Journalist in hospital with concussion after shoving incident at torch relay
The Canadian Press
Published Friday, December 18, 2009 8:29PM EST
TORONTO - A news photographer was sent to hospital with a concussion on Friday after security officers involved in crowd control for the Olympic torch relay "shoved" the man to the ground, said a spokesman for a union representing journalists.
"These were two professional journalists simply doing their job," said Brad Honywill, president of Local 87-M of the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union of Canada.
"They could not be considered protesters."
Two journalists, both photographers for the Toronto Sun, were taking pictures and video Friday afternoon as Olympic torch bearer Louise Russo, 50, made her way along Davis Drive in Newmarket, Ont., in her wheelchair.
Russo was left partially paralyzed after she was hit in the spine by a stray bullet during an organized crime-related shooting at a Toronto sandwich shop in 2004.
Photographers were trying to capture the image of Russo with the torch mounted on her wheelchair.
Honywill said Ian Robertson was shooting video of the event.
According to Honywill, as Robertson drew in closer to the torch, he was shoved to the ground by security officers and hit his head.
"This is an Olympic torch relay. It's a feel good event. It's the last place where you would find heavy-handed, police-state, goon tactics," he added.
Paramedics attended to Robertson who was quite dazed and was having difficulty speaking.
Photographer Dave Thomas was also pushed several times but was not injured, said Honywill.
"To us, it looks like an unprovoked and unwarranted attack on our journalists," said editor-in-chief of the Toronto Sun, James Wallace.
"Crowd control is absolutely necessary, but this goes beyond what's acceptable and somebody needs to be accountable for it," said Wallace.
A torch relay security team is travelling around the country with the torch and is responsible for ensuring safety of the torch and torch bearer.
The torch bearer and the flame attendant are only people allowed to enter the secure parameter around the flame, unless they have approval from VANOC, said Const. Mandy Edwards, a spokeswoman for the Vancouver 2010 integrated security unit.
"A member of the media tried to penetrate the security box twice around the torch bearer," said Edwards, who said the journalist had been warned by officials earlier.
Edwards said as the journalist moved towards the area for a second time security team members responded in an "appropriate manner" to maintain security of the torch.
The torch relay security team members, also called the trust team, is separate from VANOC security. The team is comprised of RCMP members and other police from different jurisdictions.
There have been other instances of journalists being pushed or shoved at the torch relay, but none that have resulted in hospitalization.