A climate-change activist who made headlines in January 2014 after getting within inches of Prime Minister Stephen Harper with a ‘Climate Justice Now’ placard during a Vancouver visit returned to the spotlight Thursday when Harper visited Surrey – this time in a T-shirt referencing a drowned three-year-old Syrian refugee.
The man – who has not been charged, but who has identified himself as Vancouver resident Sean Devlin – was arrested for obstruction after refusing to leave the Newton warehouse where Harper’s visit was staged.
“They managed to arrest me just before he came in,” Devlin told Peace Arch News Friday.
Devlin said he had attended the event – uninvited and wearing a T-shirt bearing the words ‘Aylan should be here’ – in the hopes of asking Harper “to acknowledge his role in that boy’s death.”
A photo of toddler Alan Kurdi lying dead on the shores of Turkey sparked international outcry over the Syrian refugee crisis. Kurdi’s family – his older brother and mother also drowned – had reportedly intended to seek asylum in Canada.
Devlin said when he showed up at the high-security event in Surrey, he had no trouble gaining entry and was initially asked to stand behind the podium where Harper would be speaking, to add “some younger faces” to the backdrop.
He was asked to leave about 20 minutes later, when he took off his blazer; he was arrested and removed when he refused.
“It seems once they noticed my shirt, they didn’t want me in the photo anymore,” he said.
Devlin described the request to leave as “unfair… when I had been invited on-stage.”
He said he was treated “pretty roughly” during the arrest, but has no plans to file a complaint against those involved.
Devlin was held at Surrey RCMP cells for “a few hours.”
RCMP E Division communications manager Brigitte Mineault did not identify Devlin as the person arrested, but said by email Friday that an individual was taken into custody after he “was recognized by one of our members from a previous incident.” She did not elaborate on that incident.
Asked for more information, Mineault said the individual was asked to leave “because he was not an invited guest,” and was arrested for obstruction “after refusing to leave the venue and actively resisting to be removed from the stage where he was positioned.”
Investigation is ongoing, Mineault said.
Devlin said despite not getting to address Harper, he feels he got his message across. The incident, he said, “kind of highlights the lengths to which this government will go to refuse to admit they could be handling this (refugee) situation differently.”