CSEC, Saanich PD called once students started taking down flags
Youth Protecting Youth’s latest demonstration was even more visually striking and ended even more dramatically than the first, with two students threatened with arrest.
The flags — 10 000 of them, each representing 10 abortions performed in Canada a year — caught the eye when set against the bright, fresh snow, but lasted only a few hours before dozens of students pulled them up out of the ground.
Two students removing the flags from the quad were stopped by Saanich PD, who informed them that taking the flags would be considered theft. After informing the students that they could be arrested and discussing the issue further with university security, the police officers left the scene — leaving the pair to disappear inside the Gender Studies department with the flags.
It is now in the hands of YPY and Campus Security (CSec) to follow up with the students and take any action deemed appropriate.
YPY held the exact same demonstration three months ago, in November 2017, which also ended with the flags plucked from the ground. But unlike last time, there was significant security presence and video cameras recording the action.
While last year’s demonstration saw students pick the flags up and leave them in piles on the quad, two students participating in this year’s counter-demonstration proceeded to leave the quad with the flags. This drew the attention of Saanich Police Department officers who had been called to the scene.
Cecilia Fillipone, President of YPY, confirmed that after the events of last year, the group had coordinated with CSec to let students know that tearing flags up was an act of vandalism and would be treated by university security as such.
At the start of the day, three CSec officers informed counter-demonstrators that removing the flags wasn’t allowed. Most people put the flags down, with a few choice parting words.
Speaking earlier that morning, Fillipone was hopeful the flags would stay up, but by 11:30 a.m., it was clear that the dozens of students removing flags would prove too much for security. The three CSec workers there could only stand by and film the proceedings on a phone.
“They’re not listening to our requests,” one CSec worker said.
By 11:42 a.m., the flags had been removed.
Saanich Police were called soon afterwards. First, Saanich PD addressed the counter-demonstrators and asked for them to leave the flags on the quad. But two students ignored the officers, loaded the flags into cardboard boxes, and began to walk them off the quad.
The two students, arguing that leaving the flags would only lead to more protests, were informed by Saanich PD that taking the flags would be considered an act of theft.
Eventually, after talking with YPY and Campus Security personnel, Saanich PD left. Fillipone confirmed that while they did not have a concrete plan, they would be following up with Campus Security regarding any further actions.
Tom Downie, the director of Campus Security Services at UVic, told the Martlet in an emailed statement that YPY has been advised how to pursue their complaint and police have offered additional assistance.
While the university was criticized by students and the UVSS alike for not providing enough notice for November’s demonstration, both the Students’ Society and the Anti-Violence Project had prepared statements for February’s demonstration the night before. The statements warned students about the event and providing information regarding support services they could access.
The university also provided signage, situated in the quad, informing students of resources available to them.
Also at the demonstration was a contracted videographer, filming students who were picking up the flags. YPY denied hiring the cameraman, and university security confirmed they were unaware he would be filming on campus today. When confronted by students curious about his footage, the cameraman said he was unable to disclose who had paid him to be there or what the video would be used for.
“The university will be reviewing the day’s activities and actions for any policy violations,” Downie said, responding to another question about the videographer in question.
This is a breaking story and will be updated as more information is made available.
This story was updated at 5:00 p.m. to include a statement from Tom Downie.
Anyone who has been affected by the demonstrations today can access support from the Anti-Violence Project, located in room B027 of the Student Union Building. You can find out more about their services online at https://www.antiviolenceproject.org.