LETTER | An open letter to the Victoria Police Department

Letters Opinions

In light of recent events, I felt obligated to voice my opinions on Victoria Police Department’s intervention on a peaceful protest in the Ministry of Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources on the night of Jan. 21, 2020. Personally, I am skeptical of protests, and I rarely attend them. Though that doesn’t change the fact that peaceful protests are a civil right, and the duty of a police force is to ensure public safety during those protests.

On Tuesday evening, I decided to observe the protest at the Ministry after receiving emergency alerts from protesters regarding police violence and fears of safety. Ironically just hours before those incidents occurred, I was arguing in favour of the VicPD, stating that I have met several officers and have only had good interactions with them. I also stated that they were a professional and ethical police force, who wouldn’t put anyone at risk, let alone inflicting violence upon peaceful protesters. I could not have been more wrong. 

Shortly after I arrived at the scene, I noticed a number of police vehicles arriving and officers taking position. Not long after, around 20 armed police officers arrived at the building as a show of force. With intentions of intimidating youth at the protest, they blocked off areas and didn’t allow access inside the building. Concerned people on the scene, like myself, felt the need to hide our identities due to the presence of police cameras around the building. 

After some time passed, we were told they would start making arrests which I was already expecting. This is where things started turning violent. For each arrest, eight to 10 armed police officers entered the building and dragged out one protester at a time, searching them down and removing a number of personal belongings such as cell phones. They later carried the protesters out along with an additional 10 to 15 more officers, forming a “protective line” around the detained youth. They loaded people to the paddy wagons one by one. While walking out of the building I witnessed police officers assault peaceful protesters by violently showing them around, yelling at them, and slamming several protesters to the hood of their vehicles. Despite the lack of resistance, they kept on inflicting unnecessary amounts of pain and stress onto protesters. I can visually identify at least two officers from pictures whom have violently pushed people around or slammed them on vehicles. Some of the instances I witnessed happened without any reason, and away from the “front-line.” 

Throughout the night, officers engaged in very rude dialogues with protesters, and continuously applied physical and psychological pressure on protesters inside and outside the building. Their actions as well as their words were targeting, insulting, violent, and unforgettable. After chatting with several officers, none of them denied what was happening, and instead told people to make a complaint — knowing their comrades-in-arms would not speak against one another. 

I will not stand down or stay quiet against racialized violence. VicPD has stepped beyond their role as a police force and attempted to act as judge, jury, and executioner on Tuesday night. While there is talk about asking the city to defund them, as a firm believer in education, I disagree. I believe, after witnessing this level of unprofessionalism and implication of racialized violence, that our city should demand that VicPD use a portion of their already-massive budget for self-education. They need to be re-familiarized on how to efficiently and peacefully interact with Indigenous youth and people of visible minorities, and how to conduct proper crowd management. I believe that VicPD is stepping outside of their boundaries, and are acting as a hired gun for political agendas which can’t be allowed in a free and democratic society. 

No matter how hard they attempt to deny allegations, or simply play dumb, witnesses are speaking out about the actions of VicPD. I am condemning the actions of VicPD, their violent attempts of dismissing peaceful protests, their ignorance of Indigenous youth, people of visible minorities, basic human rights, as well as their use of racialized violence as a tool of war. 

My most sincere wishes to those who were affected by the actions of the VicPD. 

Efe Türker

Director of International Student Relations