An RochesterIMC recap of the Anti-Olympic Convergence

Posted by admin on Mar 5th, 2010

From Rochester Indymedia

"No2010 Commemorative Poster"; Tania Willard, Secwepemc Nation

On February 9th, two Rochester Indymedia journalists started their journey to Vancouver, unceded and occupied Coast Salish Territory to cover the 2010 anti-Olympic resistance movement. Anti-Olympic organizers called for a convergence of anti-colonial and anti-capitalist forces in Vancouver, February 10-15, 2010, to confront and disrupt the 2010 Olympic Games. These dates were chosen to coincide with the opening ceremonies of the Winter Olympics (Feb. 12, 2010). The entire Winter Games ran from Feb 12-28, 2010. The slogan under which the convergence coalesced was, “No Olympics on Stolen Native Land!

After having their flight canceled in Chicago and being rerouted to Vancouver 20 plus hours later, Dawn Zuppelli was detained by the Canadian Border Services Agency where she was searched and questioned for over an hour until being released into Canada. Unlike Indymedia journalists Martin Macias Jr. and John Weston Osburn, Zuppelli and Ted Forsyth were not deported or denied entry into Canada, but allowed to enter with Zuppelli receiving a warning that the Canadian government would be tracking her stay in Canada.

On February 10, just a few days before the start of the games, Rochester Indymedia was at the scene of an action directed against Prime Minister of Canada Stephan Harper. Over 150 supporters of Insite, North America’s only supervised-injection site, surrounded the Chinese Cultural Centre, wrapped it with caution tape, locked the doors using chains and locks, and pressed bullhorns blaring sirens against the windows forcing Harper to postpone a scheduled visit. (photos: Wise Blood | Murray Bush; video: Dawn Zuppelli | off2theairport | brentgranby) Insite has been shown to be effective in reducing public injections, overdose fatalities, and injection-related infections, while improving public order, according to over 25 peer-reviewed papers. The public education event was a response to the Conservative government’s decision to appeal the recent ruling of the B.C. Court of Appeals to the Supreme Court of Canada. The B.C. appeals court ruling allowed Insite to continue operating.

The 2010 Peoples Summit, held on February 10 and 11 at Center for Socialist Education and Wise Hall, was a space for anti-capitalist, indigenous, housing rights, labour, migrant justice, environmental, anti-war, community-loving, anti-poverty, civil libertarian, and anti-colonial activists to come together and learn about the two-week Olympic circus and gear up to confront it. According to the Olympic Resistance Network, presenters spoke on an array of topics including legal rights, street medic training, movement building and Native land issues. First Nations people from Cree territory spoke about the total environmental devastation of the Alberta tar-sands, the disruption of migratory routs and the effects that these mega-progects have on local water tables. There were also speakers from the Six Nations land reclamation movement, who spoke of worrier land defenders that are organizing using traditional pre-european customs. Years of negotiation between the federation of chiefs and the provincial government in the Canadian court system have resolved few land disputes because they failed to recognize the values of indigenous people and in fact are built to undermine the sovereignty of first nations communities. Organizers were happy with the turn out and felt they were successful at raising awareness around issues of poverty and native land rights, as well as bringing varied and multiple organizations together.

Of special note, was an Indigenous Resistance Panel where indigenous activists, artists and community leaders Gord Hill, Carol Martin, Arthur Manuel and Billy Thiere discussed the impacts of the Olympics on native people. (audio: listen to the full panel)

Before the anti-Olympic protests and actions started, Rochester Indymedia met up with and got situated in the Vancouver Media Cooperative located on East Hastings. The media collective has been doing a tremendous job with ongoing and breaking news coming from the heart of Vancouver. The website is: vancouver.mediacoop.ca—check it out for the latest news from the streets! The VMC, unlike other “independent” media groups that took money from the Vancouver Olympic Committee, has continued to produce and distribute critical coverage of the Olympic games. The VMC “is [part of] a coast-to-coast network of local Media Cooperatives dedicated to providing grassroots, democratic coverage.” (video: VMC’s Dawn Paley discusses Media and the Anti-Olympic Movement) Along with video, audio, and written pieces from the anti-Olympic resistance, the VMC put out a daily broadsheet, titled the Balaclava, during the convergence. (editions: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7)

