Police accused of sending agents provocateurs to Olympic protests in Vancouver

Two plainclothes officers “outed” at Olympic Tent Village in Downtown Eastside

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      Anti-Olympic activists are accusing police of using agents provocateurs to incite protesters to commit illegal acts during last weekend’s rallies and marches.

      Harsha Walia, a spokesperson for the Olympic Resistance Network, told the Georgia Straight that activists suspect several people who participated in the protests on February 12 and 13 were undercover police officers.

      Although Walia said activists’ suspicions are mostly “unverifiable” and can only be confirmed by police, she’s “99.9 percent” certain that one man who attended the Take Back Our City protest outside B.C. Place during the Olympics opening ceremony was an agent provocateur.

      “He was pushing forward and forcing people into the police basically,” Walia said on her cellphone from the Downtown Eastside. “From past experience, when someone falls into a police officer, they pick you up for assault.”

      While the man appeared to be a photojournalist, he refused to identify his media affiliation when asked by protesters around him. He also remained silent as activists accused him of being a police officer. After the crowd chanted, “I smell bacon, I smell pork”, the man accepted an offer by officers to leave through the police line.

      According to Const. Olivier Lapointe, a spokesperson for the Vancouver 2010 Integrated Security Unit, if there were agents provocateurs at the Take Back Our City and 2010 Heart Attack protests, they wouldn’t have been from the Olympic security force.

      The Montreal police officer told the Straight by phone that VISU, which is led by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, is responsible for securing Olympic venues while the Vancouver Police Department deals with “everything that happens in the streets”.

      Previously, in a July 2009 interview with the Straight, another VISU spokesperson wouldn’t rule out the use of agents provocateurs during the Winter Olympics.

      Activists accuse a man of being an agent provocateur during a protest outside the opening ceremony of the 2010 Olympics on February 12.

      Const. Lindsey Houghton, a spokesperson for the Vancouver police, told the Straight that he didn’t have any knowledge of agents provocateurs being deployed during the Take Back Our City and 2010 Heart Attack protests.

      “I am not aware of any of that going on,” Houghton said by phone. “The only people that I’m aware that were inciting were the people dressed in all black who were encouraging the vandalism.”

      According to Houghton, a number of journalists and protesters sought safety by being pulled through the police line outside B.C. Place on February 12.

      Regarding the man who activists allege was an undercover officer, Houghton said, “I don’t know of any agents provocateurs, to use that term. We run into the same issues on a daily basis, whether it’s someone with a camera or someone without refusing to identify themselves to us or trying to provoke police officers. So, I’m not sure if this was a case of someone who was doing it both ways or what this person’s thought process was.”

      Walia noted that two plainclothes police officers were “outed” earlier this week at the Olympic Tent Village in the Downtown Eastside. According to her, the pair was escorted off the site and they ended up admitting they were police officers.

      “They actually had their earpieces on,” Walia said.

      Houghton confirmed that two plainclothes Vancouver police officers visited the tent village. He said the officers were there to escort Const. Jodyne Keller, the VPD’s homeless outreach coordinator, who was in uniform.

      Police did not want to be “seen to be inflaming the situation” by sending three uniformed officers to the tent village, according to Houghton.

      “You know, having one uniform instead of three is a lot less imposing to a lot of people, especially people who may not feel comfortable talking with police officers who they’re not familiar with,” Houghton said. “Jodyne’s worked very hard over the last year to build up those relationships, so they certainly did that out of respect and at the same time keeping her safety in mind in case something were to happen.”

      Walia stressed that she is not suggesting that agents provocateurs were “solely responsible” for smashing store windows and wrecking newspaper boxes during the 2010 Heart Attack protest on February 13.

      “I think that there might have been agents provocateurs who were present on Saturday,” Walia said. “But I also think that there were people there on Saturday who chose to engage in direct action and property destruction against corporate sponsors who have a violent record.”

      She called the alleged use of agents provocateurs by police “condemnable”.

      “I think people should really question agents provocateurs,” Walia said. “It’s symbolic of the amount of state repression—not just against direct action, black bloc, but against all kinds of dissent—and that they’re trying to divide our movement. And this is a time to unify.”

      You can follow Stephen Hui on Twitter at twitter.com/stephenhui.

