Court of Canada rejected the appeal the day before police arrested her and two others outside the clinic.

The difference is that police were turning a blind eye to Von Dehn until Thursday’s Supreme Court decision. The next day, she, Spratt, and a journalist were handcuffed by Vancouver Police in the gag-law zone around the abortion clinic. See story.

As coffee drinkers at the adjacent Starbucks patio sipped their cappuccinos, police took the three offenders away. One of them was a working journalist whose camera was confiscated. The journalist was released but not before officers inspected the images on his camera. Guess arresting officers didn’t get this memo.

On the other hand, maybe police have just decided to implement an arrest-first, ask-questions-later policy, which seemingly conforms to the new policy.

What’s intriguing is that pro-lifers like Von Dehn have been down there at the clinic every Friday and were never arrested before. In fact, The B.C. Catholic reported last year how police assured protesters that simply handing out information about the gag-zone is not against the law. Vancouver Police have never demanded to see our photos of those protests, but after last week’s events, perhaps we should expect a visit.

We’re also looking forward to the sympathetic media coverage of this latest handcuffed granny.

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