Protest stays peaceful

<p></p><p>Organizers touted it as a family-friendly demonstration and yesterday’s Stop the SPP rally here came close to that.</p>


Only three arrests as anti-SPP demonstrators hold downtown march





Protesters gather on Parliament Hill yesterday to protest the Security and Prosperity Partnership (SPP) before marching past the Mexican and American embassies. Demonstrations shift today to Montebello, Que., where the leaders of Canada, Mexico and the U.S. will meet. Inset, Bryanna Carter, 18, paints her face in slogans as part of the protest.

Organizers touted it as a family-friendly demonstration and yesterday’s Stop the SPP rally here came close to that.

With Ottawa police and security forces braced for unrest ahead of today’s North American Leaders Summit in nearby Montebello, Que., about 1,000 protesters peacefully demonstrated downtown while marching from Parliament Hill to the embassies of Mexico and the United States, with just three arrests reported.

As of last night, a 21-year-old male had been arrested for carrying a knife; a 17-year-old male was arrested on an arrest warrant, and a 16-year-old male was arrested for mischief, after allegedly painting graffiti near Parliament.

It was a far cry from the smashed shop windows and scuffles with police that some had feared when activists announced last week they’d protest here before the summit. While organizers had insisted their plans were peaceful, they also admitted they could not stop any demonstrators who decided to break the law.

Celeste Cote, with Ottawa Stop the SPP, was pleased by the outcome. “It’s really impressive that so many diverse people have come together for so many diverse reasons to oppose this agreement,” she said.

Police officers from Toronto and York, Peel and Durham regions were brought in to assist Royal Canadian Mounted Police; provincial and city police keep order as vocal, placard-waving protesters staged the march.

Small pockets of protesters — some wearing bandanas over their faces, or gas masks — taunted police officers along the route, but there were no reported altercations.

“We have to take a professional approach to every interaction with the public,” said RCMP Cpl. Jean Hainey. “No mater what type of situation we face, we have to keep our composure and stay professional at all times.”

The protest aimed to pressure the government to bring the Security and Prosperity Partnership (SPP) Initiative to Parliament for debate.

The federal government’s website describes the SPP as a commitment to improve economic relations and security between the three countries. But protesters yesterday decried the lack of democratic process and the secrecy surrounding its implementation.

“They just tell us not to worry,” said Jerome Messier, of Gatineau. “Trust us … it’s only small things. But if it’s only a small thing, why not make it public?”

“The SPP is not about our security. It’s about getting a stranglehold on the working class,” said Barb Byers, executive vice-president of the Canadian Labour Congress. “We want this deal in the open.”

Critics held a public forum in Ottawa yesterday condemning the SPP, attended by several hundred people.

summit starts today

  • Prime Minister Stephen Harper will meet U.S. President George W. Bush and Mexico’s President Felipe Calderon for the two-day summit starting today in Montebello.

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