Vancouver housing activists bring Poverty Olympics torch to relay protest

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      There were some moments of tension when protesters marched in Victoria on October 30, the day the Olympic torch arrived in Canada and the torch relay started.

      Vancouver community activist Rider Cooey, a member of the Citywide Housing Coalition, participated in the protest and e-mailed this statement afterward:

      We brought Vancouver’s Poverty Olympics Torch to the Victoria anti-Olympics Festival and Zombie March on Friday.

      The torch, designed and fabricated by the John Foster team in the DTES [Downtown Eastside], is anchored in hardened insulation foam in a garbage can.

      The garbage can is bolted to an old 200lb iron hospital gurney. The weight and 12’ height of the whole assembly made the Poverty Olympics torch a formidable and visually prominent presence during day and night events in Victoria.

      We pushed and pulled it over the whole 3-hour route, and finally up to the fencing in front of the stage at the legislature. On stage, shills for the Corporate Olympic Torch used an unlimited “enthusiasm budget” to recruit well-meaning support and desperately flog an entirely artificial symbol of what they call, with grotesque hypocracy, “Olympic values.”

      Earlier, our march had started in good weather with 300 people, and as we turned finally toward the legislative grounds-- despite 2 hours of delays, thick rain, darkness, and police interference-- there were STILL 300 people marching. Including the band.

      Although it appears none of several tv interviews prompted by our torch and other marchers’ remarkable 25-foot articulated fabric salmon made it to air, both constructs were appreciated by marchers and onlookers.

      I think marchers were satisfied both the day and night were a success.

      We demonstrated that a loud, persistent, and orderly counter-event can have an impact on an official Olympic event. Uniformed police for the most part stayed on the sidewalks. A couple times they filtered in among the marchers and slowed their pace. They appeared to be trying to use their bulk to fragment the march into smaller groups. At one point they targeted chief zombie Alissa Westergaard-Thorp and her PA system, but backed off when marchers started to gather and shout. Despite some anxious moments, as far as I know no marchers were hurt or arrested, though officials and police later did what they could to discredit the marchers by linking them to marbles.

      We distributed Citywide Housing Coalition’s latest leaflets calling for a National Housing Strategy, as well as a leaflet and handbill on the Poverty Olympics. Please ask for electronic copies to distribute to your networks.

      The 3rd Annual BC Poverty Olympics will be held in Vancouver February 7, 2010, a week before the media’s rush to cover the official opening ceremony.



      Minority noise

      Nov 2, 2009 at 2:49pm

      End poverty in Vancouver? Come on! I can't afford to live there so I don't. Why should the non-tax payer be given free housing in Vancouver. Go somewhere you can afford, and stop your whining. Putting more social housing in Vancouver is just supporting peoples drug habits. We make it far to easy for drug addicts to live and support their addictions. Maybe some tough love it needed here to wake them up.


      Nov 2, 2009 at 6:56pm

      In this democracy we have the right to demonstrate our concerns in civil society, and that appears to be what the anti-poverty group is/has done. As impressive is the article printed which shares the concerns of the group. The "Minority noise" comment unfortunately for her/himself choses not to see the systemic issues that perpetuate poverty in this country.Regardless, we as Canadians have to ask , why is it that we are the only G8 country without a national housing program. I am sure that there are many elderly, single parents, working poor, and others with mental health issues who would benefit from having a safe, affordable, place to live. We may be "saving money" in the short run, but if we added up the whole cost of not having enough housing (prisons,shelters,hospitals...) just to name a few...I am sure it would be cheaper to society to assist people get back on their feet and contribute to society. It would be wise for all levels of government to combine their funding streams, so that programs could be streamlined, and readily accessed by those that need them most. I for one, as a construction worker, having just finished working in the downtown eastside for 8 months, noticed (how could one not) all the drug dealers, who hire the addicts (their clients) to sell for them. It would be nice to see the police arrest everyone of those street pedlers and the ones behind the scenes and charge/convict them, and imprison them. The addicts need our sympathy and action, get the services OUT OF THE DOWNTOWN can figure out the rest.

