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Mass demonstration in Whistler not so massive



The worst never came last weekend, although the RCMP was certainly prepared for it.

Approximately 150 protesters assembled in Whistler last weekend to protest the Pacific Northwest Economic Region conference at Whistler’s conference centre. The activists ran the gammut from First Nations representatives, to anarchists, to anti-globalization forces, to private sector unions, to the Communist Party of Canada.

Aside from a few scuffles, 11 arrests, and one case of a protester being pepper sprayed, the RCMP are calling the weekend a success.

"We feel in went very well, that we successfully balanced the rights of those attending the conference with those who protested the conference, with the goal of protecting everyone in Whistler: visitors, protesters, police, and media," said Constable Ray Bernoties of the Whistler detachment. "We were successful in ensuring there was no property damage as a result of the protest, and we’ve received a substantial amount of positive feedback from the community."

The local police force was bolstered by crowd control and emergency response teams from Vancouver, as well as negotiators, canine units, and a police helicopter. According to Sergeant Grant Learned, a spokesperson for the RCMP less than 150 police officers provided security for the conference, including 125 uniformed officers, and a number of plainclothes and support officers. "The total cost has not been established yet as some sections still have to submit their numbers," said Learned. "We hope to have those numbers by next week."

Despite the fact that there were roughly as many police officers as there were protesters, Bernoties said the RCMP geared the response to the numbers they expected.

"We had to prepare for the worst," said Bernoties. "It’s not the majority of protesters we’re concerned about, but a small group that is prone to running around and causing the damage and the violence that you see at other protests."

He said the RCMP was also led to expect 500 protesters were coming from the city, but only 80 made it for the main protest on July 28. Others arrived earlier in the week, but there were no problems to report.

One protester, already known to the police after being arrested as part of an earlier protest at Melvin Creek, was arrested before Saturday’s protest for wearing camouflage, which was violation of his release conditions.

Three more protesters were arrested around 1 p.m. Saturday when the activists that had just arrived in Whistler by bus attempted to enter Whistler Village through the entrance by the taxi loop. The RCMP had established an area for the protesters in Parking Lot 3, by the conference centre, and blocked other routes.