Frances Bula header image 2

Police show restraint, protesters show a lack of vision

February 13th, 2010 · 27 Comments

News reports are filtering in this morning of random vandalism by Olympics protesters downtown, which somehow doesn’t surprise me. There is clearly a small element that just wants some kind of trouble, even if it’s pointless.

I was at the 1,500-strong rally by Olympics opponents outside BC Place last night and found myself wedged right up against the police line that was holding back the protesters. It was relatively low-key, at least compared to the riots I was in when I went to Seattle to cover the WTO in 1999.

I was pleasantly impressed with police, who made a point of NOT coming out in Darth Vader-like riot gear, the way Seattle police did. Instead, they worse baseballs hats and yellow reflector vests over their regular police uniforms. And though they did the tough-guy thing they had to do — a big show of force with horses and double lines of locked-arms officers, grabbing at any of the bamboo sign poles that came their way, and pushing back yard when then the crowd surged forward — they made a point of not escalating the confrontation.

Some might argue that it’s because they were being so heavily recorded. Besides the media, it seemed like every second protester on the front lines was video- or cellphone-recording the front-line scuffles, and there were also designated legal observers hovering everywhere. But it also looked like good discipline, even while protesters were calling them pigs, yelling out “Get the animals off the horses” and yelling about the details of Frank Paul’s death. (For those who don’t remember, he was the native man who was dropped in an alley by Vancouver police ago after after they decided not to hold him in jail.)

Having had a few unpleasant encounters with police in Seattle myself, where you’d get pepper-sprayed just for disagreeing with them about where reporters should stand, I felt as though Vancouver police last night were showing reasonable restraint. Yes, it was scary to be pushed back by the police and feel like I was getting crushed or in danger of falling into the crowd at one point.   But I also got that, if protesters were attempting a surge, police had to push back.

It was also clear to everyone there that the protesters were longing for confrontation, with big “oohs” erupting from the crowd every time they thought police might be advancing on them. Most seemed to be anxious to avoid being arrested by doing anything too confrontational, but they seemed to be hoping police would lose it and start beating on them so they could demonstrate that police brutality is alive and well. In the end, it was minor skirmishing with even the most confrontational of the protesters unwilling to provoke anything serious, at least not with that many police around.

But mostly what struck me about the protesters was how disorganized they seemed to be. This was not a group of seasoned campaigners who knew what they were doing or even how to organize a protest. None of the signs, which ranged from opposition to the province’s Gateway road- and bridge-building project to the “No Games on stolen native land slogan,” made it clear what the central point was.  After about an hour of stand-off with the police lines, someone tried to organize a march back to the Vancouver Art Gallery but that didn’t seem to attract the crowd so the march tailed off.

The point here is that these are mostly young kids with some theoretical ideas about corporate exploitation, mixed in with a few diehard radical oldtimers, and a sprinkling of really marginalized people who are looking for something to vent against because of the truly crappy deal that life has handed them.

And in amongst them, yes, a few kids — you can spot the core group by their black hoodies, black bandanas, or black balaclavas — who just want to do some damage if that’s what it takes to get media attention. (As long as there aren’t too many police around.) And now they’ve got it.

P.S. Here is a message from the Olympics Resistance Network that went out prior to the protest march this morning that outlines their message, just so you have it straight from them, rather than me:

The olympic resistance mascot, Squatchi, will be speaking
to the press before a street march being organized titled “2010 Heart
Attack” on February 13th starting at 8:30 am.  The march is organized in
the spirit of challenging the social and economic system that the Olympic
Games support and represent.  They are making people homeless, leaving the
environment destroyed and continue the industrial expansion on indigenous
lands while corporations gain millions in profits.  Organizations from
across Canada and around the world have converged in Vancouver to march
together against capitalism and colonization.

Categories: Uncategorized

  • JCobb

    Sociopathic Underachievers all. While the behaviour of this rabble is predictable and to be largely ignored, what is troubling is that UBC continues to keep Chris Shaw on the payroll. Is this the type of individual we want teaching our children? And to what degree are his poisonous secretions allowed to influence our students?

