Civil Rights activists fear Police Provocateurs at 2010 Olympics

Posted by admin on Sep 16th, 2009

By Jeff Lee, Canwest News Service, September 16, 2009

VANCOUVER – Civil-rights activists say they’re worried police are infiltrating anti-Olympics groups, with a plan to influence or direct illegal activities that would justify a crackdown during the 2010 Winter Games. Robert Holmes, the president of the B.C. Civil Liberties Association, said he tried twice without success to get the Vancouver 2010 Integrated Security Unit (ISU) to promise not to place “agents provocateurs” in positions of power within anti-Olympics groups.

First in letters to the ISU and the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) in February, and a month later in a face-to-face meeting with ISU assistant-commissioner Bud Mercer, Holmes asked that no undercover officers be allowed to encourage acts that would promote violence or death, or to even infiltrate protest organizations unless they were planning illegal acts.

“We asked for a commitment that at least they would not have security people infiltrate organizations and rise to leadership positions, so as to have them plan things that then the authorities could respond to. There is something of an Orwellian aspect to this,” Holmes said.

“They refused again to give that kind of a commitment. He (Mercer) said, `I’m not going to provide any kind of comments on things like that,’ and then in-house legal counsel for the ISU group basically referred to the section of the Criminal Code that says the police, if they are engaging in sting-type operations, do things that are not considered lawful.”

Calls to the ISU for comment were not immediately returned.

Holmes said he and other civil libertarians have been asking the ISU and CSIS for the assurances as a result of cases where undercover police infiltrated organizations.

The most infamous of those was the August 2007 protest of the North American Leaders Summit in Montebello, Que., summit, where three undercover Quebec police officers were observed wearing bandanas, and one carried a rock.

The RCMP in B.C. also infiltrated protest groups during the 1997 APEC Summit in Vancouver. Overzealous reaction by police officers resulted in a public inquiry that embarrassed the country and resulted in changes to the way police accommodate the rights of protesters.

Those changes are now being felt at the Vancouver 2010 Olympics, where the ISU decided to create “safe assembly areas” in prominent positions to allow protests.

Holmes said the ISU and the Vancouver Organizing Committee have mishandled activists’ concerns about the Olympics by bringing in bylaws that would seem to unfairly restrict peoples’ rights.

“If the ISU, VANOC (the organizing committee for the Vancouver 2010 Olympics) and assorted others were taking the more open approach, in terms of telling people what they were planning on doing and preparing, rather than coming up with these peculiar concepts about so-called `free-speech zones’ or protest pens, and coming up with bylaws that say you can hold up a celebratory sign, but if you hold up a sign not considered celebratory, you can be charged with committing a nuisance, it ceases to become preparation for the Olympics and becomes more provocation.”

As a result, the B.C. Civil Liberties Association (BCCLA) and Pivot Legal Society announced Wednesday they will put at least 25 “legal observer teams” on the street in 2010. The two-person teams will be trained to observe and record in a neutral manner any civil-rights violations, said David Eby, the executive director of the BCCLA.

The groups will undergo training next month on what peoples’ basic rights are, and what to do when observing a potential violation by a police office or private security guard.

Eby said he hopes about 100 people will volunteer for the jobs.
At the same announcement, the BCCLA posted a number of Olympic documents and manuals it obtained under Freedom of Information legislation.

Vancouver Sun

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