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Protesters Disrupt "Spirit Train" Sendoff

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Issue: 56 Section: Canadian News Geography: West Vancouver Topics: Indigenous, 2010 Olympics

September 21, 2008

Protesters Disrupt "Spirit Train" Sendoff

Two arrested, festivities cancelled

by Dawn Paley

Protesters succeeded in canceling part of the send off ceremony for the "Spririt Train," which will be traveling across Canada for the next month. Photo: Dawn Paley

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.

A protester is arrested during a demonstration denouncing the 2010 Olympics. Photo: Dawn Paley

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.

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Get a grip James Moore

James Moore should recognise that legitimate protests are not about making children cry, but they are about getting people upset and getting people to question their own beliefs.

As an elected representative of the "people" Mr Moore you should be aware that we the people of British Columbia are paying dearly for the right to host these games. People are losing their homes, there is an overt environmental cost - loss of habitat and general slash and burn of the Callahan Valley - none which directly affect the people of Port Moody - yet how else would they know if not for the protestors.

Surely your constituents would not depend on you for a balanced approach on the true repercussions of hosting the 2010 Olympics ?

Oh rly?

Right, and since when was the awareness of votes known to EVERYONE in Vancouver?

Olympics is pretty much against the will of many if you ask me.

Sure the protest was quite disorganized, that it made the kids upset (not what I want); but what can ya say?

This is what happens when government officials and usual people with their hierarchies have such deaf ears.

I was at this protest, and

I was at this protest, and while the protesters certainly drowned out the music on stage, the festivities were never cancelled. After losing interest, the protesters left and the festivities continued without interruption. It's clearly a biased article if the sub-head claims festivities were cancelled.

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