RCMP mistrust of the public on display with Olympic security preparations

Vancouver has become an armed camp.

Every day, the RCMP is putting on a show for the media to demonstrate how they plan to keep  the city  safe during the 2010 Games.

Today, assistant commissioner Bud Mercer and Vanoc CEO John Furlong took a helicopter tour over Vancouver, the Sea to Sky corridor, and Whistler.

Naturally, this was followed by a media briefing. The public has to see what it's getting for its $900-million security budget.

The RCMP characterize their preparations for the Games  as the largest security operation in Canadian history. There will be sniffer dogs and ruthless control over the local airspace. Entering the Olympic opening ceremonies will be on a par with boarding a flight.

It doesn't sound like a whole lot of fun for anyone interested in attending  any events.

It's obvious why the RCMP are putting on a big show for the journalists. It's known as "target hardening"--sending a message to potential terrorists and activists that disrupting the Winter Games is not worth the effort because  their efforts  are doomed to fail.

My biggest concern isn't the terrorists. It's the police.

I've recently been reading Rebecca Solnit's book A Paradise Built in Hell: The Extraordinary Communities That Arise in Disaster. There's a section about how San Francisco was turned into an armed camp after the 1906 earthquake and subsequent fire.

Solnit writes that there was no evidence that riots were likely. But that didn't stop  Brigadier General Frederick Funston from marching his  soldiers into the city from a nearby military base without political authorization.

Eventually more than 17,000 army troops were in San Francisco, joined by members of the U.S. Navy, the U.S. Marines, the California National Guard, and military cadets from the University of California at Berkeley .

Ordinary citizens worked cooperatively to cope with the crisis.

Despite this, Solnit  reports that dozens to hundreds of people were  murdered by soldiers, National Guardsmen and vigilantes. She cites historians' estimates of between 50 to 500 killings of civilians, sometimes after they were mistaken as looters.

"In treating the citizens as enemies, the occupying armies drove residents and volunteers away from scenes where fire could be prevented," Solnit writes. "In many parts of the city only those who eluded the authorities by diplomacy, stealth, or countering invocations of authority were able to fight the blaze."

Funston didn't trust the public, seeing it as "an unlicked mob", according to A Paradise in Hell.

"The authorities' fear was not precipitated by anything the public did in those days, but by earlier anxieties in that era of upheaval," Solnit states. "They believed uncontrolled crowds routinely degenerated into mobs and they doubted the legitimacy of the system they dominated, since they expected mobs to tear it apart given the least opportunity."

The way the RCMP are behaving, it's apparent that like Funston, its senior  officials don't trust the public. Perhaps they also doubt their own legitimacy in the wake of Robert Dziekanski's death at the airport in 2007.  

These are contributing factors behind the absurd declaration that the public will have to spend four hours in line to enter the opening ceremonies of the 2010 Winter Games. Four hours to get into B.C. Place?

For anyone in line, it  would probably  be more fun wandering over to the nearby Tinseltown theatres and watching a couple of movies in the amount of time it will take to clear security.

Keep in mind that the Winter Olympics will be  barely noticed outside of Europe, Japan, and North America. Most of Asia, Africa, and Latin America are only interested in the Summer Olympics.

The level of security seems  far out of proportion to the magnitude of the threat.

I'm keeping my fingers crossed that  the RCMP brass's  deep-seated mistrust of the public  doesn't result in  the Mounties  shooting  any peaceful protesters.


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George Harper

Feb 3, 2010 at 9:28pm

In addition to the paranoia of officials, it might be a case of the excessive power of the 'security industry' within our governments. If a road construction company has a lot of clout in government, I'm sure one would see a lot of road construction, even it were needed or not.
So, now what we have is a powerful and growing 'military industrial complex', a newer 'security complex', along with a right wing 'business/corporate friendly government... guess what happens?

Nader Driver

Feb 3, 2010 at 9:36pm

I suggest anybody who is concerned about how Vancouver is turning into a police state to join Operation Press Record.

Operation Press Record is a rally call for all Vancouver citizens, tourists and others who will be in Vancouver for the 2010 Olympics to carry a video camera with them at all times to ensure police stay within the LAW.


Facebook group - http://www.facebook.com/?ref=logo#!/group.php?gid=283251949068&ref=nf

Spread the message. The power of the LENS will protect our human rights.


Feb 3, 2010 at 11:06pm

I heard Salt Lake spent like $20bn on security. I hope ours is enough.


Feb 4, 2010 at 4:28am

This article has a rediculous slant. You should be happy that our uniformed soldiers and policemen will be out in full force. You know why? Because they are there to ensure your security while attending the venue.

Yeah, as a few snide comments made reference to their role in regards to your 'peaceful protests' I am sure you don't get it. I am sure you would if a suicide attack went off during your little rally... then maybe you wil begin to understand why it should be comforting to see YOUR OWN uniforms persons on the streets. They are there to make YOU safe!


Feb 4, 2010 at 8:17am

It looks more like war games than Olympic games.

15 9Rating: +6


Feb 4, 2010 at 11:41am

Expected rant and whine, eminently predictable, done for so long its just more background noise.

Roger A

Feb 4, 2010 at 11:37pm

Thank goodness that Vancouver has a media outlet like the Straight. This kind of serious treatment of democratic rights issues is getting treated in the Sun like we should all laugh it off. Charlie Smith's concern that someone might get hurt by these war games is spot on.

17 9Rating: +8


Feb 8, 2010 at 11:51pm

The Olympic security is a necessary evil unfortunately. What I'm more concerned with is after the event. Not reported hear, but relevant and on topic. Canada and the United States are working closely on security. Pilot program that has US Coast Guard and RCMP maritime patrol units working together. All fine and dandy, the alarm bells, however this program allows US and Canadian federal law enforcement Officers from either side will be authorized to enforce the law on both sides of the border. Means US Coast agents will have police powers in Canada and RCMP have the same in the US. The RCMP have stated after the Olympics well need legislation to continue this pilot program. Short I'm more concerned that some of the security programs might remain after the Olympics.


Feb 14, 2010 at 4:27am

It is completely unbelieveable how peoples attitude towards police are. And when I refer to police I mean police, this includes all municipal, provincial and RCMP. Personally I am not a big fan of the Olympics but you know what this is a democratic country. It appears that many were in support of the Olympics and many were in support of the RCMP providing the majority of the security while working closely with their partnerships.

I certainly hope this author of this useless garbage understands that he is promoting hatred towards the people of this country who have chosen to serve the public on home land. People are not a fan of police due to the fact they enforce the LAW and when people break the law they don't want to be punished. If this author family were to be robbed, kidnapped or even murdered (and by no means do I wish this upon him/her) the first people to be called would be the police, and by god might even be the RCMP depending where his little hate shack is located.

Basically putting it bitching about the police will not change the world as the more hatred promoted by the newspapers, TV, all media will soon have us turned into a 3rd world country with no laws, structure or and common decency. Police will always be the first to be called and all you people out there who say "Stupid pigs", "Donut eaters don't do their job" remember that they will be there to serve you, even the ones who "know" more than them.


Feb 20, 2010 at 1:38am

Thank you KenU...and if all hell breaks loose and there are not enough police...I'm sure the author would have a complaint as well !

A few complain when "they believe" police drive too fast and then "they" complain when police don't send help fast enough!

I don't think "they" can see the big picture.
Thank a police officer, 99.9 % (check the stats) of them are here to keep "them" safe. Yes, even when "they" they find themselves in need of help, the police will still be there, despite their complaints.

16 9Rating: +7