Security under scrutiny after stunt

Police were talking about tougher security for downtown Calgary businesses Wednesday after several Greenpeace protesters easily gained access to a popular tourist attraction and pulled off a high-flying stunt.

CALGARY — Police were talking about tougher security for downtown Calgary businesses Wednesday after several Greenpeace protesters easily gained access to a popular tourist attraction and pulled off a high-flying stunt.

Officers were called to the Calgary Tower on Tuesday morning after several Greenpeace protesters rappelled from its top to hang a banner criticizing the oil industry.

Acting Staff Sgt. Abe Hammoud said police will talk to tower officials and “several buildings downtown to tighten up security and make sure these kind of incidences don’t happen in the future.”

Police charged nine people in the stunt, which closed a few downtown blocks. Hammoud said police are concerned about how easily the protesters accessed the tower.

“Essentially any building could be targeted,” he said. “This is an oil city and it’s a very well recognized industry in this city in particular, so any of these oil companies, banks, anybody is a potential target from protesters.”

Investigators believe the protesters snuck their climbing equipment into the tower through a ground-level emergency exit that was opened from the inside by two others who paid for tickets to enter.

They used the elevators to get to the top undetected, then opened a window that allowed them onto a catwalk.

Three climbers draped a banner that said “Separate Oil and State” across the tower’s observation deck.

The protest ended two hours later when the last of the climbers clambered back to the top of the 200-metre tower and was taken into custody.

Greenpeace spokeswoman Jessica Wilson said the protest was to outline “the cosy relationship” oil companies have with the federal and provincial governments that “allows companies to self-monitor in the oilsands.”

Eight people were taken into custody after the protest, while another was arrested Tuesday night. The charges include one count each of breaking out, as well as mischief to property under $5,000.

Calgary Police Supt. Barry Clark said that police have long recognized potential threats to energy companies in the city and have regularly discussed security.

“The thing to remember about the Calgary Tower is that it’s different than targeting a private industry or business,” he said.

“Tickets can be bought to go into the Calgary Tower, whereas since probably 2001, if not before, any of the energy companies were security conscious and they all have card access systems as well as their own security, their own video surveillance.”

Hammoud said he couldn’t say exactly which buildings would be contacted and he wasn’t sure what would be said to officials at the Calgary Tower about tightening security.

“There will be some other advice that will be given in relation to locking, securing certain areas and camera systems.”