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Activists disrupt Harper event RAW 0:42
Two climate change activists managed to sneak up behind Prime Minister Stephen Harper on Monday just as he was getting ready to start a question and answer session at the Vancouver Board of Trade.
Sean Devlin and Shireen Soofi succeeded in getting past the prime minister’s security detail and onto the stage where Harper was sitting to protest his government’s climate change policies.
Devlin stood behind Harper holding a sign that read “Climate Justice Now.”
Soofi held up a sign saying “The Conservatives Take Climate Change Seriously,” with the sentence crossed out.
She was standing between the prime minister and Iain Black, the president of the board of trade, who was introducing Harper when the activists took the stage.
Both men kept their cool as the pair were escorted off the stage by security.
“I’d like to take a minute and have some folks removed from the stage,” Black said while the prime minister reached for a sip of water.
“It wouldn’t be B.C. without it,” Harper joked.
The crowd of business leaders applauded Harper as security removed the activists from the room.
Former prime minister Kim Campbell was also in attendance, along with Industry Minister James Moore and a handful of Conservative MPs from the region.
Anti-Harper protester behind disruption
The two activists had the help of Brigette DePape, who immediately issued a press release following the security breach bragging about the pair’s exploits.
DePape was fired as a Senate page in 2011 after walking onto the Senate floor carrying a “Stop Harper!” sign during the speech from the throne to protest against Harper’s policies.
“This morning two people directly intervened in a high-security question and answer session with Prime Minister Stephen Harper,” the release said.
“The group managed to make their way past police undetected and into the secured Vancouver Fairmont Pacific Rim Hotel.”
Reached by telephone following the disruption, DePape said she was proud of the protest.
DePape told CBC News “it was very empowering” for the activists to get that close to the prime minister.
No comment from PMO
Despite the security breach, the Prime Minister’s Office refused to comment publicly.
Jason MacDonald, a spokesman for the prime minister, told CBC News in an email, “we don’t comment on security-related matters.”
Following the event, the president of the board of trade Vancouver Board of Trade was asked by reporters how the protesters got on stage.
“I would defer that to the Prime Minister’s Office,” Black said.
The head of the board said that when high-profile guests are invited to speak, security is handled by a number of agencies, from the Vancouver police to the RCMP.
Both protesters were initially detained by Vancouver police, but were later released.
Vancouver police told CBC News that no charges have been laid against the protesters, but that could change.
“We will be working with the protection detail of the RCMP at the event to determine if charges are going to be laid,” the police said.
The RCMP said it was reviewing the incident and would take “appropriate action,” but referred questions on charges to Vancouver police.
Harper ‘shrugged it off’
Black said he wasn’t shaken by the event and that he took his cue from the prime minister.
“I didn’t really get rattled by it. First of all, it happened very quickly. We all saw how quickly it was handled. I took the lead from the prime minister’s response, to be honest.”
“He didn’t seem rattled. He’s got full confidence in the team around him and that showed. He kind of shrugged it off, and there was no reason for me to do anything else,” Black said.
Richard Zussman, who was at the event reporting for CBC News, said in a post on Twitter that the activists “looked to be dressed as wait staff.”
DePape, in her press release, hinted that other events may be disrupted.
“These actions are taking place as part of a global movement of groups of who are directly confronting the fossil fuel industry, from First Nations legal challenges and blockading projects on their territories, to other forms of non-violent direct action.”
Harper did not take any questions from the media.
The most memorable moment in the last throne speech came when a young woman walked into the centre of the plush red Senate chamber filled with dignitaries and elected officials and held up a handmade sign that read “Stop Harper.”
Brigette DePape, who had worked as a page in the Senate for a year, was then quickly hauled away by the House of Commons’ sergeant-at-arms.
“I remember I was terrified,” she said, recalling that moment on June 3, 2011, in an interview with CBC News from Vancouver last week.
‘We had gone to see a lawyer before and they said [the] worst-case scenario would be 30 years in jail for frightening the Queen.’— Former page Brigette DePape
“[Prime Minister Stephen] Harper is sitting right to my left and then there’s the Governor General, and then there are all the politicians, and I am so afraid. I am afraid about losing my job, I am afraid about what my parents are going to say back home in Winnipeg, and I am afraid about getting arrested.”
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