Friday, March 14, 2014

The Inquiry

Following the demands of the public, the Attorney General ordered a provincial Supreme Court Judge, Justice Thomas Dohm, to conduct an inquiry into the August 7, 1971 Gastown Riot.

The Dohm inquiry lasted ten days. Forty-eight witnesses were heard from. Justice Dohm had recommendations for everyone. The judge did acknowledge Abercombie's overzealousness and felt that the crowd had not developed into a mob. Therefore, Dohm felt that individual officers had used “unnecessary, unwarranted and excessive force.”

He had recommendations to the Board of Police Commissioners including banning demonstrators from taking over public streets, training squads police officers for crowd control duty, using horses for crowd control except on sidewalks and store fronts and eliminating the use of plain clothes officers for crowd control.

Justice Dohm placed the responsibility for the riot on the shoulders of Sommer and Lester. He stated their “true motivation is their desire to challenge authority in every way possible ... Any popular cause serves their purpose if it enables them to gather a gullible crowd who may act in such a way as to defy any authority. The harassment of young people by the drug squad police and the resultant hostility was grist to their trouble-brewing mill.”

Dohm, George Murray of the Police Union and Mayor Campbell said the riot was an "anarchist conspiracy to create havoc in the streets". The Province considered the “root cause of the whole ugly business ... two dangerous yippies [trying] to use a protest against marijuana law as a means of gathering a crowd for a confrontation with police.”

The Vancouver Sun echoed this common sentiment and while they laid the blame for the riot at the feet of a small group of troublemakers, they also lambasted Mayor Campbell for his inflammatory rhetoric. Advocacy groups such as the B.C. Civil Liberties Association wanted a deeper answer. They pointed out that there was an underlying strain emerging from the nature of the youth protest movements, with their illicit drug and hippie culture and attitude towards the establishment.

When I think of people demonstrating to overcome an injustice, I think of Rosa Parks who refused to give up her seat to a white woman. I think of Nelson Mandela fighting to better his people who were treated no better than slaves. I admire Eleanor Roosevelt who fought for women's rights. She probably endangered her family's political standing by going fighting for what she believed was right.

The list goes on. However, I don't think any of the civil rights leaders in history have demonstrated for the police to quit bothering them while they wasted their lives smoking pot. Just my thought.

Thanks go to the Canada's Human Rights History website for the above information.

I hope you find the beauty around you.

No comments:

Post a Comment