On Friday I attended the mass anti-Olympic protest that headed from the Vancouver Art Gallery to B.C. Place. The Tyee has very generously let me share a byline with their go-to Olympic writer, Geoff Dembicki, even though I think “with files from Fabiola Carletti” may be more accurate—Talk about a place that gives its interns some credit! [Story here]
At the bottom of this post, you can also check out notes from my “journal”, which will take you to the scene on-the-ground and nix the “disembodied eye” style of reporting. As always, I invite you all to share your literal and ideological vantage points.
Today’s protest is the first major demonstration against the 2010 Games. It climaxes years of speculation about the potential for confrontation between protesters and a $900 million Olympics security force. Police in bright yellow jackets watched the proceedings from the sidelines, but did not appear intent on an intervention.
INTERN’S EYE VIEW: A few more voices from the march
One of the first people I spoke with was Jeremy Janz, a smiling protestor who held a sign that supported athletes/communities/eco-socialism and rejected capitalism.
“I have no problem with the athletes. They do a lot of hard work,” said Janz, but as he started to explain his position, another protester interrupted him.
“Hitler was a socialist too!” the man sneered, “You bring your shit in here. Stalin, Castro, Mao, another one of your heroes.”
As the two men exchanged retorts, two masked and hooded women passed behind them. They were on their way to the fountain, where they doused the fabric-wrapped tips of plywood boards with lighter fluid.
Although these masked protesters largely dodged the media, one agreed to speak to speak with me because I was representing the (non-mainstream) Tyee. Interesting.
“I’m not into doing any illegal actions,” said the man, who said he wears a mask to avoid being targeted for his political affiliations. Still, had an anarchist’s edge to him, asserting: “We’re more interesting than the fucking flags all over the place.”
(Worth noting that not all the masked protestors were like-minded, as they caused a serious property damage the following day.)
Two young men in red scarves and maple leaf accessories stood nearby, looking ready for VANOC approved Olympic activities. But Alex Bakker and Clay Yen had deliberately planned to check out the meeting place of “all these anti-mainstream objectives.”
Bakker, who agrees with some protester’s views but not all their tactics, said he is entirely against homelessness but entirely for the Olympics.
“People who view them as mutually exclusive are missing the point.”
When the march began, it stopped at intersections to deepen its impression on the city. Long line-ups of cars contained confused, amused or irritated drivers.
Randy Green had almost made it through the intersection before the protesters crossed his path. He stood outside his dark purple minivan waiting patiently.
“You know what, it’s just a part of life,” said Green, who had been on his way to work. “I’m not against it. I’m not for it. I’m just with it.”
The woman behind him was not quite so relaxed. She furrowed her brow and refused to speak with me.
As the march progressed, observers competed for elevation points. They lined up on ledges, teetered on newspaper boxes and climbed trees. There was no distinct line between card-carrying members of the media and interested onlookers, who documented the event from every possible angle.
The march came to a halt at Robson and Beatty, right in front of B.C. Place. Although I couldn’t get a clear view of the barricade, it seemed police officers on horses were preventing the protesters from going any further. Some who commented on the original Tyee story said that the protestors themselves had formed the barricade and that the other protestors did not force their way through.
A few people threw objects and raised middle fingers, but most only raised their voices to project their messages over barrier.
“This is what democracy looks like!”
“Homes not games!”
“The whole world is watching!”
Hailey McCarthy had come to the protest secure in the belief that it would be peaceful. She stood off to the side encouraging her young daughter to dance to the music emanating from the centre of the crowd.
“It’s important to stay active in your society,” said McCarthy. “We have a lot of influences from different places and I think it’s important to influence your child in both arenas. Let them know the entire picture.”
But the entire picture, I now understand, is really hard to piece together in the midst of such a massive and eclectic crowd. Such events splinter into viewpoints, and its difficult to do something as seemingly basic as ballpark the size of the crowd. I’ve heard reports of anywhere from 1,500 to 6,000. I personally think it was somewhere in between, but closer to the more conservative guesstimate. Still, I don’t have a helicopter and a time machine so don’t quote me on that.
A few more of my observations appear in the Tyee story but, in case interviewees google and find this, I want to thank everyone else who spoke with me yesterday. From a nice couple who approached me near the fountain to Joe “that’s-as-far-as-I-go” the street vendor selling world flags.
Again, I invite readers to share their vantage points below. We all have blind spots, after all.