Shayla Raine ended her kickboxing class on January 20 to a flood of text messages asking what was going on in her apartment.
The University of British Columbia Okanagan campus student rushed home to find a trail of blood leading to the suite she shared with Mona Wang and another student.
“That was one of the scariest moments of my life,” said Raine at a Saturday rally held in support of Wang. “When I opened the suite, it looked like a crime scene. Furniture was shuffled, there was pills … it was not a good scene.”
In a statement of claim filed in B.C. Supreme Court, Wang alleges she was injured during a January wellness check by Cpl. Lacey Browning, who took Wang into custody under the Mental Health Act.
The incident spurred a number of protests in support of Wang — and against the use of force by police — in British Columbia on Saturday.
Raine was one of dozens who gathered in the rain outside of the Vancouver Art Gallery to make their voices heard. Some carried signs calling for an end to police violence and reform of the wellness check system.
Similar protests were held in Surrey, Richmond and Kelowna.
“I think it’s honestly amazing to have received so much support for everything that has happened. It’s making this a lot easier to speak out,” Wang told reporters before the event.
Wang says it’s disheartening to hear from other people of similar interactions with police.
“It’s kind of lit this fire under me knowing how often this happens. I just want more to be done,” she said.
Wang’s statement of claim alleges Browning’s conduct was “abusive and repetitive in the extreme” after the officer found her lying in a state of semi-consciousness on the floor of her apartment.
None of the allegations in the lawsuit have been proven in court and statements of defence filed by Browning, the Attorney General of Canada, and British Columbia’s minister of public safety and solicitor general deny any wrongdoing. All three are named as defendants in the case.
Surveillance video from Wang’s apartment building appears to show a female officer dragging the student face first down a carpeted hallway and into an elevator. The officer then apperars to briefly step on Wang’s head while waiting for additional first responders in the lobby.
Wang’s mother Lin Yan also spoke at rally, sharing her shock over what her daughter experienced.
“The violence done to her, bruises all over (her) body, bleeding eyes…she had to stay in hospital for three days,” she told the crowd. “I felt deeply saddened, shocked and outraged. Isn’t the police supposed to protect us, not to turn around and assault us?”
Destiny Baker, one of the demonstrators at the rally, said she wants people to understand many people still face oppression and that people are anrgy.
“We’re coming here today, we’re risking our lives to get a sickness because we care that much. We care about her and we care about every single other person who has gone through such injustice,” she said.
The incident led a B.C. RCMP commander to push for the expansion of teams that pair an officer and a nurse during mental health checks.
Chief Supt. Brad Haugli of the southeast district said in June that the police and crisis program has been effective in de-escalating situations involving people in crisis and helped ease the referral process when treatment is necessary.
The RCMP has not confirmed the identity of the officer shown in the video, which was disclosed by court order as part of the civil lawsuit.
Haugli said in June that a code of conduct investigation had been started and it will be sent to an external police agency for review.
Nick Wells, The Canadian Press
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