    UBC, is this the best you can do?

  • I’ve also been very impressed with the restraint shown by the Police at the Olympics so far, and disappointed by the behavior of the protesters.

    However, JCobb, please. There are legitimate reasons to protest the event, and Chris Shaw is entitled to have his opinion and to voice it publicly. University students are adults, get over it.

  • Frances Bula

    To be fair, Chris has never advocated this kind of activity. I find his tendency to manipulate the facts somewhat atrocious, but I don’t at all hold him responsible for the actions of a bunch of kids who’ve decided to make trouble.

    As well, I think it’s important to make the point that, in spite of those kids, it’s okay to say the Olympics suck and even protest about it in the streets.

  • Van Centre

    My favourite comment I saw on the VanSun website was some protestor complaining that they had to get violent because the MSM didn’t give them coverage when they were peaceful.

    a) This guy thought he deserved MSM coverage. Ego?

    b) This guy *craved* MSM coverage.

    Ha!

  • IanS

    Kudos to the police in resisting the protesters’ attempts at provocation. Very impressive.

  • Yael

    I don’t think that’s an entirely fair characterization of the protest last night, neither the blog post nor the comments.

    I follow your blog with interest, Frances, but I’m troubled by the ageism here that dismisses protestors — whether you think their positions are legitimate or not — as “young kids.”

    I was in that crowd on Fri night and I’m 35; I was with people my age or older, and most of the people I saw were my age or older. Yes, there were some late teens in the crowd as well, but the vast majority of people I saw were in their 30s or 40s, some in late 20s.

    If you want to call that ‘young kids,’ well, I might take that as a compliment under other circumstances, but here I see that as a dangerous continuation of a common discourse that dismisses the legitimacy of young people’s political engagement.

    Even if most of them were in their teens (which they weren’t), what does that have to do with anything? Why would that de-legitimize their actions?

    On the topic of unclear messages from the protest: It is difficult for anti-corporate globalization activism to present a single unified message, because of the complex nature of what is being protested. So people championing many different issues come out together to protest what they identify as the root cause (or, in the case of the Olympics, a symptom of a root cause).

    And in a way, having a plurality of messages could be a strength, if we lived in a media environment that appreciated nuance and took the time to explore and help the public understand complex issues. I’m not saying that you’re creating that oversimplified, chasing-the-last-dollar media environment, Frances, so don’t take that as a personal dig. I like reading your blog, and the much-more-thoughtful comments here than at places like the Global and Mail (where all the comments about protesters seem to be along the lines of “Lock them up til the Olympics are over!” or “Lock ’em up and throw away the key!”).

  • Jeremy Hill

    “…these are mostly young kids with some theoretical ideas about corporate exploitation, mixed in with a few diehard radical oldtimers, and a sprinkling of really marginalized people who are looking for something to vent against because of the truly crappy deal that life has handed them.”

    This is perhaps true of the crowd once we reached BC place and were surging up against the line of police.

    The composition of the crowd that actually rallied from the VAG was different, and the crowd was a lot larger – maybe 2000 or 3000 people. I think the volume of support for an anti-Olympic message could have been the message.

    Coverage this morning seems gathered around the ‘it’s all the same faces’ line; it looks like the show of support yesterday has been edged out.

  • gmgw

    Frances, I was about 100 feet behind you at the Robson & Beatty confrontation with the police line, having joined in the march from the Art Gallery. I would have to agree with you that the event lacked both organization and focus (though I think it was eminently worthwhile). I commented on this to an acquaintance who I encountered at the Gallery and he said “Well, what do you expect from anarchists?” Facile, but perhaps reflective of Vancouver-style anarchists, who have never seemed able to decide just what it is they want to accomplish. Even their exhortations to smash the state have always seemed half-hearted.

