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Wednesday, April 24, 2002
Israeli backer slams mall cops - Pushed, cuffed, locked up and insulted because he's Jewish?

Israeli backer slams mall cops - Pushed, cuffed, locked up and insulted
because he's Jewish?

By HOLLY LAKE, Ottawa Sun Wednesday, April 24, 2002

A MONTREAL man believes he was the victim of a hate crime at the hands of
Rideau Centre security guards Sunday who arrested and detained him for
carrying an Israeli flag.

In town for a support rally on Parliament Hill, Marc Abergel had gone to the
mall with his friends for lunch.

"We were being very quiet, shopping around," he said.

As they approached MarcheLino on the first floor, Abergel said two security
officers ran at him and demanded that he get rid of the flag. When he asked
what the problem was, Abergel said he was pushed to the floor and
handcuffed.

A friend who photographed the arrest was also thrown to the floor after
refusing to hand over the camera. Both were taken to an office, searched and
questioned.

Abergel, 23, claims he and his friend were held in a cell for more than an
hour and that guards made derogatory comments.

"I firmly believe that if I was carrying a Canadian flag, this wouldn't have
happened," he said. "This action was based on my (being) Jewish and a
supporter of Israel."

Concerned by a media report predicting that a "bloody clash" could occur, a
Rideau Centre statement said staff was on high alert Sunday in case
Parliament Hill demonstrations spilled into the mall and endangered
visitors.

CONCERN FOR MALL USERS

As a result, the mall adopted a zero-tolerance policy for real or apparent
political demonstrations.

"If it is perceived that we overreacted in any way, it was borne out of a
concern for the safety and security of the mall's tenants and customers,"
the statement said.

Spokeswoman Cindy VanBuskirk said policy forbids signs and flags in the
mall. Abergel was asked to put his flag away and to leave, but both requests
were refused, she said.

Abergel admitted he was asked to put the flag away, but not politely. He
denied being asked to leave but wondered why he wasn't just thrown out
instead of being detained.

VanBuskirk said mall management feels terrible "the incident unfolded as it
did," referring to the accusation officers acted inappropriately and
targeted a group.

"But to suggest that this is an issue to us is disturbing. We have
excellent, well-trained, educated staff who think with their heads."

Coun. Alex Munter has made the chief of police aware of the situation and
asked the city's lawyers to look into it.

He said the Rideau Centre has a unique legal status because sections of it
form part of public access to the transitway system.

"Security guards should be concerned about threats to safety, not opinions
they don't like or people they don't like," said Munter, admitting he had
only one side of the story.

Meanwhile, Abergel has filed a complaint with the Ottawa police and is
considering action against the Rideau Centre.

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