Feb 13 2010
I wandered among the costumed weirdos and black-masked anarchists at the protest. This was the big anti-Olympics event in Vancouver on the opening day of the Games. I soon came to the conclusion that the Olympics and our city’s politicians have nothing to worry about for the duration of the games and probably for some time to come.
Ask a protester what they were rebelling against that day and you’d almost have to expect Marlon Brando’s answer from the Wild One: “What have you got?” This wasn’t a protest against the Olympics. It was a protest against “the system.” But disaffected oddballs and shadowy loners does not a revolution make.
Accompanied by my friend and fellow National Post contributor Adrian MacNair, I first met a pleasant comrade from the Young Communist League who seemed positively cheerful about the new members his group had signed up. His organization was present to make the point that government ought to be spending more on the housing, students and day care rather than Olympics. Those are actually policies that I’d be happy to get on board with. Still, you don’t have to be a follower of an ideology legitimizing mass murder and gulags to get that done. He seemed awfully polite. I assume he’ll go mainstream at some point an inevitably join up with the NDP.
Then I met the man disguised by a mask imprinted with the words “free speech area”. When I asked him what he actually had to say about the Olympics — or anything, for that matter — he clammed up. Evidently, free speech is a right best reserved for times other than when pretty much everyone in the world wants to know what you have to say.
I met a young Cree woman who carried a sign that claimed “Canada is Illegal”. Her group, “No One is Illegal”, evidently believes that the Olympics organizers ought to have gotten the written consent of every living First Nations person in the country before proceeding with the event. The enthusiastic support of the Four Host First Nations that have actually resided here since before the arrival of the first Europeans evidently wasn’t good enough.
Next up was the lady in town from Sochi to protest having the next Olympics in a region steeped in the memory of the 100-year old genocide of 1.5 million Circassians by Czarist Russia. She seemed earnest enough. But I honestly don’t know if Russians, much less Canadians, will even see a real connection between this historical tragedy and the 2014 Winter Olympics. Besides, if the Russians can’t do anything official on a part of their territory that hasn’t already been steeped in blood or mired in historical injustice, well, the world’s biggest country is going to have an awful time finding anywhere they can hold any sort of international event.
Then there was the group shouting “Shut down the tar sands!” Protest signs indicated that the Olympics were somehow responsible for mass-murder as a result of our odd habit of digging up stuff out of our ground that people all over the world seem to need to run their factories and heat their homes. I have to confess, I never bothered to talk to anyone about this. I’d already gone down enough rabbit holes.
The point is that the protesters against the Olympics are guided by a hundred different agendas. None of them really has much to do with the Olympics. That’s why the event only pulled in a few hundred angry souls, surrounded by a larger number of curious spectators who were not necessarily in sympathy with any of their goals.
The time to disrupt the games was clearly on the first day. But the lunatic fringe seems only to have alienated a wider base by their odd rhetoric. They didn’t pull the numbers and by the time the Olympics opening ceremonies were set to begin, most of the protesters who came out were already sullenly on their way home to plot and plan… and probably do nothing else for the next few weeks. The reinforced lines of police, some on horseback, that came to greet the rally were not pressured as at the “Battle of Seattle” or similar venues. It seems that the Games can safely ignore the divided and not particularly successful protests from here on in.
I decided to find out for myself what these protests were all about