SFU students organize silent protest of RCMP at event in Saywell Hall

The protest was in response to the RCMP’s incursions on Wet’suwet’en territory

SFU students Miri Abel and Iulia Zgreaban protested an RCMP display in Saywell Hall

Written by: Harvin Bhathal, News Writer

Two SFU students, Miri Abel and Iulia Zgreaban, held a silent protest in front of an RCMP display at SFU Burnaby Campus on Thursday, February 6. 

The event, titled “Behind the Badge,” was hosted by SFU’s Criminology Student Association. As stated by a post on SFU Criminology’s Facebook page, the event occurred in Saywell Hall for students to be able to “have a conversation with current members of the #RCMP.” 

According to Abel, they decided to organize the silent protest due to RCMP incursions on traditional Wet’suwet’en territory. The RCMP has  come under criticism for enforcing a court injunction allowing Coastal Gaslink to continue working on a natural gas pipeline that would go through Wet’suwet’en territory. While neither Abel or Zreaban are Indigenous, they expressed sympathy for the Wet’suwet’en and anger about the violation of their rights.

Seeing the RCMP promote themselves after these events angered Abel and Zgreaban, causing the former to organize an impromptu protest. During the protest, they were approached by an RCMP officer, who discussed some of his responsibilities and experiences on the job. 

Zgreaban stated, “We weren’t expecting anyone to talk to us because we were silent protesting. We didn’t want to cause a lot of havoc.” 

Both Abel and Zgreaban noted that the officer stayed neutral on the issue of the Wet’suwet’en territory. However, Abel reported telling the officer, “When you are being neutral in times of oppression, you are indirectly supporting the oppressor.”

One of the officers responded to Abel  that “Someone had to arrest [the Wet’suwet’en people who were protesting]. It was someone’s job to do it.” 

According to Abel, by just doing their job, “these officers were, if only just unknowingly, perpetuating and normalising police violence,” said Abel. “Legality is not a guide for morality.

“If you look at the history of the RCMP and that it was purposely created to remove Indigenous people[s] from their land, If you look at the systemic oppression of Indigenous people, if you look at the injustice and disadvantage Indigenous people face in society, the RCMP and its officers are violating Canadian law.”

In regards to the response from students, Abel and Zgreaban stated that they were met with appreciation in the form of nods and statements in agreeance with them, as well as a student who joined their protest.

“If safety, Indigenous rights, and an entire nation itself is threatened by police violence, then I cannot accept this and excuse it by saying that people were ‘just doing their job,’” said Abel.

Abel concluded by saying that, “I am glad people took the time to read our signs because otherwise, the RCMP had a free platform to portray only one side of their story.”