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The Globe & Mail (Canada)

Police Planted Provocateurs, Protesters Say

Joan Bryden

OTTAWA -- The Mounties and Quebec provincial police deny using agents provocateurs at this week's Montebello summit, despite incriminating video evidence that suggests undercover cops tried to incite violence.The denials yesterday 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 such tactics.

"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 -- with bandanas masking their faces and at least one carrying a rock in his hand -- approaching a line of Sûreté du Québec officers in full riot garb. They refused to back away, despite the insistence of Mr. 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, Mr. 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 Mr. Harper denied any role by the Prime Minister in the affair, 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.

But they denied using agents to provoke violence.

"I confirm [to] you that there are no agents provocateurs in the Sûreté du Québec," Constable Melanie Larouche said.

© 2007 Globe & Mail

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