On the final day of the 2010 Winter Olympic Torch Relay, February 12, the torch was blocked twice in East Vancouver. The first blockade occurred at around 9:30AM when some 150-200 protesters successfully blocked the torch at Victory Square (Cambie and Hastings). Despite having a large number of police, including motorcycle and horse-mounted cops, protesters were able to block Hastings Street and force the torch to change its route, completely bypassing the scheduled event at Victory Park and abandoning all their ‘pro-Olympic supporters’ there as anti-Olympic protesters chased the torch down Pender Street. (photos: Murray Bush) Hours after demonstrators diverted the torch from Victory Square, indigenous people from across Turtle Island gathered to denounce the colonial project in Canada and affirmed their sovereignty as native people. (watch the video: Feb. 12, ORN Press Conference)

Shortly after the disruption at Victory Square, scores of protesters on Commercial Drive were able to blockade the torch and forced it to reroute along Clark Street. Rochester Indymedia was up bright and early to be on-hand to cover the events of this disruption. Over 200 protesters strung twine and barbed wire across Commercial Drive, then moved to intercept the torch after it had been rerouted. Vancouver horse-mounted police blocked Commercial Drive while dozens of foot and bicycle cops mobilized in the area. (photos: various | Chris Bevacqua and nofutureface) The resistance caught up to the torchbearer forcing her to be surrounded by police and shoved into the back of a waiting police car. (photos: Murray Bush) See what happened in Niagara Falls, Kitchener, and Guelph, ON in December 2009 when Genesee Valley Earth First! showed up carrying banners that read “No Olympic Eco Destruction” and “Torch the Olympics”!

The night prior, on February 11, protesters at the University of BC also disrupted the torch relay.

February 12 not only marked the final day of the harried 2010 Winter Olympic Torch Relay but also the beginning of the Olympics and the anti-Olympic protests and actions. At 3:00PM, hours after the torch relay disruptions, a massive rally and and family friendly march against the Olympic industry called “Take Back Our City!” met in front of the Vancouver Art Gallery. (video of rally and march: 1 | 2 | 3) The march, composed of thousands of people, lead to the opening ceremonies of the 2010 Olympics at BC Place Stadium where demonstrators brought messages about the negative impacts of the Olympics and squared off with police. (photos: insurgentphoto | @torched2010 | Chris Bevacqua and nofutureface)

The Olympics saw no break from the resistance that continued on February 13. Early in the morning, as part of the Anti-Olympics Convergence, members of Coast Salish Katzie First Nation and supporters blocked the Golden Ears Bridge. The Bridge spans the Frazer River between Pitt Meadows and Langley, and is adjacent to Katzie 1 and Katzie 2 Reserves. It is about a half hour drive outside of Vancouver. Construction of the bridge desecrated a 3000 year old burial ground, while it’s massive pilings in the river disrupt currents, and the ability of local Katzie fishers to fish. (video: watch the action; read: Issue 6 of the Balaclava)

Later in the morning, demonstrators converged on Thornton Park just after 9:00AM for what was billed as the “2010 Heart Attack” set up to clog the arteries of capitalism with the goal of reaching the intersection of Denman and Georgia, where buses destined for the Whistler venues have to pass. A marching band accompanied marchers, who carried banners, shouted slogans and advanced through the streets of downtown. Overturned newspaper boxes and a dumpster were dragged on to the street as the march passed through, and when the crowd reached Georgia and Hornby, black bloc tactics were used to bust the windows of Hudson’s Bay Company among other corporate sponsors. (videos posted by Stimulator: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5; photos: insurgentphoto) The day’s actions were met with harsh violence coming from police, who beat demonstrators in the streets and arrested 13. The Olympics Resistance Network didn’t call the protest, but since 2006 it has organized “on the basis of anti-oppression principles and with a respect for diversity of tactics.

