By: Tomasz Bugajski
Videos of last week’s violent arrest of University of Western Ontario student Irnes Zeljkovic have flooded YouTube. The whole incident was filmed from multiple angles. The videos have been viewed hundreds of thousands of times, and the depiction of violence has caused controversy, setting off a student protest at Western last Friday.
Zeljkovic, a 22-year-old, fourth-year Social Sciences student, is said to have been acting suspiciously in the university’s Social Science Building, prompting concerns among students and calls to police. When campus police officers arrived, they found Zeljkovic barricaded in a seventh floor office.
Western News, the university’s staff and faculty newspaper, reports that Zeljkovic charged police when they arrived, causing many students to run for safety. After being tackled by three officers, he was able to free himself. London Police arrived shortly afterward. They resorted to punches and what appear to be violent strikes to subdue Zeljkovic.
Elgin Austen, the director of the UWO Campus Community Police Service, speaking with a campus television show, explained that his officers acted in accordance with all protocols. Austen also suspects drugs were involved. Audience members of the student-run program booed during his explanation.
Thousands of students have voiced their concerns to the University Students’ Council (USC).
Carolyn Hawthorn, communications officer for the USC, who was also present at the interview jumped in to point out that the YouTube video “was ninety seconds long, and there was a large amount of confrontation that happened before the video.” Her remarks were met with more booing.
As is the case for any use of force in Ontario, a review of the event is currently being conducted.
In response to student protests against the police, Elgin Austen tells the newspaper, “I can see why some people would be disturbed, particularly younger students who haven’t been exposed to this sort of thing. The police need to be held accountable for what they do…but with YouTube small bits of information come out without complete context.”
This is not the first time that videos and stories of violent incidents have spread virally across the internet. In 2007, the Robert Dziekanski taser incident at Vancouver’s airport was all over the television and internet. Earlier this month, a Toronto high school student’s arrest at Northern Secondary also appeared on YouTube.
Andrew Clement, a professor at U of T’s Faculty of Information, explains that new forms of media “open the police up to new forms of accountability…events that previously would have been relatively isolated or contained now can spread very widely and very rapidly.”
Mark Federman, a researcher at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, says that new media like YouTube gives us “all sorts of little bits of information that we can put together and detect patterns that create a transparency in institutions. On the other hand, it can create an increased focus on such incidents in the same way that sensationalized television news coverage shows crashes or people being pulled out of ambulances…and people will think ‘oh my god, people are being killed, shot, stabbed, set on fire left, right, and centre.”
For now, the campus police await the results of a department review. At press time, the YouTube videos still receive constant comments. The UWO Gazzette reports that Zeljkovic has been charged with mischief, escaping custody, assaulting a police officer, and resisting arrest.
This article was originally published on our old website at https://thenewspaper.ca/news/uwo-arrest-hits-web/.