British Columbia

Protesters target Olympic torch run

Anti-Olympic activists are making no secret of where and when they plan to protest against the Olympic flame as torchbearers wend their way through Metro Vancouver. But the activists are not saying just what they're planning to do.

Anti-Olympic activists are making no secret of where and when they plan to protest against the Olympic flame as torch-bearers wend their way through Metro Vancouver. But the activists are not saying exactly what they're planning to do.

The ironically named 2010 Welcoming Committee announced at a news conference in front of the Olympic countdown clock Monday that they would make their presence felt during the torch relay at least five times between Tuesday and Friday, the last day of the marathon cross-country run.

Police have said that protests would be tolerated along the torch's 44,000-kilometre trek as long as they were lawful.

One protest leader hinted Monday that what activist groups had in mind in coming days would not be quiet. 

"I think lawful is a code word for silent," said activist Alyssa Westergaard-Thorpe of the Olympic Resistance Movement.

"They want silent protests as far away from the Olympics as possible and that's not something we're willing to go along with."

Torch relay protest schedule

Unspecified protest activities were announced for the following events:

  • Tuesday afternoon at Delta municipal hall in Ladner.
  • On Thursday, at about 4 p.m. PT at Langara College near 49th Ave. West and Cambie Street.
  • At about 5 p.m. Thursday on the University of British Columbia campus.
  • At 9 a.m. Friday in Pigeon park at Hastings and Carrall, as the torch travels through the Downtown Eastside.
  • And at about 10 a.m. along Commercial Drive.

Infiltration allegation

The protesters said Monday their group had been infiltrated by undercover police and said the infiltrators might try to cause trouble so that uniformed police could crack down.

A similar ruse was said to have been tried at a G7 summit meeting in Montebello, Que., in 2007 when police allegedly disguised themselves as demonstrators but were discovered.

"Cops seem to have a weird thing," said Bob Ages of the Council of Canadians.

"No matter how they dress up, they always wear the same shoes or boots, so it makes them easy to spot."

Other activist groups said Friday that they planned a large protest outside BC Place stadium on the afternoon of Feb. 12 where the Games opening ceremonies will be held.

IOC accepts protests

Officials with the International Olympic Committee and the local organizing committee, known as VANOC, said Monday they were confident all protests during the Games would be peaceful and would not cause any major disruptions during the Games.

"We have to accept protests and there will be some and fine, let's leave it. We are used to that," said Gerhard Heiberg, a member of the IOC's executive board, at a Vancouver news conference Monday.

"For us, it's not an issue. We accept protest, we accept people protesting," said IOC president Jacques Rogge.

"This is free, democratic freedom of expression," Rogge said.

"What we want is no violence and we want the people to respect the laws of the country and then there is no problem."

Olympic critics have complained the RCMP-led unit overseeing Olympic security has harassed activists by approaching them on the street and speaking with their neighbours and members of their families.

They also complain that protesters from outside the country have been stopped or questioned at the border, most recently this past weekend when Martin Macias Jr., an American who led a group opposed to Chicago's bid for the 2016 Games, was denied entry into Canada.

"The police have worked really hard to intimidate and discourage people from expressing themselves, so I hope they will be brave come the Olympics and realize we have nothing to fear if we have the numbers," said Westergard-Thorpe.   

With files from The Canadian Press

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