After the arrests were made, the brutality doled out by the cops, and the crowds dispersed, ORN held a press conference in Pigeon Park in order to counter the spin of the corporate media, VANOC, the police, and city government that demonstrators were the “criminal element”.

“I’m glad you brought up the criminal element. The IOC and VANOC is the criminal element, pillaging public coffers, the effects of which we will see long after the Games,” with cuts to health care, affordable housing, education and meaningful social services, said Gord Hill of the Kwakwaka’wakw First Nation.

Later that night, a group of about 25 anti-Olympic protesters were encircled and detained by a much larger group of riot police for several tense minutes while walking quietly and peacefully along the sidewalk. Their destination—the Vancouver jail—to stand vigil for protesters who were arrested. The group was released in less than 10 minutes after being surrounded, with no arrests being made.

Since the 2010 Corporate Heart Attack much has been made in both the corporate and independent press about the age-old argument between property destruction as property destruction or petty vandalism and property destruction as violence within the politically charged context of the anti-Olympic protests—not to mention how the press will eat up broken glass and obscure the rest of the story. The debate started raging when, “David Eby, executive director of the B.C. Civil Liberties Association, said he was ‘sickened’ by images of Black Bloc members smashing windows and tossing newspaper boxes into the streets,” according to an article by Steve Mertl.

One of the high points about the protests against the 2008 Republican National Convention in St. Paul, MN was the widespread adoption of the St. Paul Principles as endorsed by a vast spectrum of dissidents with the understanding that a diversity of tactics means that you don’t have to like the tactics of others but that affinity groups would try to avoid putting other people at risk who wished not to be and that dissidents wouldn’t come out and attack each other for tactics they didn’t like. The ORN attempted something similar with its ORN Solidarity and Unity Statement. The outcome, unlike St. Paul, seems less than desirable with a well-known celebrity type like Eby violating his role as a legal observer and lawyer by publicly condemning the tactics used by the demonstrators. “It is not the job of legal support to be the free speech police. We’re not there to editorialize on whether we like a demonstration or not. We’re there to defend the demonstrators. Period,” stated Larry Hildes, of the National Lawyers Guild.

After Eby’s comments went viral, a deluge of dialogue, debate, and condemnation struck the VMC as well as other blogs and news outlets. Canada does not have an NLG like the States and Eby’s comments left some community members feeling betrayed by the BCCLA. Organizers struggled and implemented new legal support including a new legal number from a sympathetic legal collective independent from the BCCLA. VMC members stated that any video or photo evidence that could help get charges dropped from those arrested and being defended by the BCCLA would be handed over to clients’ lawyers.

On February 15, Hildes explained why he had broken ties with BCCLA. (video: Hildes Interview) The following day, an anonymous communique in defense of the black bloc appeared on the VMC site. Later, Andrew Loewen wrote a response to the communique where he questioned the tactics used by the black bloc.

Meanwhile, across the country in Toronto, ON, Judy Rebick made her opinion known in her essay titled, “Breaking windows is not a revolutionary act.” She tells us that black bloc tactics are counter productive and that, “the ‘diversity of tactics’ approach does not allow us to debate these issues.” I’m sorry Judy, but with all due respect I see a lot of debate going on. But who am I to criticize? Let me jump ahead to February 27 where we can read what Narrative Resistance has to say about Judy’s critique. I’ll give you a hint—they blow Judy out of the water. Check it, “What Judy Rebick, and many other critics who have had little to do with the anti-Olympic movement, have entirely failed to notice is the fact that the Black Bloc was supported by almost every constituency of the ORN. This show of solidarity was not divisive—it brought us together and has built deep trust between activists who, in the past, have often had very little to say to each other.

