Cops divide anti-Olympics protesters, and conquer them -

Cops divide anti-Olympics protesters, and conquer them

Vancouver police strategy of passive enforcement is letting the air out of the protests. For now.


It was dubbed the “heart attack march.” The idea, said one demonstrator, was to clog the main arteries of downtown Vancouver “like a Big Mac clogs the ones in your body.”

Did it work? Well, traffic on Georgia Street did grind to a halt yesterday as about 200 protesters worked their way from downtown Vancouver to the West End, tipping mail and news boxes. The Lion’s Gate Bridge closed briefly, briefly cutting off the north side from downtown.

And the troublemakers inflicted a bit of damage, smashing windows at the TD Tower and the Bay department store—a corporate emblem of the Games as official supplier of the Canadian team apparel. Some of them defaced transit buses; others kicked cars. One masked demonstrator spray-painted the anarchy symbol on the side of an SUV carrying Olympic officials.

Still, a few cracked panes and some bemused motorists falls a long way short of what the organizers of this morning’s disruption must have envisioned. For months, a whole spectrum of protest movements have been promising to turn these Games into a platform for their assorted causes, from aboriginal land rights to homelessness. A few warned they’d get nasty if the police got in their way.

Yet so far they seem to be spinning their wheels, running up against public indifference and a platoon of riot cops who resolutely refuse to be drawn into confrontations. Seven demonstrators found themselves in handcuffs today while workmen quickly arrived to fix the broken glass on the damaged buildings. By noon, the Bay was back to selling it’s trademark maple leaf mittens.

The restraint of police answers in part one of the big questions hanging over the Games. Would these Olympics be defined by images of masked kids sacking the city and riot police knocking heads together?

If current trends hold, the answer is no.

The potential for ugliness was certainly there. With cops milling on street corners, and around the main Olympic sites, there was a discernible tension in the air. That tension rose after yesterday’s attempts to mar the torch relay and opening ceremonies. A couple of officers were hurt by flying bottles and sticks, testing the resolve of their colleagues to keep calm.

Today’s confrontations, said some of the young people on the ground, were a deliberate attempt to step up the stakes after last night’s more passive marchers ran up against the barricades well short of BC Place, where the opening extravaganza took place.

Using social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter, ringleaders called on the faithful to strike on the first day of Olympic events, and warned participants to brace for trouble. “It was advertised as a bit more militant,” said Jasmin Mujanovic, a 23-year-old marcher told Maclean’s. “As you can see, the police made a large presence and put a stop to that.”

They did so using classic divide and conquer strategy. As the initially large mob of demonstrators marched up Robson Street toward downtown, waving a black anarchy flag, about two dozen police with shields suddenly rushed out from a side street. They formed a line across the street, blocking anyone from passing (several women carrying yoga mats were stopped and had to convince officers they weren’t with the protestors).

The standoff lasted about 20 minutes, protestors dancing, beating drums and playing a trombone while police maintained their human wall. Finally, without any apparent warning the police in the middle charged forward, pushing many of the protestors back down the hill. Meanwhile a group of bicycle police swept in and created a new line, with half the protestors now on the outside chanting “Let them go.” The police repeated this tactic until the protestors were fragmented into small groups. Some fled, a few were marched away in handcuffs.

More striking still was the open hostility the demonstrators encountered on the street. Jon Reisenger, a Canadian who lives in Spokane, Wash., followed the group, righting the newspaper and mailboxes the protestors overturned, snapping back at insults the marchers hurled his way. “These people are trying to cause damage to Vancouver,” shrugged the 29-year-old marketing manager, who came to the Olympics as part of an organization that provides discounts for athletes. “The less of this mess the news media can see, the better it is for Vancouver.”

Angry members of the public challenged one male demonstrator who had a green bandanna over his face. “I came out here and I did good,” he said defiantly. “And I’m going to go home tonight and sleep like a baby.” “Why don’t you take off that mask if you’re so damned proud?” someone shouted at him. He stormed away.

As with many anti-globalist, anti-capitalist marches, it was hard to make out a specific cause from the group. Lauren Gill, wearing a blue cloth badge reading “Fuck You and your Fucking Olympics,” said she supported the march but “I don’t support violence.” She said she was marching as part of a group of “feminist abolitionists” opposed to the sex trade industry. “That message wasn’t heard today,” she said because of the violence.