    I’m a jaded veteran of many protest marches in this city, going back to the anti-Vietnam War marches of the late 60s. It’s been a long time since I actively participated; I grew tired of hearing the same speeches and seeing the same people at every event. The glory days of Vancouver protest marches were the huge anti-war marches of the early 80s, which drew crowds of up to 100,000 people. Those were phenomenal events which drew in an amazing cross-section of the entire community. They were also great theatre, with an astonishing variety of costumes, signage, and street performers. It’s not surprising those marches came off so well, as they were organized and carried out by a broad coalition of activists from various movements: antiwar, labour, women’s organizations, community groups, diverse ethnic groups, and even politicians– I remember, on a couple of the big marches, encountering not only Mike Harcourt, when he was mayor, but seeing politicians from all parties and levels of government.

    Sadly, that kind of multi-partisan solidarity no longer exists in Vancouver. Indeed, I’m not sure it exists anywhere– witness the American left’s inability, during the Bush era, to muster demonstrations against the Iraq war that in terms of scale rivaled the massive and deeply moving marches on Washington during the Vietnam war (and which had a decisive effect on turning public opinion against that war). What we’re left with, at least hereabouts, is what we saw yesterday: a ragtag assemblage of self-styled anarchists (as my acquaintance, a veteran of these events, said when a bunch of black-hooded, black-masked young people filed by, “Oh, look! Ninjas! But aren’t they supposed to be more, uh, secretive?”), some half-assed environmentalists, young punks, aging punks, some veteran lefties of even greater age, a scattering of labour union folks, a handful of First Nations representatives, and a whole bunch of unclassifiables, of which I guess I’d have to be counted as one. Plus a thirty-foot salmon, a guy in a bunny hat carrying a large, completely incoherent sign, another guy in a Commedia dell’Arte mask and derby hat banging on a bass drum, and a couple of stilt people dressed as tree-people of some sort, topped off with conical hats (to quote my witty acquaintance again: “Hmm, Chinese Ents”). And much else besides.

    Technically, things were a joke. Thanks to a completely inadequate sound system, the speeches at the Art Gallery were inaudible. Dozens of media people circulated through the crowd, notebooks in hand, looking for interviews (I saw Robert Matas there, Frances, but I didn’t say hello to him for you–sorry). On the march itself, we were plagued by the usual young girls screeching into bullhorns, giving the crowd their chant of the moment. “No! Olympics! On stolen Native land!” was extremely popular, but seemed to me to be kind of pointless, given the prominent role various First Nations bands are playing in hosting the event, not to mention the Squamish Nation billboards– located on *their* land– that are currently running ads for VANOC. “2010 homes, not 2010 games!” was another big hit. At one point on Robson a small group began the famous chant from the Allende years in Chile: “The people/United/Shall never be defeated!” which almost brought tears of nostalgia to my old eyes; but it quickly faded away, probably due to its unfamiliarity. No sense of history, these kids. Oh well, “This is what/Democracy looks like!” wasn’t a bad substitute, and is another sort-of classic.

    At one point I tried to interest one of the bullhorn ladies in getting something going based on the button I was wearing: “Health Care Before Olympics!” I am facing a serious health issue at the moment and you could say that this is why I was there; it makes me angry beyond belief to think what the security budget alone for this abomination could do to advance, say, cancer research. Health care was an issue which absolutely no one mentioned on the march, neither verbally nor on signs. There were plenty of signs and speeches denouncing the Alberta tar sands (how does that relate to the Olympics??), but none denouncing cuts in funding for health care, which, from my admittedly biased POV, is an extremely urgent issue in this province– so much so that even the most diehard Olympics supporter has to concede that point. Taking up the health care cause would be a good way of making the “anti” movement more marketable, I think; but nooo… Perhaps the problem is that so much of the “movement”, such as it is, is composed of young kids who, like young kids everywhere, think they’re immortal. The thought that they, too, will become old and sick one day never enters their minds. They can’t relate to it. So instead they shout feel-good slogans about “stolen Native land” and housing–worthy issues, but hard to sell in Kerrisdale. Anyway, the bullhorn lady thought it was a great idea but nothing came of it. The slogan didn’t have the same… resonance, I guess.In the interest of being fair and balanced, I have to admit that no one was chanting “Restore funding to the arts”, either (though at least that issue inspired a few signs).

