A public inquiry into police actions at the G-7 finance ministers meeting in Halifax is needed, says a spokesman for a group pushing for G-7 reforms.
"I think there should be some kind of public inquiry about this," said Brian O'Neill, a program officer for Oxfam Canada in the Maritimes.
"I think it would be good so that the truth can come out."
On Saturday, police fired tear gas at about 200 protesters after a group of them removed a metal barricade on Argyle Street set up to prevent access to the World Trade and Convention Centre. Finance ministers from the seven most powerful industrial countries in the world had just finished meeting there.
After nearly 30 minutes of chanting slogans and beating drums, a few protesters began throwing water balloons at riot police. Some pushing and shoving followed.
When some demonstrators tried to push through police lines, an RCMP tactical team fired tear gas to disperse the crowd.
It started several hours of confrontation between police and protesters throughout downtown Halifax in which officers were sometimes pelted with golf balls, sticks, rocks, bottles and ball bearings.
Officers responded with stun guns and pepper spray pellets, eventually arresting 31 people. More than 30 were injured.
But Mayor Peter Kelly rejected the call for an inquiry, insisting Monday that police took appropriate action against a small group of irresponsible protesters.
"When . . . you tear down barricades and you use ball bearings for projectiles and throw products with water or vinegar, when you attack the media, their equipment and their personnel and you destroy property . . . or businesses on Spring Garden Road, then there is a price to pay," Mr. Kelly said.
But Jessica Squires of the Atlantic G-7 Welcoming Committee, which organized Saturday's protest, said it, too, may push for a public inquiry. Members are also looking at the possibility of filing a class action and formal complaints against police.
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"We consider that our rights were violated and that the police response was completely disproportionate to the event," Ms. Squires said.
"If we don't do anything, it's like saying that that was OK and it wasn't OK. It's part of a trend of criminalization of dissent that we've seen since APEC and it's just getting worse and worse. It's like they want to test their toys on us."
At the 1997 APEC conference in Vancouver, Mounties pepper-sprayed and arrested protesting students. That led to an inquiry in which the RCMP later admitted it had made errors.
Halifax Chebucto MLA Howard Epstein said he is also filing a complaint of excessive use of force against the RCMP for firing tear gas on the crowd. But he said Monday it's too early to say if a public inquiry is needed.
"What I believe occurred is that the police let off the tear gas in order to intimidate the protesters and to send a message to those who might be thinking of protesting in Ottawa or Kananaskis (Alta.) later this month that they can expect tough treatment as well," Mr. Epstein said.
"That's a deliberate attempt to suppress dissent and that's wrong."
The full G-8 summit will be held in Kananaskis, June 26-27.
Mr. Epstein is filing his complaint with the Commission for Public Complaints Against the RCMP in Surrey, B.C., rather than locally.
"I don't see that there's a lot of point in complaining (locally) when they seem to already have reached a conclusion about their own behaviour," he said.
The RCMP and Halifax Regional Police continued to insist Monday that their officers didn't go too far.
"We still have things that we must investigate, but we feel justified in our action that we took," said Const. Gary Smith, the RCMP's acting provincial spokesman.
Sgt. Don Spicer of Halifax Regional Police agreed, noting his force has received calls, e-mails and even a bouquet of flowers supporting officers' actions.
He said a small group of protesters came to the protest with violence in mind and "the police acted with great professionalism."
"It was great restraint under the adverse conditions they were faced with," Sgt. Spicer said. "They were forced to react in the way that they did. It was appropriate and it was not excessive.
"But the process is there for a reason. If people feel that their rights were violated or the police acted inappropriately, then I encourage them to file a complaint."
Complaints against Halifax Regional Police can be filed with the force or with the Nova Scotia Police Commission.
Most protesters arrested Saturday for breaching the peace will not be charged.
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