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Press Release: BCCLA pleased with restrained policing at Opening Ceremonies

February 14, 2010 3 comments

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.

MEDIA CONTACTS:
Micheal Vonn, BCCLA Policy Director: 604-630-9753

FOR MORE DETAILS:  media@bccla.org or 604-630-9755

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Legal Observers in Victoria

November 2, 2009 Leave a comment

The trial run of the Legal Observer Program went off without a hitch on Friday as the Olympic torch arrived in Canada. A team of Observers from Vancouver headed across to Victoria, ready to keep an eye on the torch relay and to train up a few more Legal Observers while they were there.

Here are a few photos of and thoughts on the day:

Photo: The Blackbird

The newly trained Legal Observers jumped right into action, capturing photos of police interacting with protesters. Photo: The Blackbird

There was a very heavy police presence, including rooftop surveillance. Photo: The Blackbird

The interactions between police and protesters went quite smoothly, aside from a few scuffles. Observers reported concerns that some police did not have identification on their uniform. These officers did identify themselves when asked, but identification badges would increase the transparency and accountability of security forces. We hope this is addressed in the future.

There was also some concern that the number of police present was overkill. In some cases, the police outnumbered everyone else. This can lead to clashes if frustrated protesters run into bored police.

Police were everywhere on torch day. Photo: The Blackbird

On the other side, there were some reports of protesters throwing marbles at mounted police, creating hazardous situations for the horses and officers. If it is true, this is completely unacceptable. However, our Observer teams saw nothing of the sort, so we hope it was an isolated incident or an inaccurate report.

Mounted police in Victoria for the torch run. Photo: The Blackbird

In summary: A good start for everyone—protesters were heard, police were professional, and Observers were there to document the whole thing. Let’s hope the trend continues in February!

Gearing up for Victoria

October 20, 2009 Leave a comment

The Olympic torch is coming to Victoria on October 30, and Legal Observers will be there to meet it!

The BCCLA and Pivot Legal Society are sending some of their Legal Observers into the field for the first time next week when the cross-country torch relay kicks off in Victoria. The beginning of the torch run will be a great chance for Legal Observers to get in some practice before the Games officially begin, and also our first chance to see the kind of welcome mat VANOC and the Integrated Security Unit rolls out for protesters. VANOC is saying that there will be no problems, but documents released earlier this year suggest that VANOC wants communities to crack down on free expression as the torch passes through.

It’s been hectic in the office as we get things ready, but our teams will definitely be set for the torch. Today a box of bright orange Legal Observer t-shirts arrived in the BCCLA office:

Legal Observer t-shirts

Legal Observer t-shirts

We’re also making sure our recording gear is ready to go. Camera batteries are being charged and memory cards are being cleared. We’ll be watching!