Canada: police violently crush encampments in Alberta

Here, we publish two eyewitness reports from our comrades who were involved in the encampments in Alberta when the police violently broke them up. Videos of police brutality from these campuses went viral on social media over the weekend, fueling outrage at the violation of the right to protest. These occupations are the first demonstrations in Alberta to be broken up physically by the police in a very long time.

[Originally published at marxist.ca]

The flagrant and brutal crushing of these encampments is having a major effect on the consciousness of a broad layer of people. The encampments were peaceful and posed no danger to anyone. The only danger they posed was to the campus lawns, yet they were violently crushed. This demonstrates that the bourgeois state is willing to beat protestors and deprive them of the right to assemble in order to defend the interests of Canadian capitalism. The videos from Alberta of police smashing seated protestors with batons shatters the myth that Canada is more peaceful, and that its police are more civil, than in the U.S.A.

Members of the Revolutionary Communist Party (RCP) in Canada have been active in the Palestine solidarity movement across the country, and we are continuing the fight against state repression, to free Palestine, and for a communist society free of war and exploitation.


Calgary

The University of Calgary (U of C) Palestine solidarity encampment started on May 9, with tents and barricades set up at 5:30 a.m.

Within an hour, the university administration arrived to give notice of trespass to the students. University admin then called the police. Initially, the Calgary Police Service (CPS) promised not to act so long as the protest was peaceful, so the encampment was left alone. With students arriving on campus shortly after, the encampment began growing steadily.

Around noon, U of C security, in conjunction with the CPS, blocked some entrances to the encampment, clearing room for police vehicles. Despite this, the encampment grew rapidly into the afternoon. By 5:00 p.m. it had grown to over 150 students, faculty, and sympathetic campus workers.

More than 60 police in riot gear arrived and demanded that we leave. Protestors initially linked themselves arm-in-arm around the encampment to defend it. A vote of all protestors confirmed the majority’s intention of standing firm against the police.

Over the course of the next three hours, the CPS tried to get people to leave, promising that we would be able to return the next day with all of our supplies if we left then and there. A combination of fear, and the hope to return stronger the next day, led some to retreat and pack up. Like their promise earlier in the day not to escalate, these promises were hollow.

The chain of protestors, to withstand these pressures, began singing together. We sang, clapped, and swayed in face of threats of eviction. It was in the face of our singing that at 11:15 p.m. they attacked us.

The police moved forward and battered anyone in their way with shields. I was hit several times directly in the face and head. They continued to push and batter even after we had been beaten back past the encampment. It seemed that they were trying to push us back into a pond on the quad. When we moved to avoid ending up in the water, they began throwing flash grenades.

The first pepper bomb landed two feet in front of me, burning with a blinding explosion and filling my lungs with pepper spray. Police began shooting the legs of protestors with rubber bullets. Everyone, bruised and terrified by the grenades, was forced to retreat. The police followed us all the way to the border of the campus, throwing grenades the whole way. At least four protestors were arrested. So much for leaving us alone so long as we were peaceful!

The CPS announced that there had been no injuries, but one protester was carried off site by an ambulance. I saw concussions, bruises, and blood.

The police used their loudspeakers to lecture us about the “right to protest.” Their hypocrisy is obvious. The police, university admin, and the system they represent do not give a damn about our right to protest. They pay lip service to our “rights” until we exercise these rights for a cause they disagree with. They are acting in the service of the ruling class to smash Palestine solidarity—but they are at the same time smashing illusions in “democracy.”

-Cayden Ransom


Edmonton

At approximately 4:30 a.m. On May 11, 2024, the Edmonton Police descended on the encampment at the University of Alberta (U of A). They entered wearing armor and helmets, carrying batons and large riot projectile guns.

The camp, largely faculty and students, was sleeping. Given the equipment of the police, it was evident they planned to violently clear the area. Myself and three other RCP comrades formed a line with the camp.

A campus security officer then read an order over a megaphone, saying that we were trespassing, and that “this group” was banned from U of A campuses for one year. Those who did not leave in 30 minutes would be arrested, fined, or given six months in prison.

At approximately 5 a.m. police advanced, crashing into the line of sitting demonstrators, swinging their batons. Police were captured on video striking demonstrators on the ground, including myself. I was struck twice on the left shin by a baton while on the ground. Many demonstrators were knocked to the ground as they tried to retreat. The police also deployed tear gas. Two demonstrators (including one RCP member) were knocked down, struck and held down, then dragged on the ground, hand-cuffed with zip-ties, and arrested.

The brutal assault of peaceful demonstrators forced the camp into a retreat. After flattening the camp, the police continued to advance toward the demonstrators, waving batons at anyone in their way. This continued for almost two hours. Police advancing aggressively, halting, adjusting formation, and advancing again. I remained in the front line of demonstrators, trying to keep the retreat orderly.

We were forced back through the quad, down the side paths bordering on a steep river valley.

At one point, an officer went around a tree, bumping into a demonstrator. The officer then shot them with non-lethal rounds from approximately one meter away. I heard at least four shots. The demonstrator was then dragged behind the tree, beaten with batons, and arrested.

We were pushed back along this sidewalk nearly a kilometer.

The police, seemingly tired, withdrew to university grounds. They proceeded to mockingly eat food and drinks stolen from the camp in front of us.

We then attended to our injuries. There were many bruises from batons and non-lethal rounds. I noticed a fair deal of blood on my pants that had been oozing from the earlier baton strikes. It had taken a chunk of flesh out of my left shin, with bruising around the wound. A camp-designated medic cleaned, sanitized, and bandaged me.

We were able to get in touch with our arrested comrade. He had been charged with “assaulting a police officer”. This is a cruel joke. He had not assaulted anyone, but the bruises and lacerations on his face show that he was assaulted by the police.

-Zac Dabmann