CJFE Dismayed at Use of Pepper Spray Against Photograpers at OAS

Tuesday, June 6, 2000
Eight photographers were hit with pepper spray by Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) on June 4, 2000 while covering a protest against the Organization of American States (OAS) in Windsor, Ontario. Canadian Journalists for Free Expression (CJFE) is deeply concerned by this infringement of the rights to free expression and information. "The first row of police advanced with shields. Then a second row of police had the pepper spray, which they sprayed from between the shields so you couldn't see where it was coming from," said Rob Gurdebeeke of the daily Windsor Star. Ted Rhodes of the Windsor Star was also sprayed. The photographers and scores of protesters were sprayed without any warning by police. "It was pretty indiscriminate on the police's part," said photographer Dave Chidley of the London Free Press. "I was out of commission for 2-3 minutes." "I think they just didn't want us to take more photos," said Ted Andkilde, a freelance photographer. "He aimed the thing right in my eyes and blasted it." Covering his eyes with one hand, Andkilde then took a photo of the officer with the other. "I was wearing my credentials around my neck as well as two cameras and a satchel of lenses. It is very unlikely he mistook me for a protester," said Andkilde. Other photographers sprayed were Chris Bolin of the National Post, Jeff Kowalski of AFP, Kevin Freyer of AP and Taras Kovaliv of the Globe and Mail. The photographers reported that police advanced on them and other bystanders before a separate group of riot police came forward to arrest protesters who were blocking the passage of a bus carrying delegates into a security zone. Forty-one protesters were eventually arrested. The site of the General Assembly of the Organization of American States (OAS) was surrounded by a heavy police presence that one journalist called "intimidating." Hundreds of RCMP and Ontario Provincial Police, many of them in riot gear, patrolled the streets and guarded the perimeter of the meeting area. The General Assembly of the OAS met in Windsor from June 4-6. For more information, contact Lisa Roberts, CJFE Program Manager: [email protected] tel: 416-515-9622; fax: 416-515-7879.

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