    Throughout the march there were not only helicopters circling endlessly but also people visible on rooftops, wielding video cameras and still cameras with long lenses. Some of them were wearing uniforms. I guess my mug is back in the police files; been a while (this is one good reason why so many people wore masks and disguises). When the march reached the police blockade at Beatty things came to a halt and we all stood there for an extended period. This is where the disorganization really began to show. No word was passed through the crowd as to what was going on, or what was intended. Those of us not in the front lines couldn’t see what was happening up front. It had been clear that sooner or later the cops would draw a line and forbid us to cross it– I only found out later that the plan had been to circumnavigate BC Place; yeah, right, like that was going to be allowed to happen. I’m surprised they let us get as close as they did. Although there were a couple of dozen bicycle cops in position along the curbs, I only discovered the massive mounted police line up front by getting up on the curb and standing on tiptoe (I’m not a tall guy). Garth Mullins, who’d harangued the crowd several times during the march, was nowhere to be seen. At one point two people standing in front of me and wearing “Medic” signs suddenly and hurriedly whipped a couple of gas masks out of their packs, causing a minor panic in their vicinity, as people wondered what they’d seen to cause them to react this way. It was, of course, a false alarm. The situation cried out for an eloquent speaker who could have delivered a barnburner of an inspirational speech, traditional at the end of protest marches, summarizing the event, reiterating its purpose, and sending people home with a message of hope and inspiration. Instead we got nervous-sounding voices coming through the (inadequate) sound system calling repeatedly for people to move back slightly as “the Elders were in danger” (there was apparently some kind of group of Native elders up front; the perceived “danger” was from the cops) and asking the the crowd to make way, Moses-like, for the “choir”. “Beautiful singing” was promised. Eventually some woman with a decent gospel-styled voice began singing, a cappella, a couple of the old southern civil-rights songs (I think I heard “We Shall Not be Moved”), but it was too little, too late. The sound system didn’t carry well, it was getting dark, a cold and heavy rain had begun to fall, and people were drifting away in clumps. Confused groups of people arriving for the opening ceremony were trying to push their way through the crowd. It was all terribly unfocused and anticlimactic.

    I went over and stood on the sidewalk near a couple of middle-aged guys who were rolling up their banner. One of them said “Well, I think the point has been made…”. It had been, more or less, but it could have been made far more effectively and with far greater eloquence. As I wondered up Robson, I passed not only hordes of what I have chosen to call (in deference to historical precedent) Redshirts hurrying toward the stadium, but also a big guy who was walking along wearing a sign saying “Tickets bought and sold”. Clearly a scalper. Another guy rushed up to him with a roll of twenties big enough to choke a horse and they did a transaction. The sight seemed to somehow epitomize what the Olympics are really all about– making money– but I was too cold, wet, and tired to come up with any original thoughts. I went home instead.

    The 11 PM Global and CTV newscasts, to my surprise, gave fairly extensive coverage to the march. What didn’t surprise me was that the reports prominently featured the event’s negative aspects, notably the confrontation with the idiot Redshirt pro-Olympic provocateur goons who showed up at the Art Gallery to try to disrupt the proceedings by yelling and waving printed signs saying “You say protest, we say party!”. What an inspirational message. Their deportment resembled that of the UBC Engineers during the Lady Godiva march. They were immensely outnumbered and deserved to be shouted down. It’s too bad that the newscasts played up that angle, as it was pretty inconsequential in the context of the larger event. Throughout the march I saw people of all ages who were clearly pro-Olympics and/or ordinary citizens passing through the ranks of marchers, some merely trying to cross the street. None were harassed; nor were the numerous, grim-faced, blue-jacketed people wearing volunteer name tags and wielding cameras with which they were taking pictures of people in the crowd– for what purpose is anyone’s guess. They were roundly ignored. Whatever the media reports may have said, the overwhelming majority of marchers that I saw– and I was in various locations during the march itself– were quite well-behaved. There’s always a contingent of self-styled “anarchists” who wouldn’t know Kropotkin from a sack of potatoes, think the Sex Pistols invented the concept, and think that shouting “fuck the police” is a revolutionary act, but as Jesus should have said: “Lo, the assholes are always with ye”(the morons who were tearing around the West End on Saturday morning, wreaking what they hoped was havoc, were undoubtedly of this ilk).

