A woman who witnessed the arrest of a 17-year-old boy at the Glowfair Festival Friday night says she believes the teen never tried to disarm a police officer.
Ottawa police said the incident occurred around 8:30 p.m. as they were trying to control a large crowd that had built up on Bank Street.
Due to security concerns, additional police had been deployed to support officers at the festival, the Ottawa Police Service said.
Police said once the crowd started gathering, an officer pulled out his baton.
They said the teenager allegedly tried to disarm the officer, and police eventually deployed pepper spray.
'I saw kids trying to protect themselves'
Rachel Worden said she saw two young black males roughhousing with one another, but the interaction didn't appear antagonistic.
"You could tell they were friends," she said. "They had their friend group around them."
Worden said police "immediately jumped in" and tried to break them up, which got the attention of other youth.
That was when the crowd began to gather, she said.
"[Police] were yelling at us. They were telling us to leave. They were talking to the two men that had been fighting, and throughout the whole time we were all just trying to tell them, 'Like, why were you so aggressive? Why would you do that?'"
Worden, who recorded some of the incident on her phone, said she questioned the official police account as she didn't see anyone trying to take a police baton away from an officer.
"I saw kids trying to protect themselves by putting their hands in front, and I feel like maybe that could have been misinterpreted as trying to grab [it]," she said.
Worden said the officer with the baton deployed pepper spray "toward the crowd" after she stopped recording the incident on her phone.
'We can't turn the festival into a police state'
The 17-year-old was arrested and later released with a promise to appear in court. Charges are pending, police said.
Christine Leadman, executive director of the Bank Street BIA and Glowfair's general manager, said while festival organizers want to keep revellers safe, a reasonable balance must be struck when it comes to security.
"We can't turn the festival into a police state," she said. "You can't blanket the area ... in police and security. It's just not possible, it's not feasible, it's not sustainable."
Leadman said providing adequate security is important, but it puts a lot of pressure of organizers because it's expensive.
The current cost of hiring private security and police for the free two-day festival is about $40,000, said Leadman. Glowfair eliminated its DJ stage this year after police identified it as a potential trouble spot, she added, with costs of monitoring that stage alone amounting to about $10,000.
"There's no fee for people coming to our event," she said. "But every year, our costs keep coming up and the police demand more [and] the city demands more."
Leadman said having police patrol the festival — rather than being stationed in particular areas — could help keep violent incidents down. A non-uniformed police presence could help spot problems before they get out of hand, she added.