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article imageFined Marineland protester claims police used 'excessive force'

By Elizabeth Batt     Nov 1, 2012 in Environment
Niagara - A massive protest at Marineland in Niagara Falls Ontario on Oct 7, attracted over 800 activists. Only one arrest was made during the entire demonstration and in an exclusive DJ interview, Chantal Godin is alleging that excessive force was used.
The protest came following a recent expose by Linda Diebel of the Toronto Star who revealed photos, videos and documents from former Marineland trainers claiming the park kept its animals in deplorable conditions.
The revelations so angered animal rights activists, that the demonstration itself attracted Phil Demers—a former Marineland trainer and the original whistleblower of conditions at the park; NDP MPP for Parkdale-High Park Cheri DiNovo, and activist and star of the documentary The Cove—Ric O’Barry.
At one point during the protest, a group of activists stormed the dolphin show, effectively shutting it down on the final day of Marineland's season. Chantal Godin who was with this crowd at time, was the only person to be arrested and then ticketed by Niagara Regional Police Service for a trespass offense.
Godin told Digital Journal:
While the crowd was making its way to the dolphin show, I decided to jump the fence and join them. While I was attempting to re-enter the park I felt a very forceful yank that brought me crashing down from the fence.
Godin turned and realized that she had been grabbed by a female officer from the Regional Police Service named Bittman. "I began to argue with her" Godin said, "as to why she put her hands on me the way she did, and became very frustrated with her methods of force. I then began to ask her why she was targeting me, while there were hundreds of people inside the park by now?"
At the same time, Godin said, a male officer named Alex Rivet grabbed her partner from the fence and "then pushed him." Immediately after this incident Godin continued, the male officer "walked away from my partner and came after me, a smaller female."
It was at this point the activist added, that Rivet gave her one small push and then another one "with much more force."
Godin said she managed to deflect the male officer's assault telling him, "there was no need for the excessive force." The activist claimed the officer's actions was "pure bullying" and "sexist" because he went "after me instead of my partner."
The female officer who grabbed Godin, then slammed her into the fence and cuffed her, the activist claims. But her demeanor changed she added, when Rivet whispered "we're being taped" into the female police officer's ear:
She became much more calm and told me she was going to take me off the property to release me. She released me by her cruiser in the parking lot and fined me instead of charging me, under the Trespass to Property Act.
Ironically Godin said, Officer Bittman allegedly informed her that she believed in the cause and didn't support Marineland:
She said if she hadn't been in uniform she would be holding a sign as well, and that her best friend was here protesting. I asked her if it had been her best friend, would she have treated her with as much disrespect and unnecessary force? She didn't answer, but gave me my ticket, handed me my sign, and told me to continue protesting as long as it was off the property. I did not go back onto the property after this, but did continue protesting.
Godin, who says she has "received a tremendous amount of support," is planning on fighting the ticket and has been consulting a lawyer on the issue. She also added that she had filed a complaint of excessive force through the Niagara Falls Regional Police Service.
Digital Journal contacted the police service involved and asked for verification of the complaint and a comment about the incident in question. Constable Derek Watson told us:
I am aware of the Marineland protest you are talking about, but not with that particular incident.
On that date there were approx 800 protesters at Marineland. At one point several hundred rushed the gates and gained entry to the park. Dozens of Officers were dispatched, which included officers from Niagara Parks Police and Niagara Regional Police Service.
Upon Police arrival and direction, most of the protesters retreated out of the park back onto public property. At that time the number of protesters diminished quite quickly. There were a lot of families that attended the protest but left due to the escalation.
Although the vast majority of participants were peacefully protesting, there may have been a select few that refused to leave the property. As a result there was one trespass ticket issued.
Godin said she hasn't heard anything back yet from Police Service about her complaint, but is hoping to hear soon.
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