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On burning Nazi idols

 Victoria Street Newz (Canada) 21 May 2019

(Originally published: 12/2009) Protesters continue to take to the streets of Victoria, Canada, to voice their concerns at the City Council’s handling of the forthcoming Winter Olympics. Tavis W Dodds reports on the latest contact between police and protestors.  - By Tavis W Dodds

Victoria Street Newz

Courtesy of Victoria Street Newz

On Monday November 2nd, BC MLA Harry Bloy from Burnaby Lougheed stated in the Legislative Assembly that anti-Olympic demonstrators are terrorists with limited intellect.


A rally against the torch relay in Victoria on October 30th was accused of using marbles to assault police horses. Demonstrators that noticed the marbles told the police about them before any damage was done. Police spokespeople claimed the marbles were thrown at the feet of the horses, but the marbles were actually found at the feet of the stationary march. Police seem to accept that damage really could have been done, such as falling officers and horses, or the "stampede" that Bloy suggests could have happened.


<i>NDP MLAs consider calling protesters terrorists "a bit over the top." </i>


The torch relay was well behind schedule throughout the day and many people were unable to see it as it bypassed much of the route, a fact that VANOC blamed on the activists' disruption, and this story became the whole of the media response to the march and rally. To many in Victoria on Oct 30th, the protest rally was an enriching and illuminating experience, and the mind numbing festivities of the torch relay and ceremonies were where intellect was really limited.


Crowds at the torch ceremony at BC's Legislature building were treated to speeches from Stephen Harper, VANOC CEO John Furlong, executives from Olympic sponsors RBC and Coca-cola, and Vancouver and Victoria mayors. First Nations (including Songhees, Esquimalt, and both hereditary and elected chiefs of the four "Host Nations") conducted a lengthy welcoming of the torch to indigenous territories. Ms Poole, wife of VANOC CEO Jack Poole, succeeded in lighting the ashtray-shaped cauldron after 5 minutes of trying with Furlong's assistance. Spokespeople delivered much the same message: handling the flame is an emotional experience that people are inspired and touched by, creating Canadian unity and, according to Furlong, inducing "human behaviour." There was square dancing, choirs, dancing mascots and military bands.


Two small dissenting groups were present at the morning ceremonies: one group tried "jeering" Stephen Harper and were quickly flanked and greatly outnumbered by RCMP, and a dozen colourfully dressed Raging Grannies stood near the war memorial with signs like "Olympic snow job" and "gold medal for spending." Several isolated protests were reported along the relay route, including at least one mooning. An 87 year old lady stood alone in defiance to the relay and told the Globe and Mail that she was not intimidated by the officers surrounding her: she had resisted the WWII Nazis that had invented the torch relay, and she hadn't allowed them to intimidate her then. A much larger group of Olympic dissenters began gathering at Victoria's city hall at noon.


A huge torch was mounted on a wheeled table with the sign "END POVERTY." Several women danced with hula hoops and a group of shirtless men played hacky-sack. A New Orleans-style marching band performed with clarinet, drums, trombone, two saxophones, and dozens of tambourines and make-shift instruments. A 30ft. anti-Olympic mascot salmon operated by four people like a Chinese dragon puppet was plagued by others operating sea-lice puppets. Other mascots included a bed bug and a rat. Several clowns were in attendance, one stilt walker, and a woman dressed as a police officer with pig ears. Two mock Olympic fans with RBC shopping bags yelled "We love the Olympics!" Official organizers of the event held a press conference at 1:45 and stated that the Olympic budget would be better spent on housing, healthcare, or education, making the claim that the 20 minute stop for the torch at UVic cost students $27,000. The reporters only seemed interested in the fact that there was no permit for the rally.


Police outnumbered the demonstrators. They had roof-top surveillance. Victoria Police Chief Jamie Graham was on the front lines of the entire 8 hour demonstration, saying police would use "extreme restraint." Perhaps this was due in part to the presence of numerous BC Civil Liberties Legal Observers in orange shirts, led by David Eby. Eby, and Pivot Legal, contributed to  Graham's resignation as Vancouver's Police Chief in 2007. Only one arrest was made: a 20 year old woman had been approached on her way to the event by numerous plainclothes officers and charged her with assaulting an officer.


First Nations activists were not in costume and looked very serious, gathered around a Mohawk flag. Stop 2010's Gord Hill reiterated the point that BC is unceded, or without land claim settlements, hence the popular chant "No Olympics on Stolen Native Land." The memory of First Nations elder Harriet Nahanee was invoked. It was explained that Nahanee had died as a result of her three weeks in a Surrey holding cell she where she was sentenced to for opposing Olympic related developments. Hill called for groups across Canada to mobilize and stop the torch as it passed through their communities.


