OTTAWA – The Mounties and Quebec provincial police deny using agents provocateurs at this week's Montebello summit, despite video evidence that suggests undercover cops tried to incite violence.
The denials Wednesday did nothing to quell mounting outrage over police tactics. Anti-globalization and union activists joined with opposition politicians to demand an independent investigation.
They also questioned whether police were acting on orders from the Prime Minister's Office and called on both Stephen Harper and Quebec Premier Jean Charest to denounce the use of agents provocateurs.
"In a free and democratic society, people have the right to peacefully protest something they don't like," said union leader Dave Coles, who confronted the alleged undercover officers outside the summit site Monday.
"Are Canadian citizens going to have to face these kinds of provocateurs just because Stephen Harper seems to think we're some sort of loony-left group?
"Quite frankly, that's insulting and we don't accept it and we want answers from him."
The three alleged provocateurs were caught on camera (view YouTube video) – with bandanas masking their faces and at least one carrying a rock in his hand – approaching a line of Surete du Quebec police in full riot garb. They refused to back away, despite the insistence of Coles and other protest organizers that they leave the area.
As protesters surrounded the men and tried to snatch off their masks, one of the three spoke to an SQ officer. The trio got through the police line, were forced to the ground and handcuffed.
Photos of the men lying on the ground show the three were wearing combat boots with identical markings to the ones worn by an SQ officer kneeling beside them.
Video also shows the three eventually being led quietly away to police vans. By contrast, Coles said four legitimate protesters – whom police say were the only people arrested and charged at the summit – were "roughed up pretty good and dragged away."
A spokesman for Harper denied any role by the prime minister in the fair, saying "the PMO is not involved in security for events." Public Safety Minister Stockwell Day's office referred all questions to the RCMP.
The Mounties and the SQ, the two police forces involved in summit security, continued to refuse specific comment on three alleged undercover officers caught on camera in an apparent bid to incite a confrontation.
But they denied using agents to provoke violence.
"I confirm (to) you that there are no agents provocateurs in the Surete du Quebec. . . It doesn't exist in the Surete du Quebec," said Const. Melanie Larouche.
RCMP spokesman Cpl. Luc Bessette said the Mounties do "not use tactics that would encourage confrontation or incite violence."
Bessette said the RCMP cannot discuss details of security measures for major events such as the summit because "to do so could jeopardize the integrity of our operations for future events."
Liberal justice critic Marlene Jennings said the evidence is ``quite incriminating" and called on the two police forces to ``clear this up." She said it's one thing for officers to pose as protesters in a bid to keep an eye on potential trouble-makers, ``but to be instigators is completely unacceptable."
Jennings suggested protest organizers may want to file a complaint with the two forces. Coles said his union has not done so yet but is seeking legal advice.
And then there are the planted news articles.
New Democrat MP Libby Davies, who participated in the summit demonstrations, said the video evidence raises "hugely serious questions" about the role of the police at contentious international meetings.
"It seems like they create this environment, a show of force, that sets it up for a confrontation," she said.
"I think we need to know who authorized this, how high up does this go?"
Coles, president of the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers union, speculated on two possible motives for the police to try to incite a riot at the summit, where Harper, U.S. President George Bush and Mexican President Felipe Calderon were discussing the Security and Prosperity Partnership between their three countries.
He said police may have wanted to justify the millions spent on security for the summit by creating an incident they could quell. But he said there may also have been a political motive to discredit the protesters as violent radicals, thereby deflecting attention from the substance of their opposition to the SPP.
"This is the face of (the SPP), where people can't even ask a question without having to face these kinds of goons. It's time that all the secrecy and backroom deals end," said Coles.
"The SPP is a fraud, just like those three so-called activists were."
The first film is the event as captured by one of the protesters. The second is the event as reported by a Canadian reporter.