Crowd calls Cheney a war criminal at book event
Protesters waved placards, chanted slogans, banged drums and blew whistles outside one of Vancouver's most exclusive clubs where former U.S. vice-president Dick Cheney was promoting his new memoir Monday evening.
Peace activists blocked the front and back entrances to the Vancouver Club, calling for Cheney's arrest for war crimes and booing guests as they arrived at the $500-a-ticket dinner.
Cheney is in town to promote his new book "In My Time: A Personal and Political Memoir."
At one point, protesters got into a brief scuffle with police when nearly 20 people sat down on a sidewalk, blocking the rear driveway leading into the Vancouver Club.
"We're very angry that he has chosen Vancouver as the first location outside of the United States to do a book tour event, and we feel it's important that citizens of Vancouver show that we won't tolerate a war criminal coming and speaking in our town," said Derrick O'Keefe, co-chair of the StopWar Coalition.
"We hope to set an example that Cheney doesn't see Canada as a safe haven."
The sold-out event was organized by the Bon Mot Book Club.
The club's founder, Leah Costello, said members decided to invite Cheney because of the anniversary of the 9-11 terrorist attacks and the release of his book.
She described the Monday night event as a moderated question-and-answer session.
Peace activists accuse Cheney of war crimes for authorizing and endorsing the use of water boarding and sleep deprivation against detainees while serving in George W. Bush's administration.
The former vice-president has vigorously defended interrogation techniques used on detainees during the Bush years, claiming they saved hundreds of thousands of lives.
Gail Davidson, a member of Lawyers Against the War, said she wrote to members of the Conservative government, outlining the federal law that prohibits Cheney from entering Canada.
"Canada has a duty globally to take measures to effectively prevent and punish torture."
Davidson attended the protest and said she hopes it raises awareness about federal laws prohibiting torture.
Jim Nugent, a resident of Columbus, Ohio who watched the protest from across the street from the Vancouver Club, was not a Cheney fan.
"Obviously he is not a very popular man, Mr. Cheney is not. I'm glad to see it here. I'm just sad that your prime minister allowed him into your country."
Nugent said he didn't feel any anti-Americanism at the rally and criticized the Bush administration for the "lies" that led the U.S. into Iraq and the squandering of the country's treasury.
"So many things occurred under that administration. We could go on for hours," he said.
Monitoring the protest and the police presence Monday evening were members of the B.C. Civil Liberties Association who wore orange shirts.
This past weekend, Human Rights Watch urged the federal government to bring criminal charges against Cheney, accusing him of playing a role in the torture of detainees.
Don Davies, the NDP immigration critic, also argued that Cheney should not have been allowed into Canada.
Davies said the water boarding and sleep deprivation techniques that Cheney authorized violated both Canadian and international law.