Several poverty rights groups were there, including Vancouver's Anti-poverty committee, and Victoria's Committee to End Homelessness. David Johnston, a homeless man recently released from a 23-day prison fast for erecting tents in the daytime, spoke along with fellow housing activist Chris Johnson about upcoming court cases concerning the city's declaration that homeless have a constitutionally protected right to erect tents between 9pm and 7am. At least one homeless couple living out of a shopping cart attended the demonstration's entire 8 hour duration.


Several people shared songs they had written against the Olympics, accompanied by the band, including the Raging Grannies, and Dave and Mary Lowther who sang a song about the "Bread and Circuses" method the Romans used to placate the masses.


After more than an hour of short speeches and songs, participants competed in a mock Olympics including wrestling matches with "Gordo" and an "Olympic top cop" Bud Mercer look-alike. A Binners Olympics was held in which contestants had to collect and sort about $4 in cans and bottles from around Centennial Square using Tony's trailers, which are like shopping carts that attach to bicycles.


After the final sport events the Annual Zombie March, which this year was billed as part of the 3 day Victoria Comic Convention, arrived as an incredible variety of corpses, swelling the crowd to 200 at lowest estimate and 500 at highest. Almost as soon as the march began it became apparent that anyone behaving too zombie like (trying to eat people's brains or having trouble opening doors) would be surrounded and followed by a dozen officers.


The march proceeded through Chinatown to Streetlink homeless shelter where Rose Henry gave a talk about the conditions on Victoria's streets, the cold weather protocol, and new provincial legislation being introduced to allow police to force homeless into shelters. Police stopped traffic for one block in all directions and the procession zigzagged up and down the blocks between Wharf and Douglas Streets before arriving in Bastion Square [formerly the Gallows site] to drop an illegible banner over the new tulip-boat statue.


Upon returning to Douglas St., the march passed eight horseback officers down Broad Street, along with still more officers and vehicles. Protesters walked past the horses but a large native man with a picture of Harriet Nahanee stuck on his back walked towards the horses, waving his flag at them until the march was safely past. The march occupied the block at Hudson's Bay and a man gave a talk about the Bay, colonialism and resistance. The march continued down Government Street, turned left to Douglas, and then turned back to occupy the intersection at RBC on Douglas for 40 minutes.


It was announced the march would continue north to Pandora, an area known for substance abuse victims. Instead, it turned south on an interception course with the torch in Cook St. Village. A handful of people that had turned out to view the torch relay voiced their displeasure to the crowd and to the media. One large bald man, a regular fixture at City Council meetings, stood on the patio of the café with both middle fingers extended at the passing throng. Many people came out from their homes to view the march and many joined it on Cook St. Critical Mass, a cyclist group known for taking over roads and slowing traffic by riding en masse, also joined the march at this point.


The march continued a meandering path for several blocks, then headed straight towards the Legislature. Gordon Campbell had been addressing the small crowd at the evening ceremonies after the torch arrived 20 minutes behind schedule. When the march turned past the Empress Hotel, it came upon a line of more than 50 police officers blocking Government Street with barricades. The protesters stopped. All the street lights were off. It poured rain. The entourage of dozens of officers still lingered with the march itself, and the regiments following the march blocked their retreat. Police formed walls of bodies encircling the march, pushing them in tight. The police helicopter that had been following the march came in low over the museum. The march stood paralyzed like this for only a few minutes, still pushing forward very slowly, when suddenly the police began advancing quickly from the barricades towards the march. When advancing police arrived at the marchers, Campbell finished his speech and officers acted as though they had never meant that the march was not welcome to advance to the legislature.


Upon arriving at the barricades that blocked off the Legislature, the police used fencing to force the march through a narrow entrance into the corral that had been used for the torch procession. The front half of the march proceeded to the stage and the rear struggled to get the torch table and salmon puppet through the tiny opening, finally dismantling the fencing and entering the muddy lawn.


The concert-like evening ceremonies were made up of several dozen youth under the age of 13 standing in costumes in the rain. Half had glowing red umbrellas that were meant to create a heart shape when viewed from above. The other half wore glowing white garbage bag costumes of birds with horns. When asked, none of the youth could indicate what kind of bird they were beyond "some kind of traditional first nations bird." All of these young volunteers provided their own white shoes. Another group of young volunteers ran around waving glow sticks in the air for nearly fifteen minutes. During the performance, black clad RCMP flanked the stage and the kids. The concert was a blaring hip-hop act. The heavy beat was raised to a deafening volume. Demonstrators chanted "No Olympics on Stolen Native Land!" over the din. It was pitch dark on the lawn, punctuated by a pyrotechnics show belching up fire big enough to temporarily heat and illuminate the whole vicinity. During the periods of illumination, people stared amazed at the lawn filled almost entirely with police officers.


The march finally drowned out the concert and pulled back all the way to Bastion Square where they broke off into smaller groups, the biggest of which headed back to Centennial Square and rested at the covered area beneath council chambers.


Tavis has been floating back and forth across Canada for 5 years of solidarity with the homeless, as both a homeless person and a homeless activist.

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