Another man in the crowd carried a giant placard saying,”Free Leonard Peltier,” in reference to the American native activist who is currently serving a double-life sentence for the murder of two FBI agents.

“If you want to put a banner to it, it’s social justice,” said Mujanovic, who travelled from York University in Toronto to participate in the protests. “There is a number of issues people are concerned about. Housing is a big one. Civil liberties are another. There’s also the destruction of the environment that happened as a result of all the venue and infrastructure that was built up for the Games.”

In any case, between the police tactics and the poor public reception, the demonstration slowly broke up into small bands of protesters darting through alleyways, in many cases texting their comrades in an effort to regroup.

All signs suggest they need a new strategy. The city’s police chief, Jimmy Chu, said today he and his officers are intent on prizing away the harder, “criminal element” who “hide within the legitimate protestors.” But the window smashers and spray-painters are about the demonstrators only hope of attracting much attention.

Which means the stakes are about to go way up in Vancouver. Or way down.

with files from Ken MacQueen and Jason Kirby

Filed under:

Cops divide anti-Olympics protesters, and conquer them

  1. I wouldn't say it's accurate to describe the public as indifferent. A lot of people here are not happy about the Olympics. Last night's opening ceremony alone cost a shocking $40 million dollars in a city and where homelessness is rampant, and in a province with Canada's highest rate of child poverty and lowest minimum wage — and it wasn't even particularly spectacular; certainly it didn't hold a candle to Beijing or Athens. All this at a time when funding for the arts has been slashed to virtually nothing. To add further insult, on the very morning of the ceremony a further $10 million in cuts to social services was announced. We've had our freedom of speech threatened and face ridiculous restrictions imposed by the IOC via VANOC. To pay for the games, parking rates have tripled and meters have been extended to 10pm 7 days per week, taxes have been raised, the city is on the hook for the $1 billion dollar athletes' village, and the security bill is approaching $1bn — and that doesn't include the cost of police overtime, which could run well into the millions. Additionally, homeless, mentally ill and addicted people in the Downtown Eastside have faced increasing harassment from officials and poorly trained private security. Plus, disturbing reports that came out of the luge incident suggest that Canada has been playing unfairly in its determination to win Olympic gold on Canadian soil for the first time by restricting access to courses, allegedly allowing Canadian lugers 300 training runs each on the same course foreign athletes only had 40 runs on. So, while a lot of Vancouverites are supportive of and excited about the Olympics, a lot of us are not happy about them at all.

    • Indifferent is not the word I would use to describe the feeling of my building over looking David Lam park.

      Distaste at the waste, is the word I would use.

      Last night I got to see Harper's motorcade drive by with serons blasting.

      I hope Harper is enjoying the GAMES.

      GET BACK TO WORK HARPER AND FACE up to what you have done in Afghanistan. Your lies have caught up to you.

    • "and the security bill is approaching $1bn"

      If there weren't so many protest groups making threats of violence and disruption there would be a lot less money being spent on security!

      • Nonsense. Protesters aren't the threat, terrorism is.

  2. What a horribly slanted and full of inaccuracies piece, it is no wonder Mc'leans has almost no readership.
    Jason Kirby must love to be dominated because his take on it reality has him in worship of tryanny position, and his objectivity as a reporter is sadly lacking. Anyone who is not clear on the questionable evidence in the pellitier conviction but suggests the mans guilt soley die to conviction, is no friend to journalism or an open and free society. Jason should write articles about Iran, from Iran for a year, then hopefully he would learn how not to be a propoganda puppet for those who aim either to control, or scapegoate us.
    protesters are the only peolple in history responsible for change, like it or not.

    • mm, i agree for the most part. but you've got to remember the investors and educators and thinkers and innovators and leaders and artists and writers and readers and workers and voters and builders and farmers and poets and explorers and orators and doctors and all kinds of folk.

