Sunday, February 14, 2010



The 2010 Winter Olympics have begun, and so have a series of demonstrations, each with different locals, goals and tactics. The one that has garnered the most media attention is, predictably, the one on Saturday morning where there was some minor property damage and where several arrest took place. This was graced with the term "violent" and luridly portrayed as such across the world. All that I can say, from watching it on the tube, is that it was a pretty piss poor excuse for a riot if that was what the participants intended. What with the ritualized dancing and all in front of the police line. These things, of course, are more than slightly mere ritualized combat, with the participants on both sides are suffering from more than a slight share of delusion. The trouble is that their happenings can be worked up into some fantastical symbolic myths, once again by both sides, but with the mainstream media as the main offender in creating the greatest fantasy. Should side A (let's call them "the anarchists") seem unwilling to play their part of violent threat to a sufficient degree there are (always ?) police agents sent to stir them up. The following article mentions one such individual. In their appeal for "jail support" the Olympic Resistance Network uses the term "several" when referring to provocateurs. sadly it often doesn't take too much of a push for 'Side A' to do exactly what the police want them to.

Here's what happened on Saturday according to one observer. The following is originally from . It came to Molly's attention via the No2010 website. Note the appendix of photos and videos from the event.


2010 Heart Attack: Riot 2010 Becomes a Reality:

2010 Heart Attack: Vancouver Olympics Opening Day
By Scott Harris February 14, 2010, Council of Canadians Blog
The major mobilization on Saturday, dubbed the "2010 Heart Attack" began in the early hours of the morning, with around 300 activists gathering at Thornton Park under a heavy police presence to march through the streets of Vancouver in an attempt to disrupt "business as usual" on the opening day of competition of the 2010 Games.

The march departed from Thornton Park just after 9:00 am, with the goal of reaching the intersection of Denman and Georgia, where buses destined for the Whistler venues have to pass.

Police on bicycles ringed the march as it snaked its way through the streets towards the upscale downtown, turning up Hastings Street and moving into the heart of the city, nearly abandoned streets giving way to larger crowds as it progressed.

Early on an apparent agent provocateur moved into the crowd, pushing and taunting marchers before darting to the sidewalk, at times stopping to talk with police before running forward to taunt the crowd again. As the protest moved through the streets, some participants overturned mailboxes and newspaper boxes, pulling them into the street in an attempt to block traffic.

Minor property damage occurred along that march, and as demonstrators reached the shopping district of Georgia Street, a group of protesters broke one of the display windows of the Hudson's Bay building, one of the national sponsors of the Games, and one which has come under criticism for both its long history of colonialism and its sourcing of Olympics sweaters from China rather than the Cowichan nation. A ball of red paint was also thrown at the window. Despite a heavy presence at the scene, no arrests were made.

As the march continued through the downtown, with chants of "No justice, no peace" and "Whose streets? Our streets!" echoing through the buildings, the police presence intensified.

Vans full of police in full riot gear descended on the march, and the number of police on bicycles increased markedly. With those on bicycles forcing onlookers and some of the marchers to the sidewalk, the riot police moved in from behind the marchers, with numerous police cars and wagons following closely behind. There were scuffles as the police moved to isolate the main body of the march from legal observers and onlookers who were filming, and one woman was arrested after being wrestled to the ground by a number of officers.

The marchers were eventually surrounded by riot police, some of whom were armed with automatic weapons while others brandished plexiglass shields and batons. After police on bicycles stopped a group of onlookers from proceeding, separating them from the march by about half a block, police moved in and made a number of arrests. Some in the crowd fought back or attempted to "un-arrest" those targeted by the police. Both riot police and police on bicycles forced observers and legal teams to the sidewalks as they put those arrested into wagons. As the police moved in and divided the crowd by creating wedges between different groups of protesters, some smaller groups split from the main march, some of them pursued by groups of police.

Smaller groups spread throughout the downtown core were split off by police and surrounded by riot police at a number of locations. One group of about 30 people, which included a marching band and a number of dancers, were surrounded on all sides by riot police as supporters were kept at a distance by heavily armed police and police on bicycles. The crowd, which was forced to the sidewalk by police by threats of arrest chanted "Let them go!" as those surrounded by the police held their hands in peace signs and attempted to negotiate their way to the sidewalk. As the standoff between trumpets and truncheons continued, some in the crowd turned to chants of "This is weird. Let them go." After being surrounded for over half an hour and prevented from leaving, the police eventually allowed the band and its supporters to disperse.

In all a total of 13 arrests were reported by the legal support team, and five are being held and may be charged. Protesters have begun jail support at the police station at 222 Main in support of those arrested.

By 4:00 pm, the most heavily damaged window at Hudson's Bay Co. had been replaced.
Scott Harris is the Prairies Regional Organizer for the Council of Canadians
Video from VMC
Photos fro VMC
Here, from the CBC is a report of an earlier protest in Vancouver, one that got far less general media coverage because it was as spectacularly confrontational as the one described above. I've decided to leave the comment link in because it may give the reader a feel about how the general population of Vancouver is reacting to the protests.
Police clash with anti-Olympics protesters:
Last Updated: Friday, February 12, 2010 9:27 PM PT Comments773
Anti-Olympics protesters clashed with police in downtown Vancouver on Friday night as the marchers tried to approach BC Place, where opening ceremonies for the 2010 Games were underway.

Some protesters sprayed vinegar in officers' eyes, threw sticks, and spit on officers, police said.