“Organizations that were publicly represented include (or had individual members present and unmasked): No One Is Illegal, the Council of Canadians, PETA, the Indigenous Environmental Network (IEN), StopWar.ca, Gatewaysucks, the Vancouver Anti-Poverty Committee, Food Not Bombs, and many more. None of those organizations have denounced the actions of the Black Bloc that day. And they can’t, because their members know that on that day, they were there to support the Black Bloc. Anyone who says that they didn’t know what was going to happen is lying. There were 200 people in black with masks on, and ‘Riot 2010′ has been a rallying call for the movement for more than two years now. Everyone knew what was going to happen, and they all marched anyway.

“For Judy Rebick to claim that the Black Bloc had ‘come into the middle of a demonstration with black face masks [to] break up whatever takes their fancy when the vast majority of people involved don’t want them to,’ is either dishonest, or a sign that she has stopped paying attention to what actually happens on the ground. The Black Bloc is not dividing the movement—people with aspirations for mainstream acceptance who distance themselves from other activists are.

“Judy Rebick is going to have to decide whether she wants to be a celebrity, acceptable to the CBC and their mainstream audience, or work on the ground with people who are fed up with capitalism, with colonialism, and also with the paralyzing cult of non-violence. It is time to realize that there are people who are ready to fight back, and that it is time to support them.”

On February 19, Michael Lithgow posted a recap of a discussion held at VIVO, a local artist run media arts organization, which was host to a tumultuous gathering of activists that had come to discuss the tactics of property damage complete with the pieing of David Eby himself. Splat! But let’s give Eby his due: You decide how he does in defending his criticisms of demonstrators and the 2010 Heart Attack.

Moira Peters chimed in with her thoughts and angle on the 2010 Heart Attack in a piece titled, “Building Blocs: Olympics resistance chooses a diversity of tactics.” On February 26, Jadis posted an edited video of David Eby’s comments combined with critical analysis from Alissa Westergard-Thorpe of the ORN. (watch the video: David Eby Denounces Allies) The latest bit in the debate was a panel discussion co-hosted by rabble.ca and working TV on February 20 at the W2 Media Arts Centre. Panelists Harsha Wallia, a No One Is Illegal activist and Derrick O’Keefe, author and stopwar.ca activist debated the topics of property destruction and diversity of tactics. (watch the debate in parts: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5)

On February 14, the 19th Annual Women’s Memorial March took place in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside. Anti-Olympic demonstrations and actions paused Sunday in solidarity as an estimated 4,000-5,000 people marched to honour and remember the over 3,000 missing and murdered women across Canada. Carol Martin, a victim services worker at the Downtown Eastside Women’s Centre, along with Mona Woodward of the Rain City Housing Coalition, Fay Blaney, founder of the Aboriginal Women’s Action Network and Dalannah Bowen, Director of Interurban Gallery, invited media to a press conference in lieu of including the press in the February 14 march. Journalists were told they would not be permitted to attend the ceremony in the Carnegie Theatre at noon on Valentine’s Day, and were asked not to film or snap pictures during the march when friends and families of murdered and missing women would stop to perform healing ceremonies at sites where women had died. During the march, there was confusion about this. The march itself, lead by aboriginal women and families of victims, started around 1:00PM and marched through the Downtown Eastside on one of the only warm and sunny days of the convergence with at least five eagles circling above. (video: 19th Annual Women’s Memorial March; photos: Chris Bevacqua | Murray Bush | Fathima Cader)

On Februry 15, hundreds of demonstrators gathered in the evening in front of the Vancouver Art Gallery and marched through downtown Vancouver to denounce Canada’s role in Afghanistan and Haiti, the occupation of Indigenous lands, and the militarization of Vancouver during the 2010 Olympics. (photos: 1 | 2) Gord Hill, mentioned above, addressed the anti-war crowd declaring, “I am not anti-war because sometimes it’s necessary to go to war to defend your people and your territories.” (listen to Hill’s statement: Gord Hill: I am not Anti-War)

