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Friday, December 14, 2007

Real protestors don't wear balaclavas

I was at the Gastown Riot in 1971. One of the concerns that night was that some off duty policemen participated in anti-police activities and helped to precipitate the riot.
Years later I was working a peace demonstration when a small group of men started chanting anti-police slogans and trying to rabble rouse the crowd. We quickly surrounded them, holding hands, and separated them from the demonstration. As our tactic began to work, one of the men identified himself as a police officer. We let him and his friends go.
I saw similar incidents in Victoria, at an anti-nuclear rally, at a rally in Comox later on, and other places.
There are always police at demonstrations. Some are obvious, in uniform, others are more covert, and depending on the situation, some are undercover. In some cases, it is in the best interests of the police to disrupt demonstrations, in others they simply gather information.
What disturbs me about the recent goings-on in Vancouver is that some people, hooligans, claiming to be demonstrators, are being allowed to go overboard. This last Thursday, some were allowed to commit numerous acts of vandalism, and while the police at times scuffled with them, they did not use their considerable resources to put a stop to the vandalism. All the while the television cameras whirred.
I find myself wondering if the police are not trying to help the situation along. If the protests are allowed to get out of hand then the city will have just cause to take extraordinary measures to quell the protests. I’m not suggesting the police are starting these problems, but they seem to be, on some level, enabling them.
Demonstrators are demonstrators, protestors are protestors, they have a right. Vandals and thugs are vandals and thugs, and they should be stopped in their tracks.
In case anyone in Vancouver, including the media, is having trouble distinguishing the two different groups, here’s a helpful hint. The idea of protest is to get out in the street and say: “Hey, look at me, I’m here because I’m either for or against this issue.” They want to be indentified!
Thugs and vandals are the ones in balaclavas carrying sticks and getting violent.
I for one am incensed that the police, the media, and this small band of thugs are being allowed to marginalize the legitmate concerns of the homeless and poor in this province.
And I am completely disgusted that no level of government in this country seems prepared to do anything real to resolve these problems.



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