Tuesday, February 16, 2010

What's up?

Even though I live in the middle of suburbia, I’m near enough Vancouver to get there in less than an hour by car. The trip’s about the same by transit, a combination of bus and train. All of this is, of course, dependent on traffic.

Considering this, it’s impossible not to get caught up in all that’s going on with the Olympics.

The event started on the worst possible note, with Nodar Kumaritashvili, the luger from Georgia, being killed during Friday’s practice.

While BC Place was filling with those who could afford (or were well-enough connected) to attend the opening ceremonies, protesters moved through the downtown streets.

In the tradition of those protesters in the early ’60s who first stood up against segregation by sitting down at lunch counters, when Vancouver's protesters were confronted by a line of police, they sat down in the street.

By Friday night, their numbers had grown to over 2,000.

Jevon was in the midst of the crowd outside BC Place. Like the Legal Observers, he was there to watch and witness and learn. He took this photo of a woman whose message is clear. Like me and so many others, it isn’t that she’s necessarily against the Olympics, but against the fact that 90% of arts funding has been cut from the provincial budget, apparently to facilitate these games. What we’re against is the way the event has been mounted on the backs of our schools, our health care system, and our programs for the poor.

But as I’ve said before, here in BC we have a government that’s by the rich and for the rich.

It sounds as though the police must have been getting messages on their headsets, clearly from someone somewhere else, not there on the streets. And yes, this sounds a lot like the way the military’s decision-makers too often command their troops from too far away from the reality of a situation. Even though Jev was on the sidewalk and not even in the street with the bulk of the protesters, he was shoved by a police officer. Not good, not necessary.

And then on Saturday, things got even uglier. I don’t like that store windows were smashed or that vehicles were spray-painted or otherwise vandalized.

I remember a T-shirt that read ‘Perfect Paranoia is Perfect Awareness.’ So I can’t help wonder just who it was that threw those newspaper bins into the windows of the official Olympic department store, the Bay. Since the people who did this were apparently wearing masks, it’s anybody’s guess who it might have been.

Where the police had so much of their original ‘security wish list’ cancelled, who’s to say the rowdies weren’t placed there by those who wanted to discredit the protesters? What a wonderful excuse to get out the big guns. Which, by the way, is exactly what they did.

When I hear that the police are armed with batons and riot shields, I am saddened. When I hear they’re pounding their sticks against those shields and shouting in unison at the crowd, I am ashamed. But when I learn that some of them are packing assault rifles, I wonder whose country I am in.

And almost lost in all the hooplah was the news that Joshua Caleb Baker became the 140th Canadian soldier killed in Afghanistan. It was a training accident, but one that probably wouldn’t have happened if he hadn’t been in Afghanistan. And even though it wasn’t an IED that killed him, he’s just as dead.

When I hear those helicopters – especially in the middle of the night – it’s hard for me to feel particularly safe. I wonder what they’re doing. And I wonder just how secure all these new measures are making us.

1 comment:

daniela elza said...

I did not see the protestors that vandalized, but that was something that crossed my mind as well. that they could have been planted to discredit the real protesters.

a friend of mine went to china town last sunday and said it was spooky how the area was cleaned up and out. she did not see homeless people. so i am curious.

with so much security even i would be tempted to protest.