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Us Vs. Them

Mainstream media sure can talk pretty, but maybe ain't so good.

by Eve Harlow

The HBC display window
The HBC display window
The sign says it all
The sign says it all
Feb 12th protest outside the VAG
Feb 12th protest outside the VAG

Also posted by eharlow:

Unless you happened to have lived under a rock for the past 48 hours, you've without a doubt heard of the anti-Olympic protests that have been taking place in the streets of downtown Vancouver the past couple days.

The first protest happened Friday, Feb 12th, and was considered the "peaceful protest", and then there was February 13th, day of Heart Attack 2010. Protesters were warned - if there was an event they'd get arrested at, this would be it.

It proved to be unlike any protest Vancouver has ever seen - a city that usually sits back when it comes to politics saw it's streets taken over by angry activists looking to be heard; from the Anti-Poverty to the Anti-Seal Hunt groups, everyone was there. They started by Terminal and Main, and made their way all through downtown, knocking over garbages and newspaper boxes along the way, some of which ended up being thrown through the display window of the Hudson's Bay Company. It was what VANOC was waiting for - the anti-Olympic demonstrators were obviously wild and out of control, the protest proved that - and in less than two hours people were detained and arrested. The police report also emphasized that protesters "were carrying vinegar soaked rags and goggles fully anticipating that they could provoke police into using tear gas". Sure, it could be seen as that, though the alternative and safer bet is that protesters who have been tear gassed know how painful it is and with rumors floating around that the VPD had bought some, bringing along a rag seemed like the appropriate thing to do. Provoking...or simply being sensical? Your call.

Though Metro and 24 don't release anything on the weekend, they do update their websites, and neither had anything to say about the peaceful protest on Friday, except to mention that there were going to be anti-protesters protesting (as in, pro-Olympic 'protesters' protesting the anti-Olympic ones). And yet today, it seems that every single media outlet managed to get out a piece on the "violent" protest in less than an hour after it happened. The context in which the word was used is interesting as well, for although the protesters smashed display windows, they didn't hurt anyone, and the protest only turned physical - "violent" - when the riot police started getting out their batons.

Another point of interest is that not one of the papers seemed keen on focusing on why this protest was occurring. The point of fascination really seemed to be the Black Bloc, or, as the VPD statement described them, "a loosely organized group of thugs from central Canada known to attach themselves to any cause, travel to any event that attracts media coverage and promote anarchy wherever they go". The black clothed anarchists got more press then Killer Coke, Gateway Sucks, or the tar sands – the real reasons behind these marches.

Many people are still misinformed about the issues surrounding the Olympics and its corporate sponsors, and protesters continue to be seen as unnecessary and selfish, especially because of the media emphasis on the Black Bloc involvement, and today, standing outside the broken window display of the HBC in the aftermath of the rally, the only things overheard didn't vary much outside of "Stupid activists", "Protest means breaking windows?", and "Yah! Let's throw shit!...idiots." The question is: would people be as sarcastic if they were charged a $115 fine like Gord Hill was today for exclaiming "Fuck!" in response to a protester getting arrested? Or if the activists would seem as stupid if their critics would be in the position of Edward Durgan, who got arrested for speaking in defense of a homeless man getting hasselled in Pigeon Park (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2s-TOm92YcM) ? Instead, papers that locals rely on for information like 24hr and Metro choose to run stories about the 'protesters' who wielded "They say protest! We say party!" signs, and the real issues are quickly getting lost behind the black balaclavas that are easily vilified.

I guess the opinions that the government says it respects will have to be saved for the Safe Assembly areas they've put up around town, and maybe that's why those good-for-nuthin' activists end up breaking windows...they're tired of being confined to one space.

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