Quebec provincial police are standing behind three officers who went undercover during protests at the recent Montebello summit, saying the men weren't there to provoke demonstrators.
"At no time did the officers in question engage in provocation or incite anyone to commit violent acts," Insp. Marcel Savard told a news conference in Montreal on Friday.
The police admitted Thursday afternoon that three masked men caught on video Monday afternoon pushing toward a line of riot police, despite protesters' efforts to stop them, were the force's officers.
The protesters were demonstrating against an agreement called the Security and Prosperity Partnership that was being discussed by U.S. President George Bush, Mexican President Felipe Calderon and Prime Minister Stephen Harper in Montebello Monday and Tuesday.
Savard acknowledged that one of the officers was given a rock by protesters but did not use it. [Was given a rock by protesters??? Say wha?]
"One of the extremists gave the rock to one of our police officers and he had a choice to make," Savard said. "He was asked by extremists to throw the rock at the police, but never had any intention of using it."
Protester Dave Coles on Friday refuted Savard's allegations.
"I would testify in a court of law that these guys were lying. They were pushing me around. They had rocks," said Coles, president of the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union.
"They were trying to incite violence. They were trying to get others to throw rocks at the store. It's just a fabrication."
The police admission came after several days of accusations from the protesters and denials from police that the three men were agents trying to provoke a confrontation between protesters and police.
Public Safety Minister Stockwell Day continued to dismiss calls for a public inquiry on Friday, saying the RCMP has a formal complaints process.
"The thing that was interesting in this particular incident, three people in question were spotted by protesters because were not engaging in violence," Day said.
"They were being encouraged to throw rocks and they were not throwing rocks, it was the protesters who were throwing the rocks. That's the irony of this." [Can somebody please give Mr Day a dictionary, so he can look up the meaning of irony?? The protesters were throwing rocks? What protesters were throwing rocks? If they were, why weren't they arrested? Why did the huge phalanx of police in full riot gear just allow protesters to throw rocks? Why is there no mention of rock-throwing in any media account, Mr Day? Knowing how the media jumps on the slightest bit of agitation at any demonstration, why did not one media report on this rock throwing? What's that? BECAUSE IT DIDN'T HAPPEN?]
On Friday, politicians and protesters alike were still demanding answers about the incident.
Quebec Opposition public security critic Sylvie Roy, ADQ MNA for Lotbinière, said in an interview that the province's Public Security Minister Jacques Dupuis has to answer for the police actions.
Coles, who tried to hold the masked men back, said he is considering pressing charges against the undercover officer who pushed him.
"Criminal acts were committed. They were shoving me and others," he said Friday. "We want an arm's-length independent inquiry of what's going on here."
A video posted on YouTube Tuesday showed three burly men dressed in black with bandanas over their faces pushing past Coles and other protesters in a designated protest area. One man was carrying a rock.
In the video, the protesters told the men to leave and put down the rock, and accused them of being agents provocateurs. The men broke through the police line and were handcuffed by police.
The video has been viewed 190,000 times since it was posted online on Tuesday.
The police later admitted the men were its officers, but said they were there to maintain order and were not trying to incite violence. [Did you see the video? Did it look like the men were maintaining order???]
After the police denied that the three men were indeed undercover cops, why should we believe anything they say? Especially when the whole incident was recorded on videotape?
But from the Taking Solace Where You Find It Department, I will add that it's heartening what a big story this is in the mainstream Canadian media. It would be nothing in the US. Not a small story - a non-story.