Games, Day 2: Charter rights upheld

Westergard-Thorpe, wearing National Lawyer's Guild hat, exercising right to assembly at Victory Square Friday morning.

Westergard-Thorpe, wearing National Lawyer's Guild hat, exercising right to assembly at Victory Square Friday morning.

Of the many commitments made during the Olympic Games bid process, one of the most important was a pledge to uphold civil liberties.

Confirmation that commitment is being upheld came yesterday from Alissa Westergard-Thorpe, one of the bid’s harshest critics and a regular at confrontational protests.

The first disruption to the Olympic Torch Relay in Vancouver came Friday morning at Victory Square, where demonstrators under Westergard-Thorpe’s general direction blocked Hastings St., forcing the relay to detour away from waiting veterans.

(Earnest “legal observers” trained by the BC Civil Liberties Association stood nearby in green t-shirts and caps, holding clip boards and video cameras.)

Not content with that level of resistance, others later rolled barbed wire across Venables, forcing another detour away from Commercial Drive and heartbroken school children waiting for the flame.

A larger afternoon convergence at the Vancouver Art Gallery, which drew about 1,500, was more festive, but the subsequent march to BC Place Stadium was ultimately stopped by a line of police.

Despite some pushing and shoving and two arrests — one released at the scene, a second charged with assault police — Westergard-Thorpe declared that “We’re happy that so far we’ve been allowed to exercise our rights to expression and assembly.”

Rare praise from a key Olympics Resistance organizer.

So on to Saturday!

This morning, about 200 members of the so-called Black Bloc started marching at 8.30 a.m. from Thornton Park at the Main St. Skytrain station, making their way north and then west, vandalizing cars, breaking windows and scuffling with passers-by.

Once again the Vancouver Police Department responded with remarkable discretion despite the deliberate violence

The VPD news release this morning reads, in part:

“This group contained more than 100 masked people many of whom kicked and damage numerous parked cars. They used spray paint on cars and transit buses and tore down signs.

“They also clashed with members of the public and pedestrians who didn’t support them. At one point they used a ladder as a moving barricade.

“The demonstration involving a number of anarchists some of whom dress all in black and employ a tactic called Black Bloc. This included a loosely organized group of thugs from central Canada known to attach themselves to any cause, travel to any event that attracts media coverage and promote anarchy wherever they go.

“Because the criminal element hid within the ranks of the legitimate protestors it posed challenges to police who had to identify who among the crowd were responsible for the property damage and violence.

“Vancouver Police respect the rights of those who wish to express their criticism but that does not give them right to commit crimes and jeopardize the public’s safety.”

Games, Day 2: Charter rights upheld.