Riot hero to pot zero

A man arrested at a Vancouver pot protest on Canada Day is vowing to burn an award he received for his heroism during the Stanley Cup riot.

Vancouver Police honoured Bert Easterbrook in 2013 with a certificate of merit — the highest award for civilian bravery — for stopping rioters from flipping over a truck two years earlier.

On Wednesday, he and two others were charged with obstruction after they tried to stop police from arresting a man for trafficking at the annual Cannabis Day event.

"It's absolutely ironic," Easterbrook said Thursday. "I don't choose to be honoured by cowards, so I'll burn my award."

Easterbrook said he will put his framed certificate and pennant in a metal bucket and light them on fire outside city hall on Friday. In a 2013 police document, his actions during the riot are described as "selfless" and "decisive."

Police said they had to intervene at Wednesday's protest because a man ignored a warning to stop selling pot to minors. Easterbrook and several others used a so-called "hug power" technique, embracing the man to block police.

Neil Magnuson identified himself as the man charged with trafficking. He said he didn't sell to anyone he thought was under 17.

Magnuson said an officer warned him to stop selling but never mentioned youth. He refused to stop, but hadn't sold any more marijuana by the time he was arrested, he said.

During the arrest, officers kneed him in the back, twisted his arm and nearly caused him to lose consciousness, he alleged.

Vancouver Police Const. Brian Montague said it would be inappropriate for him to debate with the accused in the media.

"Our officers never want to use force and we never have to use force when those involved comply with the direction of police," he said.

David Malmo-Levine said he was also charged with obstruction after he used the "hug power" tactic, tackling Magnuson as he was being led to a police vehicle.

"I was trying to stop the arrest of a harmless individual," Malmo-Levine said.

Cannabis Day organizer Jodie Emery blamed the city for the violence that erupted when police tried to arrest Magnuson, adding no such problems have occurred in the event's 20-year history.

The city sent Emery and her husband — pot activist Marc Emery — a cease-and-desist letter last month asking that the event not go ahead because it didn't have the necessary permits.

Organizers met with city officials and agreed it would proceed on a smaller scale.

City manager Penny Ballem said she sees no contradiction between the arrests and Vancouver's recent decision to become the first city in Canada to regulate illegal dispensaries.

The city has made it clear that marijuana sales to youth will not be tolerated and that dispensaries cannot sell to minors under the new regulations, she said.


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