Prime Minister Justin Trudeau‘s visit to Vancouver on Tuesday night was marked by tumultuous scenes as approximately 250 protesters surrounded a restaurant in Chinatown, leading to the deployment of nearly 100 police officers and two arrests. The demonstrators were demanding a ceasefire in the ongoing conflict in Gaza.
According to Sgt. Steve Addison of the Vancouver Police Department (VPD), the situation escalated outside the unnamed restaurant on Main Street, near Keefer Street, where Trudeau was dining. Protesters, some holding Palestine flags and chanting “Ceasefire now,” created a security concern by setting up barricades and locking arms.
Videos circulating on social media showed Trudeau exiting the restaurant under heavy security presence. “It became a security concern for us,” Sgt. Addison stated, adding that the police’s primary role was to maintain order and respond to unlawful behavior.
The protests, which were spontaneous and not notified to the VPD in advance, led to the injury of a female officer. She was punched in the face and had her eyes gouged, necessitating medical treatment. A 27-year-old man from Coquitlam was arrested in connection with this assault, and a 34-year-old Vancouver man was arrested for obstructing police. Charges are being recommended to the B.C. Prosecution Service against the 27-year-old.
Earlier in the evening, Trudeau faced another confrontation at Vij’s, a renowned Indian restaurant on Cambie Street. Protesters entered the premises, urging the Prime Minister to demand a ceasefire in the Middle East. This incident, however, did not require a significant police response.
Sgt. Addison acknowledged the heightened tensions in Vancouver, stating, “There is a heightened sense of fear that many people in our community have as a result of the events that have happened overseas and many of the events that are reverberating here.”
Trudeau was in Vancouver for an announcement about a $1-billion expansion of a Maple Ridge battery company. The visit coincided with an open letter signed by 52 municipal politicians across B.C., calling for a ceasefire in Gaza, unrestricted aid, and the release of all hostages. The letter expressed horror and heartbreak at the crisis, citing the loss of over 11,000 Palestinian and 1,200 Israeli lives since October 7.
VPD, accustomed to managing numerous protests, expects to exceed 1,000 protests by the end of 2023. Addison emphasized the department’s commitment to supporting peaceful assembly while upholding the law and order.
“In regards to any specific interactions, our office does not comment on the prime minister’s security detail or process,” stated a representative from the prime minister’s office, reflecting on the night’s events.