Anti-Olympic Protesters Sweep through Downtown Vancouver
- News & Views for Anarchists & Activists:
Sat, Feb. 13, 2010
Protesters sweep through downtown Vancouver
By KIM MURPHY
Chanting "We ain't got no tickets!" and "Homes Not Games," more than
1,000 protesters swept through downtown Vancouver toward the Olympic
opening ceremony Friday but were held back by police before they could
block spectators from entering the celebration.
Billed as an action "against capitalism and colonization," the first of
two major street rallies mobilized demonstrators ranging from aboriginal
rights groups to advocates for the homeless, all aiming to mount one of
the biggest-ever organized protests against the Olympic Games.
"There's never been an Olympic protest like this. This is a first," said
Chris Shaw, spokesman for 2010 Watch, which claims Canadian citizens are
bearing the brunt of the multibillion-dollar cost of a sporting event
they say will benefit land developers and corporate sponsors.
"It was one of the largest rallies in Vancouver history, and the protest
led right up to the door of the (International Olympic Committee)," Shaw
The demonstrations never presented a threat to Olympic events, which
commenced without a hitch even as several hundred protesters were still
shouting and waving flags outside, held back by a stern line of police
At one point, masked, black-clad demonstrators carrying an anarchist
flag pushed briefly toward police, who forcefully pushed back.
But during most of the four-hour rally, a small number of police on
bicycles simply followed and observed.
Rain and a chilly breeze did most of the work, and as the ceremony
inside got well underway, only a handful remained outside.
Shouting matches erupted with counter-demonstrators who showed up with
patriotic red maple leaf banners, shouting: "They say protest, we say
"Get a job!" yelled one group of young men.
The atmosphere in most of Vancouver was festive throughout the day, with
spectators lining the sidewalks and whooping as the Olympic torch relay
made its way to the city center.
But speakers at the rally denounced Canada's failure to sign treaties
with its aboriginal First Nations, cutbacks in funding for education and
the arts, and development of tar sands oil in Alberta.
"With Glowing Hearts, We Kill the Arts," said one sign, referring to
Canada's motto for the Games.
"We and our children are going to be paying for these Games for
decades," said Leo Hunt, a 55-year-old sawmill worker.
Earlier in the day, the Olympic torch's progress through Vancouver's
impoverished Downtown Eastside was blocked twice when protesters sat in
the street and blocked the route, prompting in one case a 20-minute
In both cases, police arrived on horseback to protect the runners, but
the relay was diverted to avoid a confrontation.
Dozens of people shouted "Shame on you!" as the torch made its way down
the street, only a few hours after California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger
had carried the flame to resounding applause on the other, wealthier end
of the city.
"They should be building homes for people, not spending it on the
Olympics," said Beatrice Starr, one of several women who blocked the
road near Victory Park.
"So we sat right in the road there. Yup. And I'd do it again."
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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"