Olympic protest zones don’t exist, VPD says

The RCMP–led Vancouver 2010 Integrated Security Unit and the Vancouver Police Department aren’t reading from the same page on the issue of protest zones during the Olympics.

Speaking by phone on behalf of VISU, Staff Sgt. Mike Cote told the Straight, “We know that there are going to be areas designated as safe assembly areas for people who want to use them”¦for demonstrations or gatherings, to do so legally and do so safely.”

Cote also said, “Location and who will actually be responsible for the monitoring of those—when I say monitoring, I mean if there’s an issue—the RCMP will not respond. It’s the Vancouver Police Department that will be responding.”

The RCMP officer added that the VPD is working with Vanoc on a list of these sites.

But when asked about these areas, VPD spokesperson Const. Lindsey Houghton’s short answer was “There are none.”

“I’m saying that there’s no such thing as a protest zone,” Houghton told the Straight in a phone interview. “Every public space, people will be free to protest, as much as they want as long as the protest is legal. If you want a number, there are tens of thousands of protest zones.”

Can protesters hold demonstrations near Olympic venues? “They can go as close to an Olympic venue as the fence will let them,” Houghton said. He added that these fences and the size of the security zone around venues are the responsibility of VISU.

John Richardson, executive director of Pivot Legal Society, told the Straight that as recently as December, he was communicating with RCMP Cpl. Howard Adams, who he understood to be in charge of protest zones.

Over the phone, Richardson read a portion of Adams’s e-mail to him, which states that he will contact Richardson once information is available. As of January 18, Richardson hadn’t heard back from the RCMP officer.

In July 2009, VISU head Bud Mercer told Vancouver city council that the establishment of free-speech zones was part of the security arrangements for the Games.

“I wonder if they don’t want people to be using the safe-assembly areas,” Richardson said. “One would think that they would have figured all this out by this point.”

David Eby, executive director of the B.C. Civil Liberties Association, hasn’t had much luck finding out about protest zones.

“We’ve been asking for them [details] for months, and they [VISU] refused to release them to us,” Eby told the Straight.

Eby added, “I think that they recognize that the appearance of these things, whether or not it was their intention, was quite draconian and that they are backing off of the initial proposal that they have to establish them, and that they’re trying to de-emphasize them.”



Joseph Jones

Jan 21, 2010 at 3:02pm

At an almost unadvertised event (Dec. 15, Rickshaw Theatre), city and policing officials carved one more notch into the handle of their claims to Olympic public relations. Half of VPD representative Steve Sweeney's presentation consisted of reading out a listing of prior public meetings. The audience consisted of about two dozen people.

On that occasion, V2010-ISU head Bud Mercer answered a question about when locations of "safe assembly areas" would be announced by saying that planning was “85 to 90 percent there.” Steve Sweeney had nothing to add – or subtract. (Find a full report on the evening at http://spectaclevancouver.wordpress.com/2009/12/17/olympics-q-a-december...)


Jan 22, 2010 at 12:25pm

From Hitler to Pinochet and beyond, history shows there are certain steps that any would-be dictator must take to destroy constitutional freedoms.

1. Develop a thug caste
2. Target key individuals
3. Control the press
4. Set up an internal surveillance system
5. Harass citizens' groups
6. Engage in arbitrary detention and release
7. Create a gulag
8. Invoke a terrifying internal and external enemy
9. Dissent equals treason
10. Suspend the rule of law



Jan 22, 2010 at 11:52pm

civil rights matter to me.


Jan 26, 2010 at 2:38pm

The people of Vancouver voted in a plebiscite on February 22, 2003 as to whether or not to host the Olympics. The result – 64% were in favour of hosting the Olympics. So I guess these protestors are saying that Democracy should be ignored?

The 1 billion budget for security is a direct result of these people who are so opposed to the Olympics that they turn to vandalism and violence as they voice their opposition. As examples, look to the protesters that threw paint on the Olympic clock the day it was unveiled, and threw balloons of urine at police and officials when the olympic flag was raised. Is this productive use of olympic spending? The majority of the people in Vancouver voted in a referendum to host the olympics, which could be done at half the cost if the vocal minority did not choose to sabotage the event at every turn.

Grow up and get a job!



Jan 28, 2010 at 7:14am

The fact that most people don't approve of certain anti-democratic aspects and the scale of public spending involved with the 2010 Olympics, and that some of them may want to exercise their constitutional rights to express themselves, has little or nothing to do with the $1 billion or so of public money being spent on security for this event. Political dissent and public protest, even petty vandalism, are nothing new in Canada and worldwide, and do not justify the scale and approach to security incorporated into this upcoming Olympics. The only credible explanation is that the purpose of these absurd security measures is to contribute to the generalised fear that is used to drive Orwellian public policy, to expand the ever more militarised state, local and private security and intelligence gathering apparatii, and potentially to create a context for the next big military industrial state engineered false flag terrorist event. Let's pray that the latter isn't true.

Realistically Speaking

Jan 28, 2010 at 11:16am

Thank you all for your concern about the state of freedom and democracy in Canada. At the same time, can y'all tone down the talk of Orwellian-this and false-flag-that? It really takes away from your gravitas....


Jan 30, 2010 at 12:06pm

I don't know, Realistically, CCTV cameras are pretty damn Orwellian. The words sound radical now, but that's in the contrast of the discourse we've grown up with, not because it isn't true.


Jan 30, 2010 at 4:30pm

"Grow up and get a job!"

Your advice to everyone - including our very own city councillors - who are concerned with the lack of democracy - to grow up and get a job, shows you are obviously not very bright. Lots of people hate the Olympics.... is it mandatory to add a statement like "Go get a job" to make your post sound more credible?

Back In "Reality"

Jan 31, 2010 at 8:40pm

It could never happen here because we're different.

proud canadian

Feb 1, 2010 at 1:30am

God Bless the Georgia Straight and the Vancouver Free Press. this is probably the most mainstream forum in the world right now where we can openly discuss concerns about the greater meaning of a global/corporate event like the olympics. paranoia or not, we need to be able to publicly discuss the realities of Orwell's warnings (let's not forget Huxley!). most of us who know what Orwellian means probably have jobs. but the unemployed have valid and educated opinions too!!!!