  3. Having lived through the last 7 years of Olympic preparation and now the first part of the main event, I can say the strangest part has been how irrelevant the athletes are to the whole piece. It appears to me that the Olympics are all about selling stuff and making sure the capitalist machine keeps on running. They are about the transfer of huge amounts of public money into private hands. They are about highway expansion and the destruction of formerly pristine wilderness. They are about how amazingly anti-democratic and dictatorial the IOC can be. They are about the suspension of the Charter. They are about the enforcement of draconian copyright laws and the creation of advertising opportunities. They are about having a massive and unnecessary police presence in peaceful city and having security helicopters constantly overhead searching for dissenters. They are about the closure of bicycle routes and the creation of traffic jams, and the way this is spun as "green". I am sorry for London and for Sochi and for Rio and for all those cities who are next and next and next.

    • Well put Mable.

      The Olympics has so little to do with sport. It is about Nationalism and Politics.

  4. Note the difference in tone with regards to article titles:

    The Los Angeles Times: "Activists clash with riot police in Vancouver" "Cops divide protesters, and conquer them"

    Quite easy to see why I'm relying on foreign journalism while the games go on even though I'm living right next door to the games.

  5. “If you want to put a banner to it, it's social justice,” said Mujanovic, who travelled from York University in Toronto to participate in the protests. “There is a number of issues people are concerned about. Housing is a big one. Civil liberties are another. There's also the destruction of the environment that happened as a result of all the venue and infrastructure that was built up for the Games.”

    Right, then. Let's go assault police officers with bottles and smash windows. In the name of civil liberties and the environment. Brilliant.

  6. These people are so confused.

  7. It's undeniable that the Vancouver olympics have the lowest level of public support in the nation right here among the locals. We might not be marching or breaking windows, but only a fool would take that as evidence either of hostility to the marchers or of support for the games. We are NOT delighted by this, and most of the locals you will run into on the streets are gritting our teeth and putting up with it, while we brace ourselves for the swinging cuts in public programs and services that are the inevitible aftermath of the games. When BC natives held their potlaches, they were at least destroying the wealth they already had. The Olympics games always waste borrowed fortunes.

    • Thanks for your perspective, Stan. I'm in Prince George and there is a LOT of resentment up here. We have lost access to legal aid, surgeries in Vancouver for Northerners have been put off because of the lack of accommodation in Vancouver, and in Prince George itself, 14 schools are being closed outright. Prince George is not a really big city, so the closure of 14 schools in this size community will have a major impact on our local kids.

      Our streets and roads are crumbling, and never mind what StatsCan or anyone else says, the actual unemployment/underemployment of people here is very high, and with all the job losses we endured in the forest sector, access to retraining have been left wanting.

      Many of us feel like outsiders in our own province, and we had no opportunity to vote for or against the Games.

  8. What? Are some questioning the objectivity of MacLeans? How could you, with such upstanding scribblers as Mark Steyn regularly featured.

    But seriously, the co-called "anarchists" generally take an unproductive and illegal tact. Is violence sometimes justified?
    Well, yes, when one's immediate safety and security is threatened. Self-defense is an absolute. ( Unless you're a Palestinian, of course.)

    Do I sometimes question whether these oft-anonymous "anarchists" are who they are said to be? I have no choice. Nor does anyone . See video[youtube St1-WTc1kow youtube]

  9. Have you noticed the media uses phrases like "more than 200 violent protesters".There has been quite a few instances in the last 5 years where phrases like that were used and the media get their cameras in close to the action to make it look wild and crazy for shock value and a day or two later videos come out on youtube showing a small number in the group creating the disturbance. There are also videos that show the disturbers are actually undercover police officers trying to get the mob mentality going.It wouldn't surprise me if that was the case here to.

    • CTV had a story and video about this protest, and the number they gave of the "black block" , as they called them, were 20 to 30 indivduals. Here's the link to that vid, so folks can judge for themselves.

      I watched the video several times, and it seemed like the "black block" were so different from the rest of the protesters that there was no way that the rest of them would associate with them–but that's just my opinion…

    • Why am I not suppressed that the video (below)
      Was not to be seen?
      Go Joe! Jail time for all masked individuals sounds good to me.
      And put their pictures on the net.

