Oh, the weather outside was frightful, and the Games so undelightful, that nearly a hundred anti-Olympic souls gathered in the warm confines of a university lecture hall earlier this month to hear a stacked panel weigh in on “Civil Liberties and the 2010 Olympics”.
There were six panelists. And never was heard an encouraging word about the coming Winter Games.
“Greetings, fellow Olympic skeptics,” began David Eby, executive director of the B.C. Civil Liberties Association.
Mr. Eby, who complained that most of the media isn’t interested in doing negative stories on the Olympics, was nevertheless introduced by host Am Johal as someone on the news more than TV newsreader Tony Parsons.
(Another reporter complained recently that she hadn’t covered the latest BCCLA news conference because Mr. Eby had been featured in 13 of her previous 15 stories….oh, that pro-Olympics media!)
But Mr. Eby was actually the mildest of the Olympic critics, seeing darkness only in poorly-worded municipal bylaws and police plans to provide protesters with safe, secure places to demonstrate (the horror!).
(Incidentally, I was just browsing through some articles in the Salt Lake City papers ahead of that city’s Winter Olympics in 2002, and what were activists there demanding? Why the same type of specific protest areas that are so spurned and scorned by Vancouver demonstrators. “It’s getting late,” complained one local activist. “This makes us anxious. We can’t afford not to plan our demonstrations.” What a difference a few years and a border makes.)
According to other panelists, the Olympics are just about as bad as it gets, representing almost everything that is wrong with the world, from the accumulation of capital to “the racializing colonial society we live in” to neo-liberalism.
Peaceful protest is the last thing on their mind.
“We need to do our best to disrupt the Olympics as much as we can, so no other cities will want to tolerate this kind of circus,” said social activist Harsha Walia.
Chimed in David Dennis of the United Native Nations: “Let’s go get ‘em. Let’s take ’em down.”
Writer Matt Hern, who started car-free Sundays in the city, was even more blunt. “Resist the Olympics for all we’re worth. Mess the circus up the best way we can,” he advised the audience. “How did we get this shit-show on our hands? Let’s go get ’em. Let’s get ’em right now, and let’s get ’em later, too.”
Mr. Dennis, at least, did demonstrate a sense of humour.
He recalled how his 11-year old son had put up a poster of a snowboarder from the First Nations Snowboard Team, that is financially assisted by VANOC.
Mr. Dennis said he explained to his son what the “explicit message” of the Olympics was all about. “He got it, but he still refused to take down his poster.” Dad let it be. “I decided not to suppress his voice.”
The Olympic torch relay starts Oct. 30 in Victoria. Hang on to your hats. The signs are ready: “Riot 2010”. It’s Hallowe’en.
Rod Mickleburgh is a Senior Writer for The Globe and Mail, based in Vancouver. He is currently the main news reporter covering the 2010 Winter Olympics