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.