      Update: Vancouver police say no agents provocateurs sent to anti-Olympic protests

      See also:
      Video: Olympic Tent Village residents speak out on homelessness in Vancouver
      Video: 2010 Heart Attack sees anti-Olympic protesters clash with riot police in Vancouver
      Video: Take Back Our City protest welcomes 2010 Olympics in Vancouver




      Feb 18, 2010 at 1:26pm

      Give. me. a. fucking. break. Get over yourself and your delusions of heroic persecution.


      Feb 18, 2010 at 2:06pm

      There seems to be two competing scripts in circulation.

      In one version it's police in disguises, agents provocateurs, who are doing all the window smashing and news box crushing. They are doing their best to make legitimate protest look bad.

      In another version, a few of the most frustrated and alienated protesters have been provoked to anger, either by government cutbacks, or by overbearing corporate sponsorship, or by the heavy police/security presence, and have essentially snapped under pressure and busted a window or some such thing.

      Well, which is it?

      Rod Smelser

      Historical precedent

      Feb 18, 2010 at 2:16pm

      This has happened before, at the SPP summit in Montebello a couple years ago. The only real surprise here is that the cops didn't use the opportunity to test out their new sonic torture device. Oh well, it'll happen soon enough...


      Feb 18, 2010 at 2:19pm

      Man, absolutely horrific. If that cop had forced absolutely everyone there to do illegal activities, AGAINST THEIR WILL, then every Canadian would have lost all of their freedoms and rights.

      Have these people even figured out exactly what it is they are protesting, yet?


      Feb 18, 2010 at 2:37pm

      I see Canadian Cops with assault rifles dealing with a simple protest why do you find provocation so unbelievable?

      At least in Montreal they used the war measures act correctly

      There is zero excuse for this threatening display of force directed at Canadian citizens simply because they protest.

      Totally disgusted with our government !


      Feb 18, 2010 at 2:52pm

      Gee, Now that the general public thinks the Obviously Really Naive hypocrites at ORN and their buddies the black block are stupid, the ORN tries to blame somebody else for the trouble they started. This really shouldn't come as a surprise as the entire reason for their being is that the ORN thinks somebody else is to blame for all the troubles in the world. They claim to be a champion for the oppressed (ha), yet their tactics show them to be just as obnoxious and self righteous as they those they oppose. WHAT THE ORN FAILS TO MENTION IS THAT THEY ARE RESPONSIBLE FOR THE VIOLENCE BECAUSE THEY ARE THE ONES WHO INVITED THE LOSERS FROM THE BLACK BLOCK TO JOIN IN THEIR LITTLE BLAME GAME!!! And after the violence, the ORN hacks failed to even condemn their little buddies. What is really going on is that there is no difference between the ORN and their provocateurs. Grow up people and take responsibility for your actions. However I don't expect that to happen as that would require you to take off your cowardly masks.

      Peter F

      Feb 18, 2010 at 2:58pm

      Simple solution. Protesters demand that all protesters expose their faces. This way any undercover cop would be exposed. However, it would never happen because "legitmate" protesters like the chaos brought on by the Anarchist. It gets them headlines. I heard many protesters complain that their peaceful protest didn't draw any attention. Forgeting the fact that on Opening day the tragic death of a luger was the main story.

      I strongly support those that openly and rightfully champion and protest for worthy causes such as homelessness and poverty. However, rather than anarchist say your muscle was Neo-Nazi would you gladly walk the streets with them. No you wouldn't. The anarchist stand for chaos, distruction, and mayhem. They use intimidation, violence and agression to get the headlines. If you want to make the world a better place. Do it with love and compassion rather than hate and violence. Everyone of us, including the police they demonize, care about DTES, the homeless and those living in poverty. We need leaders not warriors to solve these problems.


      Feb 18, 2010 at 4:57pm

      The ORN used their agent provocateurs to create violence, then they have the gall to blame the police who were protecting innocent people. The cowards from the black block claim to seek anarchy, yet they have obviously never been in a situation of total anarchy. Because when there is anarchy only the strong survive. And frankly, these spoiled brats just aren't that strong.


      Feb 18, 2010 at 5:02pm

      After years of b**ching, the "massive" outrage about the Olympics came down to 1000 people protesting on opening day. Thankfully the police were there to help them make their way through the 100,000 or so who were there to support the Olympics. For their help the police were thanked with spit and garbage being hurled at them. Sorry ORN, but you have ZERO CREDIBILITY.


      Feb 19, 2010 at 8:56am

      I love that the photo up top is of a protester holding a copy of the Charter (I seem to remember it being much, much larger when I studied it).
      I wonder how many of them have actually read it? If they have, they've almost certainly redacted the responsibilities from their minds.