      Angry Victorian

      Nov 2, 2009 at 7:02pm

      This stupid demonstration just wasted more of my taxpayer money. Why don't you just move to a more affordable place. These are just crazy hippies who ruined a good night My mother lined up out side her seniors home for 2 hours in the rain. Just to be disappointed, why don't they just take their poor a*s back to the east side and give them all a one way ticket to mexico. No more problem with housing.

      Wrong Victorian

      Nov 3, 2009 at 8:19am

      If people could look beyond their immediate gratification they would see that during economic hard times people gravitate to the cities to find work, this is the historical pattern of capitalistic development. We are no different, the opportunitues in rural areas are diminished as a result of industrialization. This is exactly what is happening in Mexico. Since the North American Free Trade Agreement was implemented in 1994, we that in Mexico the cost of living has gone up 400%, while their wages only 200%, and these displaced rural people go to the cities for employment, so when that does not work they then go to the United States and now more so to Canada. We allow this to happen, so it is unlikely our impoverished people will go to Mexico, in fact the opposite is happening. Under the "logic" of the Angry Victorian, only those who have enough money should live in the urban areas, and the rest are disposable humans, seems rather negative and perhaps says more about that persons need to educate themselves, and move beyond their I, Me, My graditification ideology. Stereotypes (negative) does not shed light on the issues and only prolongs the pain people suffer.Equality of conditions leads to equality of opportunity!


      Nov 3, 2009 at 12:07pm

      The street people have come to Vancovuer to find work? That's news to me. Get your head out of theory and look at who they are and what they do and wehre they actually came from. More specifically, look at why they are in Vancouver and not, say, in Winnipeg or Quebec City.


      Nov 3, 2009 at 12:33pm

      The young CF fellow said it best. These protestors appear at every opportunity. The media needs to avoid them like the plague.


      Nov 3, 2009 at 4:09pm

      Actually I would suggest praxis, you are making assumptions about the entire population, I have stated there are diverse populations, those people are the majority of the ones you lump into one category. You have not challenge the fact on how populations become urbanized as a result of development. If you do some research you will notice that Vancouver (relative to the rest of Canada) was/is able to weather this recent recession better then other areas, people come here to work, unfortunately many do not get employment and end up either homeless, or having to rent $360.00 hotel rooms in the downtown eastside, which by the way our provincial government pays directly to these slumlords. Unfortunately many of them get caught up in the cycle in the downtown eastside. Are you aware that many of the drug dealers do not live in that area, they come in from other areas and get their "clients' to sell the drugs for them? Perhaps your too busy to do research, but if you get the chance do some, poverty is a process often extending from one generation to the next, fuelled by systemic racism, sexism, classism...hidden by the ideology of equality of opportunity that you are imposing on the most challenged peoples in Canada, namely Indigenous Peoples, who are over represented in all the social ills we find in Canadian society, and certaintly over presented in the downtown eastside...In fact if i used your logic, they are suppose to go back to their reservations, of course they can not because there are few opportunities there for work, or as Angry Victorian states to go to Mexico.

      Norma, needs to realize that media create alot of our reality for us by deciding what is newsworthy and from what angle the story should be told from. In far too many cases we get a bias report and do not get the other side of the story, in the case of the GS reporter, we got the other side, that in my sense is brilliant, as it does not happen to often. Every segment in society attempt to influence the media, why should activist be any different? The secret to a fulfilling life is to constantly learn and check in on your perspective, from what I have read so far from the other comments is that these people have stop the learning process and are expousing simpleton soundbites...but it is not too late!

      Mike Nike

      Nov 3, 2009 at 9:01pm

      Canada actually signed a human rights accord stating that every Canadian is entitled to adequate food clothing and shelter as a basic human right. They are in violation and the U.N. called our housing system a national disgrace as the only G8 nation without federally funded public housing. A woman's group is suing them right now as they don't have homes and they want this human rights bill enforced. Good luck ladies.

      Skinny Dipper

      Nov 7, 2009 at 11:51am

      The reality is that signs as shown in the photos above will become illegal in Vancouver and Whister during the actual games.


      Nov 7, 2009 at 7:02pm

      These people ("protesters") are peacefully expressing their opinion in a public way. We need to speak up for and protect this right or ultimately even every comment here will not be permitted.