British Columbia Civil Liberties Association
February 13, 2010
ATTENTION EDITORS: The previously announced Sunday, February 14 press conference at the BCCLA has been cancelled. The next briefing is scheduled for Monday, February 15, 2010 at 8:00 a.m. at 1188 West Georgia Street.
BCCLA pleased with policing at Opening Ceremonies demonstration, Observers record few issues
Vancouver, B.C. – A full contingent of Legal Observer teams monitored the policing of the demonstrations at the Olympics Opening Ceremonies. The large demonstrations that started at the Vancouver Art Gallery were notably peaceful. Restrained policing and protest marked the procession of the march to BC Place Stadium. Very few incidents involving police were observed, with the exception of a police barricade push-back that was unannounced and the fact that the majority of RCMP officers attending were not wearing legible badge numbers or names for accountability purposes.
“We were very pleased with the effective and restrained policing of the demonstrations that we observed prior to and during the Opening Ceremonies,” said BCCLA Policy Director Micheal Vonn. “We know that the Legal Observers contributed significantly to the success of these demonstrations. We were thanked by many people attending and were told by some that our presence gave them the confidence that the events would be safe and their rights respected.”
The Legal Observers were asked by event organizers not to attend the “Heart Attack” demonstration on Saturday, February 13. Several arrests were reported by media to have taken place at this event. Event organizers did call on the Legal Observers during the event. Although our Observers attended as quickly as possible, the crowd was largely dispersed by the time we arrived. Aside from witnessing and documenting police in full riot gear and with an array of armaments, we have no reports from this event and little footage to share.
Our Observers will be participating in the Murdered and Missing Women Memorial March tomorrow (Sunday) and preparing for the homeless tent city protest (Monday) as well as sharing video highlights from the Opening Ceremonies demonstration and several smaller events, on Monday, February 15, 2010. All 8 a.m. press conferences are held at 1188 West Georgia.
As always, BCCLA staff and board members are available for comment on civil liberties issues, including as they relate to the Olympics.
Micheal Vonn, BCCLA Policy Director: 604-630-9753
FOR MORE DETAILS: firstname.lastname@example.org or 604-630-9755
In addition to the VPD and RCMP officers making themselves visible around Olympic venues and around the city, there are police from every other province adding to the ranks.
We’ve snapped a few photos of the various badges we’ve noticed around town, but we know we haven’t got all of them yet. If you have any you’d like to add to the gallery, let us know! Add it to our Flickr Pool or email it to email@example.com.
The Olympic Village was one of the first areas of the city locked down before the Games. We took a wander around the security perimeter today. There is an amazing amount of video surveillance around the Village, and the double layers of fencing are hardened with concrete barricades. There are also lots of ISU personnel around, from RCMP to private security.
Here are some of the photos we took:
We decided to take one of the Legal Observer cameras down to Canada Place this afternoon. Security operations are gearing up, and the police presence is incredibly high. We uploaded a few still images from the videos we shot to our new Flickr account, 2010observers. A few samples are available below:
A surprise addition has been made to the lineup for the B.C. Civil Liberties Association’s Film Festival this Wednesday, November 18. Operation Gamescan ’76—a National Film Board documentary exploring the massive security buildup before the 1976 Olympic Games in Montréal—will be screened at the end of the evening at no additional cost.
This film describes the largest peacetime operation of the Canadian Forces. Sixteen thousand troops were involved in the organizational, logistic and security support program especially created for the XXI Olympiad held in 1976 in Montréal. They provided protection for 7500 athletes, countless VIPs and the general public on 138 sites located in Montréal, Bromont and Kingston, Ontario.
The film was dug from the depths of the National Film Board archives at the request of the BCCLA, so this is your first chance in decades to get a look at the planning and structure of the Montréal security apparatus.
Here are a few teaser images from the film:
See you there!
The Vancouver Police Department has purchased an LRAD, or a Long Range Acoustic Device, for use during the 2010 Olympics. The LRAD is a non-lethal weapon that emits painfully loud sound in a focused beam. The device came under scrutiny after it was used on protesters at the recent G20 meetings in Pittsburgh.
Despite its capabilities as a crowd control weapon, the VPD claims the new device will only be used to make announcements to the public:
Const. Lindsay Houghton said the device was first tested this summer as a public address system during the Celebration of Light fireworks events in Vancouver.
Houghton said police don’t plan to use the device for anything more than communication.
“The primary function we’re using the device for is its ability to communicate with very large groups with respect to crowd control, evacuations, tactical situations where we may need the loudspeaker portion of it,” he said.
The BCCLA’s President, Rob Holmes, had concerns about the acquisition. “This crowd control weapon was obtained without any public discussion and without any defined policy for its safe and proper use.” Safety will be a major concern should the LRAD be deployed as a weapon. At its maximum volume, the LRAD can cause permanent hearing damage if individuals remain in its focus for an extended period. It emits sounds of up to 151 dB, well past the threshold of pain (120 dB) and just below a level that can cause instantaneous hearing loss (160dB).
If the VPD simply wanted a loudspeaker, there is military-grade hardware available for a fraction of the cost. As Bob Mackin suggested on Twitter, you may want to invest in some earplugs if you’ll be in Vancouver come February.
The Vancouver 2010 Integrated Security Unit (ISU) headquarters will be getting a visit from Legal Observers on Thursday morning, but this time, the police will be doing the watching. Legal Observer trainers will be delivering the same course to police that will be given to hundreds of volunteer observers.
Transparency is key to the success of the Legal Observer program. The police have to know who the people in orange shirts are, what they’re looking for, and how they’ll behave. To that end, we’re very glad that the ISU has agreed to meet with us.
See you tomorrow, ISU! If you want to do some advance reading, be sure to check out the Legal Observer Information and Training Guide.