Two officers injured in protest; one arrested
Upwards of 1,500 protest marchers opposed to the Vancouver Winter Olympics were stopped short of reaching the site of the Games' opening ceremonies Friday evening by a three-deep line of police.
The protest was largely peaceful, with only one arrest after two officers were hurt during a confrontation when marchers came face to face with police.
The chanting demonstrators, who are opposed to the Games for all kinds of reasons, had hoped to reach the plaza of B.C. Place Stadium, where 60,600 people were witnessing the colourful spectacle.
"We knew this was going to be a successful march from the beginning," said Sozan Savehilaghi, an organizer with the anti-Olympic 2010 Welcoming Committee. "People we were talking to on the streets when we were flyering, everybody was like, 'Yeah, the Olympics is really like a pain."'
But the police, clad in fluorescent yellow vests and baseball caps, blocked protesters on the street in front of the stadium. Behind the human barricade was a line of horse-mounted officers dressed in riot gear, their horses' eyes covered by protective shields.
The protest was largely peaceful until objects began being hurled at police from inside a group of masked, black-clad demonstrators shielded by their own large banners.
Police reacted by beginning to push the crowd back step-by-step. Scuffles broke out on the front line as banners were torn down.
Vancouver Police Chief Jim Chu said two officers were hurt -- one stabbed in the hand by a pointed stick, the other taken to hospital after being hit in the shoulder by something thrown from the crowd.
Chu said one protester was arrested and would likely face an assault charge.
The protest began a few blocks away at the Vancouver Art Gallery, the city's traditional site of demonstrations.
Some groups were opposed to the Games on grounds the money would be better spent helping the homeless and alleviating poverty on Vancouver's Downtown Eastside, or that despite claims of being green they were a blot on the environment.
Despite the partnership of four First Nations in the Games, aboriginal dissidents protested the Olympics were taking place on stolen land while many natives live in poverty.
But others -- opposed to Canadian troops in Afghanistan, upset at a road-building project outside Vancouver -- had no apparent connection to the anti-Olympic movement.
Chu said the demonstrators were able to exercise their right to protest but police were there to prevent the marchers from potentially disrupting the opening ceremonies.
"That line had several surges during the evening, with protesters trying to get past the line," he said.
"I can tell you our officers acted with exceptional restraint, and in the end the protesters even shook some of the officers' hands before they left."
Chu said the final legal of the torch run, which had been diverted a couple of times earlier Friday, was not affected by the march.