Saturday, December 19, 2009

The Olympic flame continues its uneven progress across the country, and in Toronto it ran into a little more trouble than usual as protesters delayed and diverted the parade. Here's the story from the Toronto Star.
Olympic torch relay hits trouble:
Organizers are forced to take alternative route after protesters grind procession to a halt
December 18, 2009
Stephen Smysnuik
Henry Stancu
Everything was going so smoothly. Then the torch hit downtown.

As the Olympic torch relay marched down Yonge St. on Thursday night, hundreds of protesters flooded the thoroughfare at College St., grinding the procession to a halt.

Dozens of police officers carrying batons barricaded about 300 demonstrators in the intersection, where they stood chanting "No Olympics on Stolen Native Land" while holding a large papier-mâché torch.

Up Yonge, fans of torch carrier Akshay Kumar, Bollywood's equivalent of Brad Pitt, pushed their way onto the street, further clogging the street.

Delayed by an hour, the relay organizers turned to Plan B.

They put the torch in its protective safety lantern and the convoy drove on, diverting west along Wellesley St. to its scheduled stop at the Hospital for Sick Children.

Thursday's incident marks the second time the torch has been held up by protests in its 106-day, 45,000-kilometre journey to the Games.

A week ago in Montreal, about 100 demonstrators swarmed the main stage at the square where the rally was ending.

Protesters, meanwhile, are planning another demonstration for the torch parade in Kitchener next week.

An official with the Olympic Torch Relay said organizers are working closely with police in each jurisdiction it visits.

"There's going to be individuals and organizations that have different views, and use the torch relays as a way to draw attention to the other matters. I hope that any of those protests are done in a peaceful way," said Chris Shauf. "We want to make sure the family-friendly celebrations and the spirit of the Olympic flame is upheld at all times."

Thursday's demonstration consisted of a collection of smaller activist groups that opposed the Games, including No Games Toronto, No 2010 and Ontario's Coalition Against Poverty. They are protesting the economic costs of the Olympics and the effect it is having on displaced people, especially Vancouver's aboriginal population.

"Our point was to put a message out there and I think we did it," said Syed Hassan, organizer of the Extinguish the Torch Committee.

"We aren't against sports. We're against the attacks on our indigenous people, migrants and the environment."

While several spectators applauded the group, some even patting Hassan on the back, others weren't as impressed.

Kathy Jackson, 47, stood at Yonge and Carlton Sts. for two hours for her chance to catch a glimpse of the fiery beacon. But the diversion meant she wouldn't get to see it.

"I am devastated. I'm a big fan of the Olympics. I'm a big supporter," said Jackson, sporting a red Canada jacket. "I understand where (the demonstrators are) coming from, but this was not the right place."

She dashed off to City Hall, hoping to see the celebrations there. At Sick Kids, scores of children celebrated by singing O Canada.

The torch finally reached Nathan Phillips Square around 8 p.m. and the festivities – overseen by police – went off without a hitch, ending with an explosion of fireworks.

Earlier in the day, hundreds turned out in Oshawa, Whitby, Stouffville and Markham to see the torch travel through their communities.

With files from Jesse McLean, Robyn Doolittle and Madeleine White
Source:Toronto Star
Here, from the No2010 website is how it was seen by the protesters.
(report back and some media)
Over 250 people took to the streets Thursday night to welcome the Olympic Torch with a resounding: “No Olympics on Stolen Native Land” Enthusiastic folks met up at 5:15 at College & University, gathering around a 15 foot homemade torch of our own, banners reading “Resist 2010 for the land”, “No 2010 Torch” and sharing in some homemade food.

Organizers from Six Nations read the Declaration of the Onkwehonwe of Grand River Territory on the 2010 Olympic Torch Relay, Doreen Silversmith also from Six Nations spoke about how the attacks on women are attacks on the land and Mark C. from ARA spoke of Indigenous Youth rising up and taking power. Messages of Solidarity were delivered by No One Is Illegal-Toronto, No Games Toronto and Kitchener-Waterloo’s own Torch Welcoming Committee.

Grounding the crowd in the reasons we were here: to decry Canada’s colonial violence and expose the lies of Olympics Circus, chants began that would ring through Toronto all night. While the cold seeped, our MC got the crowd jumping and amped to go meet the torch.

Anticipating the torch taking a lil’ streetcar ride, people took to College Street. The first line of bike cops at College and Elizabeth set up as we began a fluid game of cat and mouse. Our people took some surprise routes towards Yonge and Gerrard where we regrouped and faced a row of riots cops, holding the intersection. We gathered at the line of cops and turned back suddenly, going North, walking up Yonge St. to meet the Torch. At Yonge and College we ran into the crowds there to cheer on the Torch some of whom started booing and hissing. We handed out thousands of pieces of ORN and No2010 literature and some people even joined our action. One onlooker pushed over our speaker.

The horses arrived and tried to split us in two but that failed. Then a small group stayed back at Yonge and College, while the rest of the street party walked North, slowing to regroup and coming closer to the Torch. At Yonge and Maitland, we decided to stop and hold it, as people from the back rushed to join us. With messages streaming in that the media were reporting we had blocked the Torch and having chased the torch around the city for nearly two hours (it was now 7:30), we euphorically declared victory! We had forced VANOC to split the Torch in to two, and brought our message right to the centre of the Olympic Circus.

