Canadian police block journalists from covering indigenous pipeline protest

Originally published on January 10, 2019 at NationofChange.org

While arresting indigenous pipeline protesters in northern British Columbia, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) recently began prohibiting reporters from covering the demonstrations. In response, the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) released a statement demanding that Canadian law enforcement cease restricting access to reporters covering the pipeline protest.

On Sunday, Grand Chief Stewart Phillip of the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs issued a statement saying all five Wet’suwet’en clans, including the Gidimt’en, oppose the construction of oil and gas pipelines in their territory.

“The provincial and federal governments must revoke the permits for this project until the standards of free, prior and informed consent are met,” Phillip said in the news release.

Last October, LNG Canada announced its plans to move ahead with constructing the $6.2 billion pipeline. Although TransCanada subsidiary Coastal GasLink claims that agreements have been signed with all First Nations along the route for LNG Canada’s $40-billion liquefied natural gas project, demonstrators argue that Wet’suwet’en house chiefs, who are hereditary rather than elected, have not given consent.

According to the RCMP, at least 14 people have been arrested for blockading a forest service road in order to prevent access to the pipeline. Journalists and several media crews attempting to cover the pipeline protests have recently reported that the RCMP is restricting access to the site and prohibiting journalists from witnessing further arrests.

“Authorities in Canada should immediately end the arbitrary restrictions on journalists covering the police breakup of the pipeline protest,” CPJ North America Program Coordinator Alexandra Ellerbeck wrote in a press release on Tuesday. “Journalists should be able to freely cover events of national importance, without fear of arrest.”

“It sounds like the RCMP is once again using every tactic that they can to bend the law as much as possible to prevent journalists from gaining access to sites,” said Tom Henheffer, vice president of Canadian Journalists for Free Expression (CJFE). “This is a tactic that is very commonly employed and is very difficult to fight against in the moment because [police] know that when you’ve got a bunch of officers with guns telling people what they can and cannot do, it doesn’t necessarily matter whether the law is on the RCMP’s side or not – because it takes too long for a journalist to get a lawyer, go to court to get an order to allow them to get on to the site.”

By restricting access to the demonstrations, Canadian law enforcement are attempting to control the narrative by preventing journalists from witnessing their actions. According to some reports, most communication from the site recently went dark due to an alleged satellite issue, but the RCMP issued a statement on Monday denying any involvement with the suspiciously beneficial disruption of communications in the area.

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Third police officer sentenced to prison for framing black males

Originally published on October 19, 2018 at NationofChange.org

After pleading guilty to framing innocent black men and punching a handcuffed suspect in the face, a third Florida police officer was sentenced Thursday to 27 months in prison for conspiracy to deprive a person of his civil rights and deprivation of civil rights under color of law. Two other officers have been sentenced to one year in federal prison, while their former police chief awaits sentencing next month.

On January 23, 2013 and February 26, 2014, at the direction of then-Biscayne Park Police Department Chief Raimundo Atesiano, Officer Guillermo Ravelo falsely arrested two black men for a series of unsolved burglaries without any probable cause. In a separate incident, on April 7, 2013, Ravelo arrived at a traffic stop to provide backup before using unreasonable force by punching a handcuffed suspect in the face.

On June 13, 2013, Chief Atesiano ordered officers Charlie Dayoub and Raul Fernandez to unlawfully arrest and falsely charge a 16-year-old juvenile identified only as “T.D.” With no evidence to charge T.D. for another series of unsolved burglaries, Fernandez fabricated information in the arrest affidavits, while Dayoub signed the affidavits and supported the false claims.

“These officers conspired to falsely arrest individuals in the name of providing deceptive clearance statistics for the benefit of Chief Atesiano,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General John Gore. “Chief Atesiano and these officers abused their authority and the Department will continue to ensure officers such as these are held accountable.”

“Officers who use excessive force and make false arrests maliciously cause harm to their victims and scourge our justice system,” stated U.S. Attorney Ariana Fajardo Orshan. “With great power, comes great responsibility. Through aggressive federal prosecutions, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida will continue to guard the invaluable civil rights of every member of our community and hold those accountable who violate our constitutional protections.”

“These three police officers from Biscayne Park disgraced themselves and damaged the public’s trust in law enforcement. Their actions are inexcusable and are not representative of the law enforcement professionals who serve us selflessly,” noted Robert Lasky, Special Agent in Charge, FBI Miami.

“Honesty and integrity are the core values of every effective police officer,” said State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle. “Former Biscayne Park Police Officers Guillermo Ravelo, Charlie Dayoub, and Raul Fernandez undermined their essential task of protecting the community, in some instances by using excessive force and in others, by conspiring to deprive suspects of their civil rights so as to produce bogus arrests. This absolute abuse of power by all three officers violated every aspect of the oath Ravelo, Dayoub, and Fernandez took the day they became police officers.”

On June 11, Atesiano, Dayoub, and Fernandez were charged with conspiracy to violate civil rights under color of law and deprivation of T.D.’s civil rights, under color of law. In August, Dayoub and Fernandez both pleaded guilty to deprivation of T.D.’s civil rights, under color of law. They were recently sentenced to each serve 12 months in federal prison.

In April, Ravelo was charged with depriving persons of their civil rights under color of law and falsifying records in a federal investigation. In July, Ravelo pleaded guilty in Miami federal court to a conspiracy charge of violating the rights of two falsely accused black men and using excessive force during a 2013 traffic stop by punching a handcuffed man in the face. On Thursday, Ravelo was sentenced to 27 months incarceration for conspiracy to deprive a person of his civil rights and deprivation of civil rights under color of law.

Last month, Atesiano pleaded guilty to conspiring with his subordinate officers to violate the civil rights of three black males by making false arrests. The former police chief is scheduled to be sentenced on November 27.