Anti-Olympic Protesters Use Internet to Get Message out
- News & Views for Anarchists & Activists:
[Readers might also want to see my column "A Libertarian View of the
Olympics: http://www.nolanchart.com/article4536.html --DC]
Anti-Olympic protesters use Internet to get message out
Lawyer releases Olympic edition of Protesters’ Guide to Civil Disobedience
by Christopher Guly
February 12 2010 issue
As athletes from around the world hope to set records at the Winter
Olympics in Vancouver, protesters could set their own.
Those opposed to both the Games taking place on what the Olympic
Resistance Network calls 'unceded Indigenous land' and 'the range of
social injustices perpetrated' by them, are expected to rely on
cyberspace in a big way to get their message across.
'There will be the most Internet-related activity ever — light years
ahead of anything we’ve ever seen in terms of civil disobedience,' says
Leo McGrady, a veteran litigation lawyer, who runs the boutique
litigation firm McGrady & Company, in Vancouver.
'People will be tweeting, and using YouTube and Facebook extensively.'
To help ensure people exercise their democratic right to disagree
without breaking any laws, McGrady — with the assistance of one former
and two current lawyers in his firm — has released an Olympic Edition of
his Protesters’ Guide to the Law of Civil Disobedience in British Columbia.
The first edition was a three-page tip sheet written in the late 1960s,
when as a newly minted lawyer McGrady — now 66 years old — witnessed a
fellow lawyer and friend arrested 'unnecessarily' at an anti-Vietnam War
demonstration after he took offence that police were redirecting protesters.
Several versions of the guide followed, including one released in 2002
that responded to anti-strike legislation introduced by B.C.’s
provincial Liberal government. Some 220,000 copies of that edition were
printed and distributed, according to McGrady.
The latest Protesters’ Guide for the Olympics covers 43 pages — or about
double the length of the 2002 edition — with new sections addressing
provincial and municipal legislation designed to protect the Olympics
and its sponsors.
The guide features information on the rights and responsibilities of
protesters, including a section that provides advice on participating in
demonstrations ('Photo and video documentation may keep the police in
line, or may prove useful evidence in cases where the police step out of
One of the most dramatic illustrations of that occurred in August 2007
when more than 200 angry protesters (including many trade unionists)
approached a steel fence guarded by nearly as many police at the North
American Security and Prosperity Partnership meeting between Stephen
Harper, George W. Bush and Mexico’s Felipe Calderón in Montebello, Que.
Among the demonstrators was Dave Coles, president of the Communication,
Energy and Paperworkers Union of Canada (and a current client of
McGrady’s on an unrelated issue), who recognized that three of the
masked protesters armed with rocks and trying to incite violence were
The confrontation was captured on video posted on YouTube, showing a
group of young men — also wearing black bandanas — shouting 'Policier,
It was later revealed the masked trio were members of the Sûreté du
Québec and since then, they have been summoned to appear before Quebec’s
Independent Police Ethics Committee.
One of those YouTube postings of the agent provocateurs has been viewed
more than 496,000 times — and that medium could be an effective tool
during the current anti-Olympics protests to not only record police
misconduct but to also deter officers from embarking on any 'excesses'
of their authority, says McGrady.
He believes the Internet will also be used to mobilize demonstrators.
The Vancouver-based Olympic Resistance Network — one of about 40
organizations supporting a 'Take Back Our City' rally that coincides
with the opening ceremonies — has a comprehensive website
(http://olympicresistance.net ) listing protest-related events as part
of its 'global anti-capitalist and anti-colonial convergence' against
the 2010 Winter Games, which it calls a 'two-week circus.' (The site
also has a Know Your Rights section for protesters.)
Its primary purpose, and those of other like-minded websites, is to
'mobilize — to motivate people to come out and also to help organize
once they’ve made the decision to come out' for anti-Olympic
demonstrations, says McGrady.