  10. Vancouverites overwhelmingly support the Olympics. Its plain to see to anyone who is anywhere close to the city or who came within earshot of the torch relay. The "protestors" don't have a clue about what they are "protesting" and I'd bet not one of them could debate their issue of choice against most 9th graders. Peaceful and intelligent protest is welcome, even if I don't agree with their views… but, the facts are they don't have views – and this is made plainly obvious by the fact they hid like cowards behind masks. If you truly believe in your 'cause' you shouldn't be afraid to show your face. Their sport is anarchism and they will lose. They are not protestors, they are criminals and should be swiftly dealt with as such.

    • "Overwhelmingly"? Hardly. SOME Vancouverites support the Olympics, it's very true. But many, many do not:

      "The most striking thing in the [recent Angus Reid] poll is that as the Olympics get closer, British Columbians are less likely to see the Games as having a positive impact on B.C. and Vancouver," said Hamish Marshall, research director for Angus Reid. "Conventional wisdom was that as we got closer to the Olympics, people here would get more excited and more supportive."

  11. Hey Stan Wright – why is it undeniable… give us some facts. At least give us some anecdotal evidence to back up your post. Nothing, eh? Thousands and thousands of supporters lining the streets (a fact) for the torch relay tells me there is strong support for the games. Then there are the record Canadian audiences watching the olympics on TV (fact). I see and hear nothing but admonishment for the protesters. The only pro-protester comments I see are online, where you can hide face and identity: kind of like wearing a mask.

    • Have you been to DTES lately? Did you check out the Poverty Olympics? I'm sure the people which were not homeless at the time of the bid and now live on the street would show you a lot of support for the games…

  12. F- report. Maclean's deserves to fail.

  13. I would like to understand why "creation of advertising opportunities" is a bad thing…

    • It's not that the creation of advertising opportunities is necessarily a bad thing. What's bad is the RESTRICTION of advertising by anyone who isn't an "Olympic sponsor" or supporter, and the sheer overwhelming FOCUS on advertising. I think it's summed up quite nicely in two examples: the world's biggest and most advanced sporting event is sponsored by a fast food company and a soft drink company. Both of these companies run advertising implying that elite Olympic athletes regularly consume their products, which is highly unlikely, at a time when obesity rates in the Western world are skyrocketing. This isn't about sport; it's about money. And again, it's not the money that's bad, necessarily: you need money to train athletes and to put on sporting events. It's the extreme focus on money and the vast sums of money: $40 MILLION DOLLARS for a single 2-3 hour show?? In what universe is that reasonable in this economy and in this world, where people die of starvation and other wholly preventable causes every day and in our own back yard people are hungry and homeless?

      • The same world where James Cameron can spend $200 million to make a movie.

  14. I'm nonviolent -and an anarchist, by the way- so on Saturday I was in front of the Sochi pavilion, peacefully protesting, namely on the still unrecognized genocide+diaspora of the Circassian people (we're talking hundreds of thousands of people), 150 years ago, in the very site of the next Winter Olympics, Sochi 2014. Chants included: "Take your games and go away, genocide is not OK", "No Olympics on Stolen Native Land", "Sochi is land of genocide" and "Check your archives, these are not lies" (referring to the Russian population, as the crimes that were being denounced have been hidden from the public opinion but are registered in the czarist archives). That got zero media attention as far as I've seen, but hey, who cares about a genocide and a diaspora 150 years ago if we have live coverage of a smashed window today, right?

    From what I understand, the property damage that happened on Saturday was almost predictable, and probably no actions that intense will happen for the remaining of the Games. There are plenty of other protests happening during the games, almost on a daily basis, and there are plenty of problems to bring up to public spotlight, though. Many of us hope the media, both corporate and citizen-powered, will be there to report.

    • DO you seriously think that anyone in Canada is interested in your little rant? Grow up. None of us were born then and so had zero control over what happened in a foreign country. Move out of your parents basement and get a job like a real person.

    • By all means lets stop holding events that bring all the media to one place.

      If these events didnt exist someone would invent them so they could hold a protest.

      Say your piece, in peace, and then move along.

  15. Anyone that wears a mask to a protest is looking for trouble and the police should give them lots of it. The Olympic games is not the venue to protest all the imagined slights that get lefties nickers in a knot. They are an embarrassment to Canada and have no respect for the rights of all the people that want to cheer their favorite athletes.