    As that anonymous gentleman well said, “I think the point has been made”. And it’s a point that cannot be made enough over these next few trying– and troubling– weeks… and beyond.
    gmgw

  • spartikus

    Excellent and insightful comment, gmgw.

  • landlord

    “…the huge anti-war marches of the early 80s…”. Which war during the early 80’s? Vietnam ended April/30/75. Iran vs. Iraq? Soviet occupation of Afghanistan? The Falklands campaign? I was here and I don’t recall anything of the kind.

  • gmgw

    Dear Landlord (no showbiz pun intended):
    People didn’t stop fighting wars in various parts of the world, nor did the nuclear powers stop producing and deploying nuclear weapons, just because you spent a few years holed up in your basement. And if you were living here back then yet somehow remained unaware of the big peace marches, that’s just about the only excuse of which I can think.
    gmgw

  • Glissando Remmy

    Frances, again well done!

    JCobb, Chris Shaw is a decent man that’s trying hard to keep the Olympic hooligans honest. I admire his courage, keeping in mind that he works in that highly poisonous academic environment. So, do you have anyone in mind to replace him? Ask your holly people. Also, I would like to send you a roll of toilet paper so you can wipe that mouth of yours…

    gmgw, excellent reporting. Thanks.

    Landlord, it could have been a typo …’70 instead of ’80 or maybe gmgw was referring to any of the following events (that were followed by mass demonstrations throughout the world, not only in Vancouver): John Lennon (great song writer and peace activist) assassinated; Ronald Reagan (great actor) announces Defence Plan Called Star Wars. These were early ‘80s! No reason to play smart.

    We live in Vancouver and this keeps us busy.

  • Tessa

    More nuance would be appreciated, Frances. Too much of the reporting on this event has focused on one relatively minor tense moments between the protesters and the police, rather than the thousands who peacefully marched without any trouble or, heaven forbid, talking about some of the reasons behind the march. Too much reporting tends to dismiss the protesters for whatever reason, or lump everyone together with those vandalizing property. Thankfully the police statement didn’t, even though almost every media outlet has.

    A big thanks to gmgw, however, for his insightful comment.

  • JCobb

    Glissando Remmy, thanks for the offer of the paper, but please don’t send any of that recycled stuff. A full case of Kirkland will do. As to Mr. Shaw, I have no specific replacement in mind. Anyone will do.

  • Stephanie

    I am sorry, Frances, but your woefully belated discovery that event tickets were prohibitively expensive took my belief in the usefulness of your Olympic reporting down several notches. That the Games are a party for which many people pay and to which pretty much none of them are invited is central to why people object to it. How in god’s name could you have missed that?

  • Frances Bula

    Stephanie,

    I can only assume the high feelings running at the moment have led you to make such a dismissive comment — you’re usually so reasonable.

    I chose to express surprise at the ticket prices as a regular resident of Vancouver, rather than pretending to be a reporter who knows everything. (And I’d had no reason to check them before since my reporting has been pretty exclusively confined to the city’s preparations for the Games.)

    I’d also add that, since I put that post up, I’ve taken a look at the prices for other events. They’re actually quite reasonable. Many are in the $25-75 range and there are still some available for women’s hockey. Yes, the opening ceremonies, figure skating and upper-end men’s hockey game tickets are crazy. But then so are boxes at GM Place and I don’t see people demonstrating in the streets over that.

    That doesn’t mean I’m defending everything to do with them. I think I’ve expressed my ambivalence enough times here for that to be clear.

  • Hoarse Whisperer

    Oh, Stephanie.

    I am sure Frances is weeping in utter shame as you castigate her for her apparent reportorial failings.

