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Victoria police to foot $32,000 bill for protest

Nov 06 2012
An estimated crowd of 3,500 gathered at the legislature Oct. 22 to protest the proposed Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline. 

An estimated crowd of 3,500 gathered at the legislature Oct. 22 to protest the proposed Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline.

Photograph by: Adrian Lam, Times Colonist , Times Colonist

With wages and overtime finally tallied, Victoria Police Department will pay a $32,000 bill for the protest held on the legislature lawn last week against the proposed Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline.

The crowd, estimated at 3,500 people, pales in comparison with some previous protest turnouts at the legislature.

It's another example of how the VicPD bears the cost of visitors and neighbouring municipalities, police department officials said.

Officers were taken off regular duty and stationed at the legislature while others were called in for overtime, according to numbers provided by the police department this week.

Four officers from Saanich and two from Central Saanich were part of the regional crowd management unit brought in for the Defend our Coast protest.

Police do not release the total number of officers they deploy.

"This is but another example of how we are tasked with paying for policing the provincial capital and the capital region's protests," said Const. Mike Russell, Victoria police spokesman.

The cost comes in at $31,700, and is an unexpected bill for the department's budget, police said. Other examples include last year's Occupy Victoria protest, held briefly on the legislature lawn and for more than a month as an ongoing camp site at Centennial Square.

The cost for policing Occupy was an estimated $55,000.

"We have numerous protests every year, some planned, some not. We can't budget for these in advance so everyone that pops up has to come out of our operational budget," Russell said.

The protest was smaller than a rally in early March when an estimated 5,000 teachers and labour union supporters from around the province showed up, but the police presence was stronger last week because of anticipated risks.

In the lead up to the event, some protesters took training that included tips on how to avoid injuries while getting arrested. With such a high profile for the event, police wanted to prepare for anything.

"We don't get a protest syllabus for the day. We have to prepare for everything," Russell said. "We have to ensure everyone is safe, including the protesters. All we can hope for is that they are heard and we can all go home safely."

Aside from the police presence outside the legislature, at least a dozen officers inside the building had duffle bags with crowd control gear and could be called upon immediately if the protesters got out of hand.

dspalding@timescolonist.com

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