Vancouver cops equipped with carbine rifles draw scrutiny at Italian Day festivities

Italian Day is usually known for cannoli, not rifles. 

But the Vancouver Police Department drew more than the usual scrutiny Sunday after equipping its officers with carbine rifles.

Festival-goers tweeted photos of officers holding the rifles at the street event, which draws tens of thousands of people annually.

Police also stationed heavy vehicles along the 14-block stretch of Commercial Drive. 

The reaction online was divided.

 

Adrienne Smith, a human rights lawyer in Vancouver, said a militant police presence makes member of marginalized communities feel unsafe. 

"To see this kind of uniformed officer displaying an assault-[style] rifle was really upsetting for these folks," Smith said.

"It makes people not want to participate." 

'It is a balancing act' 

Vancouver police called the guns and heavy vehicles a necessary response in the wake of new terrorism threats. 

Sgt. Jason Robillard, a spokesman, said that police took their cues from attacks in Nice and Toronto, where attackers used trucks to mow down pedestrians. 

"It doesn't look well. We understand that," Robillard said. "It is a balancing act for us." 

"But unfortunately ... there's a need for it. We need to keep the public as safe as we can in these events." ​

Robillard said it isn't uncommon to see police in Europe carry rifles at sporting events.

"It's unfortunate in Vancouver that it's come to this."