A coalition of Olympics watchdog groups gathered at the Vancouver Art Gallery on Sunday to renew calls for the protection of basic human rights when the 2010 Games open in six months.

During a news conference by the Impact on Community Coalition, David Eby of the B.C. Civil Liberties Association said he's outraged by what he called an omnibus bylaw allowing the City of Vancouver to restrict assembly and free speech.

"We now have bylaws being passed that restrict the ability of people to hold signs in an area of more than 40 city blocks and that small areas within these perimeters will be set up as protest pens, just as they did in Beijing," Eby said.

"And this isn't, I don't believe, what the public thought would happen when John Furlong made his promise in August of 2008 that protests would in fact be allowed. John said, 'Don't worry, in Vancouver protests will be allowed. It's part of Canada's democratic traditions.' "

Furlong is the CEO of the Vancouver Organizing Committee for the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games, also known as VANOC.

Am Johal, chair of the coalition, said he hoped the United Nations would heed local requests to send human rights observers to the Games: "If things do happen here, they will be under the watch of the international community." 

The complaints the activists have filed with the UN cover everything from police ticketing in the Downtown Eastside to alleged free speech violations by the RCMP, to tenancy issues.

VANOC has said personal rights and freedoms will be maintained through the Games, while maintaining it has an obligation to observe the Olympic charter, which states no demonstrations of any kind are permitted at Games venues. 

The Games open on Feb. 12, 2010.