While all of this was going on, the March in Honour of Harriet Nahanee, led by indigenous women, had split off to follow the torch into Nathan Phillips Square, where a climber free climbed an arch directly opposite the stage and hung a banner reading “Gego Olympics Da-Te-Snoon Nishnaabe-Giing Ga-Gmooding” (No Olympics on Stolen Native Land in Anishinaabemowin). Our people had infiltrated the crowd, holding up banners and handing out flyers, and booing the flame as it left Nathan Phillips Square around 9:30pm. The banner stayed up till the end of the festivities and the climber only got a $100 ticket.

Two arrests were made when two protesters ran alongside the Torch following the disruption at Yonge and Maitland. They were released later that night.

We stole the Torch’s thunder, with CTV, NDNTV, APTN, City, the Globe, the Star, the Sun, Now Magazine and some Ryerson folks reporting on the disruption and relaying the message that we took to the streets demanding justice for indigenous peoples, an end to corporate domination and the truth about “Canada’s” ongoing policies and practices of colonialism. Though there has been a serious damper being put on the size and effect of our actions, everyone on the streets of Toronto heard us last night.

This protest was organized by an autonomous group of people coming together for this occasion, and showcased a broad spectrum of Toronto’s resistance. As we head into 2010, we urge folks to support Six Nations as they stand up and block the Torch from entering their territory on December 21st, to head to Kitchener-Waterloo on December 27th, to converge on Vancouver from February 10-15th, and to start thinking about your plans for the G8/G20 meetings in June. Overheard during the street party: “Man, the G20’s coming here, and we can’t even handle this!”, cop.
‘See you in the streets.
Some Media: (note, if you took pictures or video on Thursday night, please email them to
1) Independent Journalist:
While the protesters maintained a non-violent approach to their demonstration this was not the case with Olympic Security. It seems that some of the rent-a-goons, disappointed by being unable to get up front for some of the action that the big boys (the police) were engaged in with the demonstrators felt that they should get their jollies somehow some way. Hence the following attack on two journalists from the Toronto Sun. Here's the story from the CNW site. The union that the journalists in question belong to, the CEP Union, went fair ballistic and is hoping to hold the authors of the attack accountable. The most astounding part to Molly was that the goons in question decided to attack the 60 year old reporter (see below) loaded with gear. One can only imagine what was going through their heads, besides the testosterone from their nuts. I'm "sure" that this guy looked like a "security threat". I guess that such events may actually be justification for on the job drug and alcohol testing.
Journalists union demands criminal charges against Olympic security:
TORONTO, Dec. 18 /CNW/
- The head of a union representing journalists in Ontario is demanding criminal charges against security officers involved in crowd control for the Olympic torch run after two journalists were assaulted in Newmarket today.

The two journalists, both photographers for the Toronto Sun, were attempting to take pictures of Olympic torch bearers as they made their way along Davis Drive in Newmarket shortly after noon.

Photographer Dave Thomas was repeatedly shoved as he tried to take pictures but was not injured. But photographer Ian Robertson, who is about 60 years old and was laden with camera gear so he was unable to defend himself, required hospital treatment for an apparent head injury after he was shoved to the ground by security officers wearing the grey Olympic uniforms.

"This is an outrage," said Brad Honywill, president of Local 87-M of the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union of Canada. "The Olympics are supposed to represent the highest of human values but the behaviour of the security officers represents nothing less than brutality and cowardice."

The fact protests had delayed the torch run the day before doesn't authorize security to use police state tactics for crowd control, Honywill said, noting that there was much criticism of the Chinese government for the way it crushed protests during last year's summer Olympics and this behaviour is no better.

"It would have been obvious to anyone who cared that these two people were professional photographers and certainly not protesters attempting to disrupt the torch relay," Honywill said.
"There was no excuse for the kind of physical violence that took place."

The president of CEP Local 87-M noted that journalists are being killed in record numbers around the world, often at the hands of government organizations. Others, both at home and abroad, are being subjected to increased violence. And it has to stop.

"Journalists should not be seen as punching bags for the police, security forces or anyone else. When they're exposed to violence, all of society is threatened because it's the journalists who reveal what is happening in their community and country."
For further information: Brad Honywill, President CEP Local 87-M, W: (416) 461-2461, ext 7, C: (905) 334-9259


Nicolas said...

It is a little bit disturbing that it's the union that is sending a communique and not the paper...

mollymew said...

That's true. Seems to me that the paper should be doing some lagalities themselves.

Slava Rybalka said...

"Ian Robertson, who is about 60 years old and was laden with camera gear so he was unable to defend himself, required hospital treatment for an apparent head injury after he was shoved to the ground by security officers wearing the grey Olympic uniforms."

Molly, my dear, the crowd is always of no control.
People especially in that age, should think 3 times before taking part in such events and moreover, get in the center of action.

Have you already seen my friend's blog on going green tips? I find it very useful. Tell the tips the members of your organization. Maybe we'll save the planet all together.