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Vancouver Facebook users rail against violent police tactics

After Andishae Akhavan asks why he was arrested, the arresting officer suddenly punches him.

Mike Schwarz from YouTube

A Facebook group urging Vancouver residents to share stories of police violence has sprung up just days after a video surfaced showing an officer punching a cyclist in the face in the city.

The group's page, I Was Assaulted by Vancouver Police, launched on Thursday and so far has over 100 Likes.

The first post on the page was accompanied by the video of the cyclist getting punched, and said: "Let this be the first of many stories, pictures and video documenting the overuse of violence by Vancouver police." The post, like many others on the page, was made by an anonymous administrator of the Facebook group.

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The incident involving police and the cyclist took place Tuesday night, when officers stopped Andishae Akhavan and ticketed him for allegedly running a red light at the intersection of Robson and Beatty streets.

A 39-second video posted to YouTube the next day shows Mr. Akhavan being handcuffed by two officers. He turns slightly and asks, "What is this for?" The officer handcuffing him does not reply. A few seconds later, Mr. Akhavan moves his arm and again turns slightly, appearing to say, "Yo, I don't think – " when the arresting officer suddenly strikes him in the jaw with a closed fist.

Moments later, as the officer orders Mr. Akhavan to have a seat on the curb, Mr. Akhavan asks why the officer punched him.

"Because you [were] resisting," the officer replies.

The Office of the Police Complaint Commissioner will oversee an internal investigation by the Vancouver Police Department. Deputy Police Complaint Commissioner Rollie Woods called the video "concerning," but noted it's not yet clear what happened before the camera started recording.

The Facebook page created in the aftermath of the incident has spurred a significant amount of discussion. Many people have begun posting their own stories of what they say is excessive force used by Vancouver police. Some users have posted videos and articles of various incidents involving police, while others have used the page to generate a general debate about policing.

One Facebook user wrote on the page: "To the candidates of the upcoming B.C. election. Please advise us as to how you intend to change policing procedures and public safety concerning police brutality in the province. Your efforts will not go unnoticed."

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The anonymous administrator has begun posing questions of the day. On Saturday, for instance, the administrator asked: "Does too much attention to the issue of excessive force undermine the work of all law enforcement or is this an essential part of democracy, public policy and/or constructive criticism?" One person responded: "It's not bad apples. It's structural." The question in total garnered seven responses.

The administrator has shown compassion toward police. A post made Sunday evening said: "VPD officer was hit in the head with a rock while pursuing a suspect in Stanley Park earlier this month. This is a reminder that police work is dangerous and that we must consider this when providing constructive criticism. We wish the officer a full recovery and we thank you for your efforts."

The Vancouver Police Department could not be reached Sunday evening for comment.

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About the Author
News reporter

Daniel Bitonti is a Vancouver-based reporter with The Globe and Mail. Before joining the bureau, Daniel spent six months on the copy desk in the Globe’s Toronto newsroom after completing a journalism degree at Carleton University. More

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