    • No one's stopping you from cheering your favourite athletes, but people are trying to point out the insanity of spending so much money, trampling so many rights, and pushing so hard for what should be a simple sporting event. It's an embarrassment to Canada that BC has such a high rate of child poverty and such a low minimum wage. It's an embarrassment to Canada that we're allowing the environment to be so damaged for the sake of some games. It's an embarrassment to Canada that we're spending $6 BILLION dollars in the middle of a recession for a 3 week party. If anything, the protesters are a CREDIT to a Canada that (usually) encourages free speech. Dissent is a good thing: it means we have a healthy society. People who encourage police violence against anybody, however, those people are an embarrassment, especially in light of all the recent news about police violence in this very city.

  16. May be Komarade Libby Davies could get her 200 Junkies to come and be a claming influence on the rioters……….

  17. There's a lot of really poor speeling in this thred.

    • T's wt hpns whn u hv a txtng ppltn of fls and the dumbing down of the general population.

      • Bingo! Thank you, larry!

        • ya thx lerry

  18. Simple solution to all the problems in the world:
    Limit human population, then begin to teach humans to love and
    respect all what the Good Creator has put on this plant, and do not
    try to change anything , whether it be animal or environment. Do not
    harm God's loving animals. Eat very, very, little, if any at all, animal
    flesh, once in a while fish and egg, but the chickens must have lots
    of room to roam around and then nest comfortably.
    With limited human population we can have better health care and
    better education. We can do our own necessary manufacturing. Our
    air, earth, water and sun will in time become healed from all the
    horrible, ugly treatment humans have given.

    • Darlingsapphire – do you volunteer to die to reduce the world's population? (or do you even, more reasonably, agree not to have children?)

      I don't disagree with you that the world is overpopulated, and I am also a vegetarian. Humans follow their own creator given nature though, just as anything else does…

    • yes, and then we could learn to eat rainbows and frolic among the lolo beans just as our ancestors once did.

  19. "As with many anti-globalist, anti-capitalist marches, it was hard to make out a specific cause from the group."

    My, yes, that is a pickle. If only there were some sort of industry which trained and employed people to find background information about events and the motivations of the people involved, and then, I don't know, "report" that information in some fashion.

    There is no lack of information to be found online about exact reasons for which the various protests were organized. The quoted sentence is basically an admission that you are incapable of or unwilling to do your job, and that your editors see no reason to make you do your job. Quality publication, this.

  20. I had chicken last night and steak the night before. Yummy. God's creature's are so very tasty when cooked right.

  21. What I think has been learned that the public is growing increasingly frustrated with so-called direct action tactic of the more militant branch of social activists. A lot of protest voices were drowned out, and served to polarize the generally public against the protest movement at large. The black bloc anarchist fringe is a cancer to social activism and if the protest groups at large had any sense would put as much distance from them as possible instead attempting to downplay or in some cases justify their actions. Fortunately, the police have shown remarkable restraint in avoiding the kind of riot that this crowd was obviously trying to start. Money is achiles heel of the games, and if people boycotted all major sponsors, it would go a long way to curbing the finacial excess of these games…just my opinion.

  22. That movie won't be paid for by taxpayers for the next 30 years, it doesn't result in the removal of people's rights and freedoms, and, unlike the Olympics, it's not promoted as anything other than what it actually is.

    • how many people watched the olympics via tv and notwhat ? for the sake of promoting a city and a country i think that definitely acts to serve more usefully overall than a bunch'o entertainment.
      if you reject the olympics for their debt factor then you should reflect that by voting for and urging after a more conservative government.
      if you reject them for their consumerism then we should reflect that in first curbing our own personal consumption. is it so incredible that in a democracy whose citizens are often hopelessly in debt the country should only reflect the extravagance and apparent financial illiteracy of that democracy's adherents ?

      • Your first point is exactly what Olympics supporters always say. Yet historically cities that experience economic booms following the Olympics are the exception rather than the rule, and even among those the boom is typically only a few months. Certainly some businesses (such as hotels) make a lot of money from the Olympics, but they don't pass those earnings on to their employees; in BC some hotel employees are making $6 per hour even as the room charges in their hotels have quadrupled. And unlike cities like Lillehammer, which weren't well known prior to hosting the Games, Vancouver is already well known.