    The “usefulness” of her Olympic reporting??
    For whom? You? For what? In support of your own viewpoint? Good. Grief.

    So good of you to correct her. But, um, I thought you objected to the Games because they diverted monies that you feel should go towards other things. Now, shockingly, I find out that the real reason that you object to these Games is because you can’t geta ticket to a curling practice session! Egads, woman, stay on message. Whatever it is…

    In closing, let me regale you with a favorite (and short) poem from Canadian Jewish poet Irving Layton—who would have very derisively/decisively dismissed your protestations that broken store windows don’t mean something.

    “I want the world perfect!’, the fanatic cried,
    And did his bit,
    For next moment, he died.

    PS. Alex Bilodeau has just won Canada’s first gold medal on home turf.

    (A POLITICAL STATEMENT: As purveyor of a yet-to-be-opened website called PORN—Politics Out, Rock the Nation—I would like to add that I consider Cypress Mountain to be the ancestral territory of anyone who loves nature, skiing, snow-shoeing and hot chocolate!

  • Stephanie

    It is probably the case that it’s the emotion of the moment, yes, but something about it really rubbed me the wrong way and made me frustrated and sad. But yeah, it’s entirely possible that I’m overreacting.

    The past few days have been both exhilarating and frustrating. Being in the middle of a number of the actions that have happened, knowing people who have worked tirelessly for many months to make them happen, and then reading some of the dismissive comments people have been making about them, has been a really bizarre experience.

    It’s hard not personalize stuff, you know?

  • landlord

    @ Stephanie : try to avoid the use of the passive voice. Instead of “…being in the middle of…actions which have happened”, try “acts which I committed”.

  • Stephanie

    Silly landlord, I wasn’t at the Heart Attack action. I’ve already said that in a previous thread. And when there are thousands of people at a march, the experience is very much “being in the middle” of it. It’s really been quite wonderful.

    And now I have a tent village to support. Ciao.

  • Dan Cooper

    My first thought on reading this is: perhaps the arguments “against” are multiple and confused, but so are the arguments “for” the Olympics. Is it about The Glorious Amateur Athletes/Athletics? Pumping Up The Economy? Being a World Class City/Province/Country? International Order and Cooperation? Patriotism and Cheering for the Home Team Uber Alles In The Grand Tradition of (a carefully cropped of context) 1936 and Our Valiant Men and Women in Afghanistan?

    Second thought: If the protestors had all been carrying identically printed signs about a single topic, they would have been derided as pawns and mouthpieces.

    That being said, I was ambivalent about the march, as about the Olympics here as a whole, and so decided to take part. I honour those who did, though, and particularly thank Yael and gngw for their reportage. I’m glad that both the police and protestors did not push each other too far.

    As for Frances’ repeated slams on the participants as just a bunch of stupid, useless kids, it’s good to know that we useless, lazy immigrants are not the only people you see as destructive to Canadian society. Then again, since between us immigrants and the young are the future of this society, where does that leave you?

  • Dan Cooper

    My third paragraph above should say, “…NOT take part,” rather than “take part.” I apologize for my poor editing.

  • Frances Bula

    Dan — I’m a little confused about your attack on me for being against useless lazy immigrants. Is that because of my blog post saying that they were on a lot of eastside soccer teams and having trouble getting there or paying fees? I didn’t know that suggesting there should be government support for community activities that involve lots of immigrant kids constituted labelling them as useless and lazy.

    I also don’t believe I had “repeated slams on the participants as just a bunch of stupid, useless kids,” I think that’s also a mischaracterization. I said the crowd was dominated by them — which when you’re trying to established a broad-based protest is not a good sign.

  • landlord

    “… a lack of vision”. Cute. Is that a lack of vision or a lack of Vision? Mind you, several Councillors do frequently wear black.

  • Dan Cooper

    Frances, I was referring to: “It is hard to take unalloyed pleasure in hosting this expensive party when, for example, your eastside kids’ soccer fees are being doubled because there’s less government money or when your entire soccer team is dominated by refugee and immigrant kids whose families can’t afford any fees at all. That’s not much of an investment in sports for children.”

