Mounties criticized for carrying ‘skinny blue line’ patches at B.C. old-growth logging protests

2021-06-05 18:30:00

Some RCMP officers who’re imposing a British Columbia courtroom injunction to take away old-growth logging blockades on Vancouver Island are carrying the controversial “skinny blue line” patch on their uniforms, regardless of an official RCMP directive in opposition to the insignia.

RCMP headquarters advised the Mounties in October they may not show the patch depicting a black and gray Canadian flag with blue stripe by way of it whereas on responsibility.

The directive opened a rift between RCMP brass and the Nationwide Police Federation, the union representing almost 20,000 RCMP officers.

The union rejected the directive and mentioned it might provide the patches to all its frontline members and “help in defending any member who faces disciplinary motion” for carrying it.

Some metropolitan police forces in Canada, together with Ottawa and Victoria, have since banned the insignia, whereas others, together with Montreal, have mentioned they’re reviewing its use.

The patch “delineates the necessary and infrequently harmful function cops play in offering a barrier between social order and chaos,” the Nationwide Police Federation mentioned in a assertion on Oct. 12.

However others, together with a researcher who research policing on the College of Victoria, say the patch fuels tensions between police and protesters by reinforcing an us-against-them mindset, and politicizes the function of legislation enforcement.

Caycuse RCMP arrests
RCMP officers, together with two carrying the ‘skinny blue line’ patch, arrest a person throughout an anti-logging protest in Caycuse, B.C. on Tuesday, Might 18, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jen Osborne

British Columbia RCMP spokesperson Sgt. Chris Manseau mentioned this week that the RCMP commanders who’re imposing the injunction on southwestern Vancouver Island have been reminded of the official directive in opposition to carrying the emblem.

“We respect that the RCMP has issued steerage concerning the patch and we additionally perceive the place of the RCMP union on this matter,” Manseau mentioned Thursday.

The Nationwide Police Federation and the RCMP’s nationwide headquarters each declined to remark publicly on the problem this week.

‘It’s an inappropriate response’

Blockade organizer Kathy Code says that by displaying the patch on the injunction website, the RCMP are casting protesters because the enemies of civil society fairly than peaceable demonstrators.

“It’s an inappropriate response,” says Code, who helped set up the authorized defence staff for the Rainforest Flying Squad protest group.

“I might level out to them that we’re appearing on behalf of everybody right here,” provides Code, who says she has seen the patches on a number of RCMP officers on the injunction website for the reason that starting of the enforcement in Might and as just lately as Thursday.

“After we come to avoid wasting the timber, we’re saving the timber for everybody and all the generations to come back, together with the households of RCMP officers,” Code provides.

Thin blue line
An RCMP officer wears a ‘skinny blue line’ patch whereas imposing a courtroom injunction in opposition to old-growth logging protesters on Vancouver Island on Might 26, 2021. (Torrance Coste)

Political scientist Michelle Bonner says carrying the patch on the Vancouver Island blockades is counterproductive to peaceable battle decision.

“There’s an inherent stress within the policing of protests,” says Bonner, whose analysis on the College of Victoria specializes within the policing of protests. “And to re-emphasize that stress with a patch that claims ‘We’re right here to keep up order and you might be a part of the chaos we’re defending in opposition to’ creates division.”

Bonner, who has authored 4 books on democracy and policing, says the addition of the skinny blue line patch to police uniforms undermines the perceived neutrality of a police drive that’s meant to guard all residents.

“It’s essential that their presentation seems to be politically impartial and lots of thought has gone into the symbolism round police, together with their uniforms,” Bonner says. “It’s essential for police legitimacy and it’s essential for state legitimacy.”

‘Who’s civil society and who’s chaos?’

The UVic professor says protests, similar to these in opposition to old-growth logging in B.C., “are an act of final resort when folks really feel there isn’t any different channel left” outdoors of civil disobedience.

“So who’s civil society and who’s chaos? Oftentimes those that are chaos are marginalized folks and on this case additionally protesters,” Bonner says. “If the police are the one group in society that may defend us in opposition to chaos, it echoes authoritarianism, which believes that drive is the one solution to keep order.”

Greater than 165 folks have been arrested since Might 17 on the blockades aimed toward stopping the logging of old-growth forests.

The courtroom injunction was granted in April to permit forestry employees with the Teal-Jones Group to log the world close to Port Renfrew, B.C.

Activists say the world is among the many final intact old-growth watersheds on Vancouver Island. Teal-Jones has mentioned it plans to reap 20 hectares of the 1,200-hectare watershed.

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