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We Say Protest, We Say Party!

by Moira Peters Original Peoples, →2010 Olympics

We Say Protest, We Say Party!
We Say Protest, We Say Party!
We Say Protest, We Say Party!
We Say Protest, We Say Party!

Also posted by Moira Peters:

"Should we party on the backs of the poor?"

Hollis Johnson of Fort Langley turned his back on a small group of people who wound their way through the crowd at the Vancouver Art Gallery (VAG) yesterday to protest the Olympics resistance. Their message to protesters: relax and enjoy the Games.

"I'm shocked to see young people saying we should be here to party. Where are their values? We are watching as our welfare state becomes a repressive state. I'm dead set against the corporate schmoozing and corporate green-washing we're seeing."

"I'm sure if you sat those people down and spoke to them, they might change their minds," said Alex Klaver of Vancouver, who was holding a banner that read, "End Corporate Rule - Another World Is Possible."

"It simply doesn't make sense, given the injustices we see, that we spend so much money on the Olympics."

"It's so much more than a party," said Charlie Stewart of Burnaby. "It's hard to focus on just the party when so many are being hurt by the Olympics."

Steward wore a green t-shirt with the words, "Buying Sex Is Not A Sport." The shirt was part of a campaign to raise awareness about the increase in the sex trade during the 2010 Games.

"Tourists come to Vancouver for a two-week party, and many will want to buy sex. For me, prostitution is violence against women. For me, that isn't a party."

About two thousand people gathered yesterday at the VAG to demonstrate their resistance to the Olympics with a march to the opening ceremonies at BC Place.

As Indigenous speakers addressed the crowd and performances rallied the resisters, the demonstration began to resemble, well, a party. Food Not Bombs doled out soup and sandwiches on the steps of the Gallery as volunteers encouraged those gathered to "eat our freegen food!" More people joined the demonstration.

The Mas Movement Cuban Dance School was there to party.

"We definitely celebrate certain aspects of the Olympics," said Johanna Wetzel of Vancouver, whose red t-shirt read, "I Want To Celebrate."

"We support athletics and cultural exchange. We also celebrate homes for all, climate justice, quality public education. A teacher friend of mine just lost her job because of cuts to education, and there have been cuts to public arts. Why is there no money for our dance school?" The back of her shirt said, "Spending less and living more."

Taryn Thomson and Sara Koopman, both of Vancouver, both also wearing "celebrate" t-shirts, said, "You can party AND protest."

The diversity of issues raised by the resistance – overspending, land theft, militarization, gentrification, prostitution, corporate nepotism and monopolies, repression of civil liberties, surveillance, homelessness and criminalization of the poor – was articulated not only in the words written on banners and raised by voices, but also in the cross-section of people who marched down Robson Street toward BC Place.

Young people and old people, children and families, people in wheelchairs and people in strollers, anarchists, activists, athletes and academics, all rallied behind the Indigenous contingent led by Elders marching under the Warrior flag.

Representatives of the Circassian diaspora, the Indigenous people of Sochi, site of the 2014 Olympic Winter Games, linked the present struggle to future Olympics resistance by marching alongside Vancouverites.

The Quick Solidarity Notes Choir sang harmonies with a beatboxer from Victoria and the brass band played with the bucket-beaters. Circles of ladies danced.

A giant “Green Greed” puppet and a huge “Ghost Salmon” fish floated among the marching humans.

Even the trees spoke.

“We’re here to celebrate nature. Greenest Olympics? What happened on Eagle Ridge – where all the trees were chopped – was not necessary,” said Jennifer Norquist of the Upper Realms on the Sunshine Coast, who was dressed in green and on stilts.

“We’re not protesting every aspect of the Olympics, but we’re here to remind people that nature provides quality of life for humans. Even having to truck snow from so far away – that’s because of the degradation of nature.”

And as the crowd swelled to three thousand, and began marching on BC Place, one rallying cry took the lead: No Olympics on stolen Native land. The drums beat, the voices insisted. The message turned to land. "Sure We're For Sport But Not Land Theft," read one banner.

"You can watch the bobsled and enjoy it. And you should. It's fun! But what you're not seeing when you watch the bobsled at the Olympics is the stolen land it's being performed on; you don't see the environmental destruction," said Ted Rutland of Vancouver, former football player.

"You don't see all these things that make the bobsled possible."

Warner Naziel of Wet'suwet'en territory said he sees these things, very clearly.

"The Olympics are funded by the same companies that are laying a pipeline through our territory. We don't want that pipeline; we have an alliance with the people of Fort Chipewyan, Fort McKay, the Haida on the coast, the Nak’azdli in the interior, the Nadleh Whut’en, Haisla, Tsimshian and the Carrier Sekani tribal council; and we've signed a declaration of alliance against the pipeline," he said.

"We refuse to sit back and be quiet while our land is raped and pillaged. We refuse to live in bliss while there is so much suffering because of the Olympics."

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Photographs by insurgentphoto.

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