        As to your last point, it isn't surprising, but it is still incredible. Supposedly we elect governments that are good stewards. And you could argue (and many do) that we got some much-needed upgrades to the city, such as the Canada Line. But at the same time, a SkyTrain to the airport, while nice, doesn't do anything to solve the city's biggest transportation issues, and SkyTrain is the most expensive kind of rapid transit. Also, were the people of Richmond really crying out for an Olympic speed skating facility? Also, did we really need another ice skating rink at Trout Lake? There's already one just down the road at Britannia, plus six others around the city, most of which are underused. And was it really the best plan for the Lower Mainland to expand the Sea to Sky Hwy rather than to reinstate safer, more environmentally friendly and faster rail service?

  23. Those are not protesters! I live here in BC. They are same tax sucking losers that make a living off creating chaos towards anything that doesn't involve more money for their lazy butts. Of course they use the same tired line. The poor homeless people blah blah blah! Arrest the losers and send them back east where they came from. Its no secret here that every loser in Canada comes to BC for the weather. That way they don't have to worry about frostbite while they sit around begging for money for the next hit.
    Make no mistake the average person in BC is sick and tired of this 'what have you done for me lately' attitude. What' s more disturbing is the press seems to give them a such a loud voice! How is it that 5-10% of the population whining and crying gets all this attention! LOOK ABOVE PEOPLE. Most comments in this section are from the same losers in our streets right now breaking windows trying to get your attention. Like oversized teenagers that never grew up! Bloody embarrassing!
    The average TAX PAYING CITIZENS of BC support the games!

    • Just because you type that in all caps doesn't make it true. And I've commented here several times, I live in Vancouver, I don't support the Olympics, and I haven't been breaking any windows.

  24. Whether you support the Olympics or not, the time to protest is long past. If you had anything to say it should have been said at the time of the vote. It is now here and all the protesting in the world is not going to bring it to a halt. Let the ones who want to support all these young athletes enjoy the games. These men and women have worked extremely hard to get where they are today and they should be congratulated. If the punks that have to hide behind masks worked half as hard at schooling &/or a job they would not have to resort to violence to get their point across. They are looking for attention like a small child. Time to grow up or be punished. Jail time for all masked individuals sounds good to me.

    • This is entirely untrue. First of all, only a small number of protesters have resorted to violence, while the overwhelming majority are protesting peacefully.

      Now is an excellent time to protest, since shedding unwelcome light on the problems of the city even as it tries to hide them is a very good way to bring them back to the attention of those who have been unwilling to deal with them. In addition, pointing out the absolute insanity of spending $240 million per day on a few weeks of games while children in our own city are going hungry is something that needs to be done. The Olympics is essentially a gigantic corporate machine that has very little to do with the ideals it promotes and instead results in displacing people, damaging the environment, and lining the pockets of its sponsors.

      You know, most of those who are against the Olympics don't have anything against the athletes; it's a great thing to demonstrate the pinnacle of human achievement and skill. But it's also sobering to think that it costs an average of $40 million dollars to produce an Olympic gold medal winner.

      And finally, it's extremely disturbing to read remarks like "Jail time for all masked individuals sounds good to me," and very ironic considering the limitations that have been placed on the free speech of British Columbians and Canadians during these Games.

  25. I was the guy picking up the mailboxes and newstands the protestors were knocking down. The damage they cause just ads to the costs that they are protesting. A little Ironic isn't it.

    I am not a big fan of the police but I followed the protestors for two hours and I was impressed with the crown control the police enforced. They knew the world was watching and they acted accordingly. If you read any reports to the contrary make sure you ask for video evidence. There were at least 30 video cameras covering the march.

    Jon Reisinger

  26. FAIL on this article MacLeans. You have led people to believe that these protesters are nothing more than chaotic hooligans. The people of Vancouver are tired of being ignored. We are the ones paying for the party – we are the ones who will sacrifice to entertain the world, we are the ones seeing rare ecosystems bulldozed and covered in concrete for the sake of this circus… and the more we are ignored the louder we will get. Vancouver is turning into a police state, it is time to reel in our politicians. FAIL Macleans FAIL!

  27. As Inkless said there is lot of poor spelling in this thread.