'We are not sign police': Vancouver chief
Last Updated: Thursday, October 22, 2009 | 5:53 PM PT
Vancouver police Chief Jim Chu is sending a blunt message to anti-Olympic activists: stop saying political protest will be stifled during the 2010 Winter Games.
Chu told a news conference at police headquarters Thursday that critics of both the Olympics and the police have painted a dire picture about planned police actions during the Games, and he wanted to set the record straight.
"I'm asking everyone today who's speaking on behalf of the police to just stop," said Chu.
He said false scenarios being described are intended to generate fear and conflict and "are getting ridiculous."
"There are no protest zones, no demonstration pens, or corrals. No extraordinary effort will be made to restrict protest because of the Olympics," Chu said. "Protesters can gather in any public space."
Opponents of the Games have argued that new Vancouver bylaws would allow authorities to enter a private residence if the owner displays signage violating the city's Olympic contracts.
Chu said bylaw enforcement officers would not be concerned with people using political slogans, only with "guerrilla marketing," a term that refers to a marketing campaign taking place around an event without payment of a sponsorship fee to the event.
"Just as ridiculous, in my opinion, is the charge that [Vancouver police] will enter homes to confiscate signs," Chu said. "We are not the sign police."
One anti-Olympic activist said she could not accept what Chu said.Vancouver's police chief says anti-Olympic protests like this, with political signage, will not be stopped by his officers. (CBC)
"I find it remarkable he would say the police aren't going to do what the city bylaws give them the power to do," said Alissa Westergaard-Thorpe, a student and member of the Olympic Resistance Network.
"There's a huge disconnect between what he's suggesting now and what city council and what Olympic police are requesting for their powers," said Westergaard-Thorpe.
Westergaard-Thorpe and University of British Columbia professor Chris Shaw have filed a lawsuit challenging Vancouver's bylaw restricting protest signs in certain areas of the city during the Games.
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