Two officers were injured with flying objects and one was sent to hospital with a shoulder injury but was treated and released, said Const. Lindsey Houghton.

The 125 officers assembled in two rows, along with six police officials on horseback and managed to hold back the crowd, estimated at 1,500.

No protesters were injured.

One man was taken into custody and is facing a charge of assault, Houghton said.

Protesters got as far as the corner of Robson and Beatty streets before being stopped at the police lines, about 200 metres from BC Place stadium.

The protesters rallied outside the Vancouver Art Gallery at 3 p.m. before starting their seven-block walk to the stadium. They marched along West Georgia Street to Homer Street, where they turned south then east on Robson toward BC Place, where the ceremonies began at 6 p.m. local time.

Placards carried by the demonstrators suggested many disagreed with spending taxpayer money on the Games instead of targeting social problems.

Organizers said they wanted the protest to remain peaceful.

About 200 protesters forced organizers to reroute the Olympic torch relay twice early Friday as the runners made their way through the Downtown Eastside.
Molly Note:
The first article above speaks of one police provocateur. In emails sent out to their supporters by the Olympic Resistance Network they speak of several at the second demonstration described in the first article. This may or may not be the case. It certainly has happened before here in Canada, and the most recently proven instance of police agents intercepted while they were trying to provoke violence was at the Montibello summit outside of Ottawa. This is neither here no there. I mention it because there is a congratulatory description of the events at demo #2 now making the rounds on the 'anarcho-net'. The interesting thing about that is that it makes no mention of such a possibility, even though it is apparently quite the buzz out in Vancouver (and not just amongst supporters of the protests). It also paints an incredibly rosy picture of how other protesters viewed the actions of demo #2. I seriously doubt that others are all entirely pleased with what happened.


Larry Gambone said...

More to the point than the CBC comments would be the Tyee comments on their article on the "violent" protest. I have done a breakdown on how people responded there. Hostile, 19 comments, pro-protest but anti-Black Bloc tactics - 10, Neutral 13, Sympathetic the BB in some manner - 22.

The event did give me a great chance to write at some length about anarchism in the comments section.

The problem with the CBC comments is it gets flooded by all the right-wingers - you see this on every issue that comes up. Most of the people responding there do so to vent their spleen against protesters or whatever other group is the target of their hate and happens to be in the news.

mollymew said...

I've had a brief look at 4 different comment threads. I looked at the one from the Tyee, and I have to say that the things that I found myself most in agreement with were the opponents of the Olympics who disagreed with the Black Bloc tactics. there were various levels of the intensity of disagreement, and some of the opponents were perhaps equally unset as compared to what might be styled as "right wingers". One of the points that I made in the article above was that the self-congratulatory "description" of the events circulating on the "anarcho-net" doesn't just not mention the alays present suspicion of police provacateurs but also pretends that there is no progressive opposition to such tactics.
All that being said the comment section of The Tyee (n ow with 224 comments the last time I looked)is obviously more likely to attract some with sympathy for the protests than the CBC. The CBC, however, is far from having a "right wing" audience. If you want pure unadulterated "string em up" comments check out the comment sections for other TV stations and for local radio stations (the ultimate). There are several orders of magnitude difference there.
I have no doubt that there are a great number of people out there with "free floating hostility" who will jump at any opportunity to attack. As the news develops, however, I'm becoming convinced of another thing ie just how irrelevant the protests actually are. In the general media, which probably reprsents the general popular feeling, things like the death of the Georgian luger, the technical failings of the games (and how they are perceived externally and even the amount of French at the Opening Ceremonies seem to be much more front and centre than the protests. Maybe, in the long term, they actually ARE.If I would sum up the attitude of the general population towards the protests "apathy" would be the best term.
Personally I don't think that the anti-Olympics campaign has connected with the average Canadian and THEIR concerns. Having the experience that I have I know that there are, unfortunately, those who think this is a "very good thing", and I think that those who adopt Black bloc tactics are the clearest expression of this self-appointed "elite".
I will, of course, continue to do my little bit to publicize the actions and goals of the protesters, but I see little evidence that the protesters will be self critical afterwards, no matter how many mistakes they have made. As for the 'Black Blocers' their "self-criticism" will be totally restricted to how they could have done a little more damage during their play-acting.
Yeah, I will definitely say that some of the right wing commentators are over the top when they describe very minor vandalism as "terrorism" or, perhaps, even "violence". On the other hand those who glory in such actions are equally or more so "over the top" when they imagine that such actions are significant or useful.

Larry Gambone said...

I am slightly more favorable than you are. One problem is that neither of the demos – the Fri one with 3000 people or the Sunday one with 4000 for the missing FN women got much coverage in the media. The only one to get any large scale coverage was the Sat one where a couple of windows were broken. The media won't cover a regular demo in order not to give the opposition coverage, however, when something "spectacular" happens they are forced to because 1. it is "newsworthy" and 2. somone else might scoop them if they don't pick it up. So you can see where this is leading...

As for the apparent lack of support to the anti-olympics, this is a good question. It isn't because the movement is limited to anarchists, since everyone from the Council of Canadians to PETA got involved. Three thoughts – lack of labour support partly due to the NDP hacks endorsing the olympic fiasco and all those construction jobs. Fear – there were months of intimidation. I didn't go fearing a police riot and only one of my friends here went. There is also a general malaise, which effects everyone except hard core rads. The great mass of people that can swell a labour or peace demo to 50 or a 100,000 are demoralized after 30 years of defeats – many of which have been the result of the BCFed and the NDP and not just the reactionaries...