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Rochester Indymedia detained at Canadian border


Rochester Indymedia journalist, Dawn Zuppelli, was interrogated and detained for over an hour by the Canadian Border Services Agency (CBSA) on her way to cover protests at the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, BC. Upon arriving at customs at the Vancouver International Airport, she and her colleague Ted Forsyth, also with Rochester Indymedia, were asked the obligatory questions as to why they were coming to Vancouver. Zuppelli was tagged for further interrogation and funneled off to a check point area sometime around 12:05AM on February 10. She was released sometime around 1:15AM. She was taken into a separate room with other agents and passengers. The room was outfitted with sterile metal desks, two sided mirrored window rooms, and plenty of customs officers donning bullet proof vests and latex gloves.

Zuppelli and Forsyth were traveling on Alaska Airlines flight 701 via Seattle. The pair had been traveling for over 20 hours after a flight cancellation at Chicago's O'Hare International Airport delayed and re-routed them across the country.

The customs officer asked many questions regarding Zuppelli's journalism work. Zuppelli explained that she was an independent journalist and the host of IndyTV, broadcast on local channel RCTV in Rochester, NY as well as online at and would be covering events around the Olympics. The customs officer asked to see her documents for her work assignments and seemed agitated that she did not have a clear written plan of her filming destinations while in Vancouver. The officer declared that none of her footage was to air on Canadian television and that she was not to earn any money for her work.

After a thorough investigation of her bags, the officer took Zuppelli's business card and entered the mirrored back room and did not return for another 40 minutes. Upon his return with another agent, he declared, "I know what your planning to do here!" Zuppelli tiredly responded she did not understand what the problem was. The officer replied, "We did a Google search on you and we know you do this kind of thing. What about the interview of you online talking after being pepper sprayed? You are here to protest and we know that."

Zuppelli assured the officers that she has been covering political protest mobilizations for many years and had no criminal background. The agent's response was, "You are allowed to be here but you can not do anything unlawful. We are going to track your movement while in Canada. We will create a special document to add to your passport and if anything was to happen you will be flagged."

Zuppelli was escorted to a room to have her photo taken which was then attached to a visitor record document. She was told that the visitor record document must remain in her passport during her entire stay. The document clearly stated that Zuppelli had to leave Canada by February 25. The document also stated that Zuppelli was "Prohibited from engaging in employment in Canada; Prohibited from attending any educational institution and taking any academic, professional or vocational training course." At the bottom of the document, in capital letters, was typed, "This does not authorize re-entry."

Zuppelli said, "The strange thing is how defensive they seemed about their own behaviour. One officer told me, 'I know you read the article about the journalist that was turned back. Well he wasn't honest about the reasons he was coming. You're allowed to come and protest; this isn't Russia.'"

The journalist that the agent was making reference to was ( Martin Macias Jr., an independent media reporter from Chicago and an anti-Olympic organizer for No Games Chicago, who was detained and deported on February 6. His story, much like that of ( John Weston Osburn, a long-time Indymedia activist who was also interrogated and denied entry to Canada on February 9, illuminates a disturbing pattern of deportation and denials of entry for independent journalists looking to tell another side of the Olympic story in Vancouver.

Upon being released, after a grueling day of travel, Zuppelli expressed gratitude that she was not being deported. The customs officer insisted, "You know it's not that easy to get deported." However, our Google search shows otherwise.



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