Sunday, November 22, 2009

Windsor student acquitted of assaulting a police officer and resisting arrest at Passa Passa campus event

On November 2, 2009, Yared Bogale, a 24-year-old University of Windsor student was acquitted on charges of assaulting a police officer and resisting arrest following a Passa Passa social event at the University pub early last year.

In the early hours of January 20, 2008, more than twenty Windsor police officers, including the canine unit, responded to a call from Campus Police to disburse the crowd at the conclusion of a Caribbean-themed campus event. It still remains unclear why so many officers responded when there was no evidence of any weapons, drugs or other security risk. What ensued was a confrontation between the police officers and several students who were arrested. The cellular footage of one student arrest has been posted on You Tube. [A number of students reported that officers tried to stop them from recording the event.] Most of the students were released from custody without charge or later had their charges withdrawn. Yared's case proceeded to trial.

In the wake of this incident, a group of Windsor students formed the grassroots organization Students Against Anti-Black Racism (SAABR) to address racism on campus.

In acquitting Yared, Justice Micheline Rawlins concluded that the officer in question was operating under an "erroneous frame of reference" and was "primed and predisposed" to confrontation when he responded to the Campus Police call to disperse the crowd. She found that Yared was "defending himself" against someone he did not know to be a police officer.

The next stage is a human rights complaint involving four students. See Chan v. Windsor Police Service. Mediation was held on November 4, 2009 in Windsor. All students are now represented by Selwyn Pieters, a well-known human and civil rights lawyer in Toronto.

It should be noted that following the incident, then President Ross Paul filed a complaint with the Windsor Police Service regarding the incident. Chief Gary Smith conducted an investigation and prepared a report. However, the report has not been released because of ongoing human rights litigation.

Additional information about the human rights case can be found by reading Chen, "Students, police try to talk out problems" Windsor Star (4 November 2009).

Posted by Minoo Alipour (Law III)

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