He also expects that the Net — through instant messaging and Twitter —
will be used in organizing 'flash mobs' — large groups of people who
suddenly assemble in a public place, perform an unusual action for a
brief period of time and then quickly disperse (such as Worldwide Pillow
Fight Day on March 22, 2008, which attracted more than 5,000
participants in New York City alone, according to Wikipedia).
'Flash mobs are usually used for a social purpose to create an event at
a particular location, but the tactic can be adapted for civil
disobedience purposes as a protest. You coordinate the event in advance
and then remotely move large groups of people very quickly,' explains
He adds that electronic communication will also be a way to instantly
notify protesters of the location of either police or barricades, and
inform them that a demonstration — or flash mob — will be staged elsewhere.
But he warns that anti-Olympic protesters have to be cautious if they
decide to engage in acts of online civil disobedience and possibly face
charges of mischief.
(One website, No2010.com, which allegedly defended property vandalism
and advocated arson attacks, according to newspaper reports, has been
suspended due to a 'technical or billing problem.')
In the Protesters’ Guide, McGrady cites one of the most popular acts of
e-civil disobedience dating back to the 1990s that used FloodNet (a Java
applet that can be used to create a denial-of-service attack by having
thousands of browsers automatically reload a targeted website several
times a minute) to organize a mass and disruptive virtual sit-in against
the Mexican government in support of the Zapatista uprising in the
southern state of Chiapas. Meanwhile, in 1998, a group of hacktivists
defaced the Mexican Finance Ministry website and posted pictures of the
rebels’ revolutionary namesake, Emiliano Zapata.
Similar cyber-attacks on a Canadian government website or on
Vancouver2010.com could lead to prosecution. But it could be very
difficult, if not impossible, to find the perpetrators, acknowledges
McGrady, who, however, says that forensic technology is being developed
to make such identifications.
In addition to the offence of mischief, the Protesters’ Guide states
that e-civil disobedience can also involve violation of copyright and
trade-mark laws, with civil rather than criminal consequences.
For instance, the Canadian Olympic Committee (COC), which owns the mark
'Road to Vancouver,' is currently suing CBC for using the expression
'Road to the Games,' and has reportedly accused the public broadcaster
of trying to 'mislead viewers into believing' CBC is affiliated with the
2010 Winter Olympics. (CTV owns the broadcasting rights.)
But the federal government's Bill C-47, the Olympic and Paralympic Marks
Act, passed in 2007 to protect against misleading associations between
businesses and the Games and certain committees associated with them,
exempts criticims or parody in using one of an extensive list of words,
including 'Faster, Higher, Stronger,' 'Spirit in Motion,' 'Games City'
and 'Sea to Sky Games.' Bloggers, or anyone posting comments on websites
during the Olympics, are thus protected.
'The reason is that many of the demonstrators simply don’t have
sufficient assets to justify any lawsuit,' he explains. 'Oftentimes, we
don’t know who they are.'
Anyone contemplating launching a libel suit only needs to look at the
outcome of the so-called McLibel case in England (McDonald's v. Morris &
Steel). While the High Court of Justice (Queen's Bench Division) awarded
the company and its British subsidiary damages of £60,000 in 1997, the
two defendants — Greenpeace activists with limited income, who made
several allegations against McDonald's (that the company was complicit
in Third World starvation, that it expoits workers and bans unions and
is responsible for the cruel slaughter of the animals used in its food)
— couldn't afford to pay the amount cited in the judgment.
(On appeal, the damages were reduced to £20,000 in 1999. In 2005, the
European Court of Human Rights awarded Helen Steel and David Morris
£57,000 in compensation from the U.K. government after the court ruled
the original trial breached both their right to a fair trial and freedom
In light of that long legal battle, companies don’t tend to sue
demonstrators for libel, says McGrady.
The Olympic Edition of the Protesters’ Guide can be downloaded under the
publications section of the Lawyers’ Rights Watch Canada website at
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Skipper: Professor, will you tell these people who is
in charge on this island?
Professor: Why, no one.
Skipper: No one?
Thurston Howell III: No one? Good heavens, this is anarchy!
-- _Gilligan's Island_, episode #6, "President Gilligan"