SHERBROOKE, N.S. — A man says he believes RCMP overreacted in arresting him in what he describes as a rough manner during a public meeting about gold mining in a community in eastern Nova Scotia on Thursday.
John Perkins, a member of Sustainable Northern Nova Scotia, said Saturday that he's looking at his legal options following the incident during an information session offered by Atlantic Gold, which wants to build an open-pit gold mine near Sherbrooke, N.S.
Perkins said he was initially told he needed to leave the meeting by a security officer and later by an RCMP officer.
"They didn't tell me any reason," said Perkins, who added that he had just taken in the first of two information sessions held that evening at the local fire hall by the company.
He said when he questioned the officer as to why he was asked to leave and then tried to back away, things escalated and he was physically removed from the room by the officer, who then handcuffed him while he was on the ground.
Perkins said he was told he was being arrested for obstruction, trespassing and resisting arrest.
"As far as I am concerned he (the police officer) completely overreacted," Perkins said. "He did not assess the situation in the room. He didn't try to determine what was going on."
The incident was captured on video by an audience member and by freelance journalist Joan Baxter who said she was among a group of four people who were asked to leave the room for no apparent reason.
In one of the videos, Perkins can be seen asking why he was asked to leave as he steps away from the security guard and the police officer. He's then grabbed by the officer who begins pushing him towards an exit.
At one point, Perkins tries to brace himself against the door frame, but he's pushed out of the room before he's taken to the ground and handcuffed.
Perkins said he sustained minor hand injuries as a result of the cuffing. He said he was held for a couple of hours before police released him without charges.
In a statement released Friday, RCMP said they responded to a 911 call indicating police assistance was required at a public meeting due to "several persons causing a disturbance" and that an arrest was made after a man resisted arrest despite "repeated warnings to leave."
"The man was eventually controlled, handcuffed and later released without charge," police said.
In an interview, an RCMP spokeswoman confirmed the charges were dropped because the company decided to drop the issue.
As for video of the incident, Cpl. Jennifer Clarke said that "they're not seeing the entire incident. They're seeing a portion of it."
"A police officer's job is not an easy one. Again, we want people to understand that they are seeing part but not all of what that police officer was faced with and dealt with that day."
When she was asked about the rough handling, Clarke said the man has the option of filing a complaint with the RCMP.
In a statement, Atlantic Gold said its meeting on mine tailings dams and tailings management was organized to inform the community and to take questions. The company said it "maintained the right to allow or not allow individuals to enter the meetings or ask individuals to leave."
It said the individual who was asked to leave had attended and asked questions during the first of the two information sessions.
"An individual's conduct led Atlantic Gold's on-site security officer to have concerns," the company said.
It said the person was repeatedly asked to leave, and was later taken into custody and charged with trespassing and obstruction.
"Atlantic Gold later asked that the person be released without charges. Our company is committed to open, transparent and respectful dialogue with residents in and around our projects."
Baxter said Saturday that she is perturbed by the explanations offered by police and the company.
"It was a 911 call when nothing was happening and they (police) were called because there were several persons causing a disturbance and that is a blatant lie," said Baxter.
She said Perkins's arrest was uncalled for because "absolutely nothing was going on."
Meanwhile, Perkins said he can only think of one reason why he may have been asked to leave the meeting.
"Earlier session I had asked embarrassing questions," he said.
- By Keith Doucette in Halifax
The Canadian Press