That evening was also the start of the Olympic Tent Village at 58 West Hastings. After a demonstration and march through the Downtown Eastside, the gates to the lot were opened and people streamed in. Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside (DTES) Power of Women (POW) group organized Olympic Tent Village to highlight the injustice in the Olympics’ $6 billion budget. The intent of the occupation was to demand “no more empty talk, no more empty lots,” and called on the city of Vancouver and the BC government to begin making good on pre-Olympics promises of increased funding for social housing. About 50 tents and canvass shelters occupied the empty lot owned by Concord-Pacific, leased by VANOC for Olympics parking. The lot was empty for the duration of the games. The Olympic Tent Village was endorsed by over 100 organizations, but more importantly, according to Harsha Walia of POW, it had the support of DTES residents. (video: No More Empty Promises, No More Empty Lots | Update From Olympic Tent Village | multi-media from Olympic Tent Village | 2010 Olympic Homeless Tent Village Rally and March to Begin the Olympic Tent Village; photos: Chris Bevacqua | zozi | Eve Harlow | Maya Rolbin-Ghanie; read the Tent Village Voice: issue 1)

Not everyone was happy with the Olympic Tent Village though. For instance, on February 17, the VMC reported on police efforts to infiltrate the village as well as their subsequent exposure and removal. There was also some bitterness (Or was it ignorance?) coming from condo residents near the village who made and hung a banner that read, “BUILD RESUMES NOT TENTS!” Not to be outdone by the condo residents and the undercover cops, the Vancouver Police Department decided to exercise some force to remove housing demonstrators. On March 1st, as 4:30AM rolled up, so did the VPD gang, complete with 13 vehicles, 40 goofs from the riot squad, an emergency response team fully loaded with M4 carbine assault rifles and 6 shooter tear gas cannons, 4 loudly barking dogs and their animal handlers, and 15-20 regular uninformed officers. Because of a supportive and vigilant community, the police intimidation and force were nonviolently countered.

As a direct result of the grassroots campaign and the popular support for the Olympic Tent Village amongst incredibly diverse communities and social justice groups, over 40 homeless Tent Village residents have now been housed in BC Housing units across the Lower Mainland, while others have chosen to return home to their communities.

Rochester Indymedia’s rather eventful trip ended on February 16. We said our goodbyes to our hosts and new friends and departed for the States. Our trip across the border was less eventful than coming to Vancouver—though our gear was thoroughly scrutinized and there was some heavy frisking. While our trip back went rather smoothly, other activists and journalists had much more intimidating and difficult experiences crossing the border. For instance, Pepperspray Productions reporter Lambert Rochfort from Seattle, was detained at the US / Canada border and questioned by the FBI, on his way home from Vancouver. This, in addition to many other stories of border repression of media before, during, and after the games, seemed to fit into a pattern as outlined in Nigel Parry’s article titled, “The 2010 Olympics and Repression of Independent Media.

The Olympic Resistance Movement, initiated in Vancouver, unceded and occupied Coast Salish Territory, at the 2010 Winter Olympic Games, was a success. Demonstrations occurred on the last day proclaiming “Game Over!” and “Resistance Lives!” (photos: nofutureface | Isaac Oommen) Native youth made a statement celebrating the failure of the Olympics. Over 40 homeless people who took part in direct action via the Olympic Tent Village have now been housed in BC Housing units across the Lower Mainland. Strong alliances and social relationships were forged between native and non-native activists and communities on the streets. The quick turn around and editing skills of Franklin Lopez, AKA the Stimulator, in conjunction with the VMC and an extremely talented group of media makers and journalists, were dishing up amazing clips like these (videos: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4) as well as an unbelievable amount of articles, audio pieces, and photos—as I hope this piece shows—in order to get the word out about, “the mutha-fucken resistance.” Because of the work accomplished by this media collective and all the folks who came, organized, and resisted, the IOC and the Russian government better look out when 2014 rolls around because it sounds like Circassian people are gonna rise up and put the kibosh on the IOC’s bullshit. (video: No Sochi 2014) See you in the streets!

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