Police hope for best at rally, but brace for worst

Steve MacNaull

The Okanagan Sunday



Kelowna‘s police chief fears today‘s rally against police violence could itself spiral into violence and property damage.
"Of course, that‘s our worst fear," RCMP Supt. Bill McKinnon told a hastily called news conference Saturday afternoon.
"We fear that participants will be so angered that they will cause damage and violence. I recognize people‘s right to protest - we‘re a democracy - but we want a peaceful protest. We will plan for the worst and hope for the best."
The rally is set to start at noon near the William R. Bennett Bridge, with participants then marching through City Park and downtown to the RCMP detachment on Doyle Avenue.
For the past couple of days, the rally has been promoted on a Facebook page. The organizers are calling for the police officer who kicked a man in the face while he was arresting him to be charged with assault.
It all dates back to Jan. 7, when Buddy Tavares, 51, of Kelowna was taken into custody after firing off a shotgun to scare away geese at Harvest Golf Club.
Police stopped Tavares‘ truck at the corner of Pandosy Street and Cedar Avenue. Tavares was ordered out of the truck and onto the ground.
Unknown to police, a reporter had a video camera rolling and captured a cop kicking Tavares in the head.
Const. Geoff Mantler was later suspended with pay, and the Abbotsford police department has been brought in to investigate.
Tavares suffered a black eye and other scrapes and bruises, headaches and loose teeth.
The video of the attack, which has aired repeatedly on TV and is on the Internet, has become big news across the country.
Anger expressed in blog entries, letters to the editor and extensive media coverage leads McKinnon to believe the rally could attract not only peaceful protesters, but also troublemakers who want only to "create havoc."
"We don‘t want to get into numbers, but there will be an increased police presence there," said McKinnon.
When asked if that includes both uniformed and plainclothes police, McKinnon answered a simple "Yes."
McKinnon said the rally could attract anywhere from 50 to 1,500 protesters, so police will be ready if it gets out of hand.
McKinnon and other police officials are meeting with unnamed rally organizers this morning to stress that the protest should be peaceful.
"The thing is the organizers can‘t control that (people who want to resort to violence or damage)," said McKinnon.
Meantime, McKinnon said he doesn‘t have the authority to fire Mantler or cut off his pay. Decisions on those matters are expected next week by the commanding officer of E Division RCMP.
McKinnon admitted morale isn‘t good at the Kelowna detachment right now and said everyone has been impacted by the violent arrest of Tavares.
"But I want to say our members do incredible work. However, sometimes, errors are made," he said.