Resistance writers say anarchist protest successful
Published Monday, February 15, 2010 7:43AM PST Last Updated Friday, May 18, 2012 9:58PM PDT
A violent protest that saw seven people arrested and windows smashed at downtown Vancouver businesses was a success, according to a group of journalists from California covering resistance against the 2010 Olympic Winter Games.
More than 100 protesters clad in all-black took over an otherwise peaceful protest Saturday morning, tying up traffic for several hours, clashing with police and throwing newspaper boxes into the road. Another 200 protesters remained peaceful, police said later.
The San Francisco-area blog, entitled "Beneath the snow: covering the resistance to the 2010 Olympics," said the group of masked protesters, members of the "black bloc contingent," have been a strong force of resistance since the Games opened in Vancouver Friday.
"What's especially striking here… is how disciplined and strategically -- even politically -- effective they've been, and how much respect they've earned through their organizing efforts leading up to this point as well as their actions on the streets," the author, who remained anonymous, wrote. The blog is produced by three writers involved in the social justice movement.
Vancouver Police Chief Jim Chu described the troublemakers in the mostly peaceful demonstration as a loosely organized group of "thugs" from central Canada and across the United States that promotes anarchy.
Chu said the group travels to any event that attracts media coverage and "promotes anarchy wherever they go." Many of those involved wore masks and hid among the legitimate protesters, he added.
While riot police blocked the protesters access to the Lions Gate Bridge, what is believed to be the anarchist's final destination to block access to the Sea-to-Sky Highway, the author said the contingent functioned "very well."
"They were good about focusing on the mission: to put obstacles in the streets so as to slow or stop traffic, and thus hopefully the Olympic spectacle. And equally good at focusing on not needlessly antagonizing the police -- a distraction to this mission -- but doing so when needed."
The protesters were often met with outcries from members of the public as they passed. Some told the group to "grow up" as they yelled at police and pushed newspaper boxes into downtown intersections.
The blog author admitted success of black blocs is often hard to gauge in large-scale protests, but quoted a Vancouver anarchist to describe how the group felt they were having a positive effect.
"It's upsetting when you're ‘standing up for people's rights who don't know that you're standing up for their rights and they are against you [when] little do they know, a few years down the road, they're going to be in our shoes themselves.'"
In a statement issued Saturday, B.C. Solicitor General Kash Heed praised the quick action of police to protect the public while the world visits Vancouver.
He promised police forces would remain vigilant to ensure everyone enjoys a safe and successful 2010 Games.
"One of the hallmarks of any civil society is respect for the law. The very laws that protect our right to free speech and the right for peaceful demonstration are at risk when a small group in society think they are above the law," Heed said.
"The [police] will continue to ensure that athletes and the public are safe from unlawful activity and able to enjoy the Games without concern."
Believed to have originated in Germany in the 1970s, the black bloc movement first gained international notoriety during the anti-WTO demonstrations in Seattle in 1999, when a masked group damaged retail stores for GAP, Starbucks and Old Navy in an anti-globalization protest.