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About 50 people showed up to protest the "Canada Pacific Spirit Train" event Sunday in the Vancouver suburb of Port Moody. Taking a position in front of the main stage, the group carried signs and placards, and a large banner that read “Resist 2010: No Olympics on Stolen Native Land.”
While demonstrators banged on pots and pans, Gord Hill, speaking on behalf of the Olympics Resistance Network, announced, "We want homes for the homeless, not corporate invasion on stolen native land."
Betty Krawczyk, an octogenarian mayoral candidate in Vancouver who was incarcerated in 2006 for attempting to defend a forest against the expansion of the Sea to Sky highway linking Vancouver and Whistler, said, "There is no spirit on that train; this is all about money."
Most attending the event seemed relatively blasé about the protest, which carried on noisily for over an hour. A woman identified only as Gina led two children directly into the crowd of demonstrators, yelling at Krawczyk and pushing other protesters' signs. The children began to cry.
Para-olympian Peter Rosen, who will be accompanying the train to Montréal, said that "these are Canada’s games, not Vancouver’s games... [The 2010 Olympics] are a great opportunity for Canada." When asked about the protests, Rosen stated, "Everybody is entitled to an opinion, but professional protestors get it wrong."
Many at the event stayed closer to tents that were erected for the Olympic sponsors including Rona, Yves' Veggie cuisine and GE Transportation.
"Spirit Train" tour manager and Canadian Pacific spokesperson Breanne Feigel told The Dominion that "the train will move the Olympic spirit across Canada," and that event organizers "respect everyone’s right to make a statement."
An estimated 40 tour staff will be traveling alongside the train in vehicles. It is unknown if anyone will actually be riding inside the train as it travels east. Organizers are planning to run a second "Spirit Train" in 2009.
Three separate police contingents provided uniformed and undercover officers for the event: the Canadian Pacific Police Service, the Port Moody Police, and the Greater Vancouver Transportation Authority Police Service. In addition, a large group of private security guards from 'Vancouver 2010 Integrated Security' was on-site.
Police stormed the protest at about 2:40pm, causing a ruckus and knocking over a number of participants. They arrested an unidentified young man, and three officers carried him to a waiting police van.
As members of the crowd watched, an undercover officer assisting with the arrest shoved an elder to the ground, and pushed her against the hood of a car. The officer told the woman that she was under arrest for assaulting a police officer. The officer the woman allegedly assaulted was undercover and did not reveal his identity to the media.
The woman was put in a squad car and taken to the Port Moody police department. "Spirit Train" organizers did not make a statement about the arrests.
In a press release put out before the event, the Olympics Resistance Network stated, "Canadian Pacific, the Vancouver Organizing Committee and the International Olympic Committee call the train an 'ambassador of goodwill.' A more careful read of history teaches us that the Canadian Pacific Railway Company has been a key instrument in the colonization of Canada and the genocide of indigenous peoples."
"With protestors nearly outnumbering spectators, the most spirited thing today was the spirit of resistance against the Olympics and the forced cancellation of the 'Spirit Train' launch ceremonies," said Hill. "We are confident that this same spirit will inspire others as the train travels across Canada."
Corporate media reports emphasized the crying children and unspecified "clashes" with police. Conservative MP James Moore told CTV news that "making kids cry to make a point is just a little bit over the line, and that's what we saw today."
The "Spirit Train" left Sunday from Port Moody and will be visiting 10 cities across the country, ending up in Montréal on October 18.
The Dominion is a monthly paper published by an incipient network of independent journalists in Canada. It aims to provide accurate, critical coverage that is accountable to its readers and the subjects it tackles. Taking its name from Canada's official status as both a colony and a colonial force, the Dominion examines politics, culture and daily life with a view to understanding the exercise of power.