A number of supporters blocked each entrance to the B.C. Legislature in solidarity with the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs. (Kendra Crighton/News Staff)

Victoria councillor calls VicPD allegations of assault at downtown protest ‘fake news’

Coun. Ben Isitt says VicPD is trying to ‘discredit Indigenous youth’

A Victoria councillor is pulling a phrase usually touted by U.S. President Donald Trump following a heated day of protests at the BC Legislature on Tuesday.

Coun. Ben Isitt called police investigations into reports of violence “fake news” in a Twitter post, after he and Couns. Sharmarke Dubow and Jeremy Loveday attended the protests.

Hundreds of people were gathered in support of the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs, and had been camped on the steps since Thursday. On Tuesday, MLAs and reporters attempted to access the Legislature to attend the Throne Speech.

VIDEO: B.C. legislature pipeline protest camp disrupts throne speech ceremonies

Videos of the morning show demonstrators shouting obscene words and “shame” to people trying to enter the building, forcing one reporter to climb over a wall in order to attend work, while MLAs were escorted in by police.

There have also been reports of people being spit on, being shoved and even receiving a bloody nose from a swinging elbow, though Black Press Media could not confirm any of these allegations.

The Victoria Police Department, however, put out a call for victims and witnesses to come forward following reports of staff and other people being assaulted during the protests.

ALSO READ: Demonstrators settle in ‘for the long haul’ at BC Legislature, RBC bank

In response, Isitt called the the allegations “hogwash designed to discredit Indigenous youth and their supporters.”

He added that “VicPD’s mandate is to ensure public safety, not spread #fakenews.”

In response, VicPD Chief Const. Del Manak tweeted back.

“Your comments [sic] is off base an disrespectful. We are asking victims (and witnesses) to step forward if they were assaulted during the protest. Our Mandate is public safety. Please let us do our job.”

Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps said councillors may act on their own accord.

“Councillors are free to participate in protests and to represent their views in whatever way they see fit,” she said.

A video posted on Twitter shows a man being pushed out of the way after he refused to let someone enter the Legislature. The person who posted the video misidentifies the person pushing as a police officer; the man is actually a provincial security guard working for the Legislature. Police were identified with green vests.

Organizers were later heard reminding demonstrators that this was supposed to be a “soft blockade”, meaning they were supposed to let people through and to not touch police or politicians, as well as to stand down if they received threats of arrest.

nicole.crescenzi@vicnews.com

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