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On Thursday, August 20, Vancouver 2010 Integrated Security Unit (VISU) officers knocked on the doors of at least three Victoria homes and tried to question social justice advocates about their plans for the Olympics. Instead, they got politely schooled in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
Comrade Black is a volunteer organizer for the Victoria Anarchist Bookfair. The VISU officers came to the 29-year-old’s home in Fairfield on Thursday, but no one would talk to them. Since the officers had no warrant, no due process, no probable cause, and nothing to investigate, they got no information from Black or his housemates.
“When they came to my door, one of my roommates answered and gave them no information, he would not even tell them if I was home. Even though they asked for me by name, they didn’t know who they were looking for, and at one point seemed to possibly wonder if he was me. I never ended up talking with them, myself. They gave him a card asking me to call them,” Black said.
“What’s funny is I personally have had little to do with the local organizing against the Olympics,” Black went on. “They must have either picked people out of a hat, not caring who they got as the effect would be the same, or they chose the most visible anarchists in town to target for harassment.”
Melanie Sylvestre, a 30-year-old organic farm worker, said: ‘I was on my way to work at 8:30 in the morning, and they came over to me as I was getting in my truck. They were trying to be friendly, they called me by name and introduced themselves and said they wanted to talk. I said, ‘No thanks, I’m leaving for work right now.’ But they wouldn’t back off. I had to say ‘no’ several times. They tried to flatter me, they said that they know I am a strong voice in the movement against the Olympics. That’s not even true. I guess they were frustrated, and out of the blue the woman officer said, ‘We believe in free speech, too!’ I had to laugh.”
“But I’m really offended by them spending so much money trying to intimidate people like me who are trying to make a living, working on a farm everyday,” Sylvestre said.
This is the second time the VISU has attempted to obtain Olympic “intelligence” from Victoria residents through ambush-style interviews. Earlier this year, an officer tried to convince several local community members to inform on groups that might organize protests at the Torch Relay and the Olympic Games. That effort failed as well.
One officer in Vancouver defended the tactic of accosting activists at home and at work as an attempt to start a community dialogue about the Olympics.
This week, Tamara Herman of No 2010 Victoria dismissed the claim. “The police are not in a position to start a dialogue about free speech and the Olympics. They’ve already proven that their job is to restrict free speech. The place to start is by holding public meetings about Olympic security instead of visiting organizers’ houses. We doubt they will — talking to the VISU about Charter rights is like talking to a brick wall.”
Herman reminded community members that there is no need to let an officer into the home without a warrant in hand. Police may try to use flattery or coercion to pressure people into cooperating, but they do not have the power to detain anyone without probable cause or due process, she said.
This press release was picked up by A Channel News, CFAX Radio, CBC Radio, and Monday Magazine.