    As written, this paragraph puts forward two complaints, separated by an “or.” One is about a lack of funding. The other, separately and using scare terms (“entire” and “dominated,” notably), is about the troubles caused by indigent immigrants. This is continued in your later post:

    “My friend has given up driving her own son to the games — he has to walk — because she and a couple of other parents have to pick up all these other kids for the games, since their parents don’t have cars or the wherewithal to get them there, it seems.”

    Actually, this sentence particularly struck me. Aside from its continuing use of scare terms (for example “all these,” underlined with the rather snarky in my view, “it seems”), I did not follow the logic of the situation. Your friend had to drive her son and others to the games, yet the games are in walking distance? Or, she would rather let her son walk too far than be imposed on to transport other children? And now that she does not drive the other kids, how do they get to the games? Or does the team forfeit for lack of players?

    As for what you wrote about youth, I look at, “these are mostly young kids with some theoretical ideas about corporate exploitation.” Message: young people do not have a real understanding of the issues; they are ignorant/stupid and their views are not important/they are useless.

    Perhaps this are not what you meant, either about immigrants or youth. However, that is what the words you chose seem to say.

  • hnenry

    “Sociopathic Underachievers all. While the behaviour of this rabble is predictable and to be largely ignored, what is troubling is that UBC continues to keep Chris Shaw on the payroll. Is this the type of individual we want teaching our children? And to what degree are his poisonous secretions allowed to influence our students?

    UBC, is this the best you can do?”

    There is a massive difference between shaw and these kids. Maybe you should figure it out before you just lambaste a person for speaking out against an obvious excuse to steal tax money. It never stops amazing me how your kind can yell about every single section of society and what a bunch of evil bums they are, and then allow something like the biggest ripoff in the history of the nation to go unchecked…. educate yourself.

  • MB

    I, too, am a veteran of the 80s marches. There were not only several wars roiling throughout the world at the time to protest, but the Solidarity marches also mushroomed to protest the unprecedented BC government cutbacks to social programs while concurrently pumping billions into megaprojects. It was a complete contradiction of the “restraint” moniker the government acted under. It had little to do with fiscla restraint, but everything to do with being bitten by the then fashionable (in some circles) neoconservative bug which included much doublespeak and inverted logic, but left the public economy in tatters.

    Seven of us organized a petition at UBC in early ’85 that garnered 10,000 signatures to protest the cutbacks to education. Ironically, I spent so much class time in the ‘organizing committee’ thatI almost got the boot from my program if it wasn’t for a sympathetic director.

    In the early to mid-80s there were mass bed closures in hospitals while publicly-funded NE coal exploits were expanded. Schools were dimished or closed while the Coquihalla highway was built. How on Earth can that be called restraint?

    The marches evolved into the annual Peace March which, as gmgw elloquently pointed out, drew tens of thousands even from the more liberal-minded middle class.

    So, the Olympics are here, and I also fear that the debt for hosting them will be paid down in part by cutbacks to healthcare, just at the time when we Boomers, who make up the largest demographic ever conceived, will need its services. Governments come and go, and each one is bitten by some kind of ideology. But the ideology of long-term planning hasn’t been one of them.

    The protestors numbers are fewer — in fact way fewer — than ever before. There were 1,500 cheering people lining every 6-block section of the torch relay in the burbs, a lot more than that in the centre of the city. The transit system is completely jammed with hundreds of thousands of Olympics supports every day. By any measure, public support is very high by comparison. How do you fight that?

    Perhaps the biggest concern to the 23 million Canadians watching the opening ceremonies wasn’t the cost or the future ramifications of an Olympian debt, but the fact Bryan Adams so badly flubbed his lip-syncing cue.

    To me that was overcome when kd land sang into a live microphone with that golden voice of hers.

    That’s another way of saying that while a lot of us are very concerned, we are not bitter, and can appreciate some of the accomplishments of Canadian artists and athletes represented by this event.