UBC students are demanding a public inquiry after 19 people were arrested at a bonfire that followed a protest against campus development.
The campus group Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) is demanding an inquiry into "mass arrests" Friday night at Knoll Aid 2.0, a public concert and protest against construction of an underground bus loop, which some believe could result in the uprooting of the popular grassy knoll on campus.
In a press release, the group accused the RCMP of "outright lying" about the events that night and said "only a public inquiry can establish why the RCMP is distorting the events of April 4th."
The arrests began at approximately 8 pm, when RCMP officers from the University Detachment, along with the Vancouver Fire Department, were called to deal with a group of about 100 people and a bonfire at the south side of the Student Union Building (SUB), according to an RCMP news release.
Firefighters felt the fire was unsafe and asked police to move protesters that were obstructing their efforts to put it out, the release said.
All 19 people have been charged with obstruction of a peace officer, while one has also been charged with assaulting a police officer, according to Staff Sergeant Kevin Kenna, commander of the RCMP's University Detachment.
A Youtube clip shows UBC student Stefanie Ratjen, who is also a vice-president of UBC's student council, approaching a firefighter as he attempts to put out the fire with a hose.
The clip also shows protesters dancing around the fire and chanting, "Save the fire, save the knoll" before a group crowds around the firefighter as he unleashes the water.
Ms. Ratjen can be seen standing in front of the hose as the firefighter attempts to douse the flames.
"I was just like, what are you doing, why are you here right now? What is your objective with the fire hose?" Ms. Ratjen said in an interview.
"They didn't give us any previous warning to put it out on our own."
The video then shows police arresting protesters as a firefighter puts out the fire. Numerous people then gather around the arresting officers, shouting obscenities.
Bahram Norouzi, a UBC student and witness to the arrests, said police "suddenly attacked" the crowd after the fire was put out and that Ms. Ratjen was pinned to the ground by two police officers.
He said a number of students then came and hugged her in an attempt to release her.
"People said, if you want to take her away, you have to take us," Mr. Norouzi said.
Ms. Ratjen was eventually released, but she was arrested again with a group of others who sat around a police cruiser with a concertgoer inside and demanded his release.
The Friday incident is not the first time that the RCMP have clashed with students demonstrating near the grassy knoll.
Last September, RCMP officers clashed with protesters over "Trek Park," an installation that, like Knoll Aid 2.0, was designed as a protest against the underground bus loop.
Police claimed the installation, which included a carpeted social area, planter boxes and makeshift grass lawns, was blocking an access route for emergency vehicles.
All 19 people arrested in connection with the protest are due to appear in Richmond Provincial Court April 15.