Vive Le Canada

Black bloc taints anti-Olympic movement
Date: Wednesday, March 03 2010
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The performance of the anti-Olympic protest movement over the past two weeks bears resemblance to certain Canadian skiers who over-reached, lost their form and crashed.


The shambolic and small group of black-clad anarchists who threw a newspaper box at the downtown Hudson's Bay Co. store on the first day of the Olympics -- shocking Olympic revellers queuing for fuzzy red mittens -- did more than crack a store window.


They splintered the unity of the far-left anti-Olympic protest against the "Olympic industry" and athletes such as Alexandre Bilodeau and Maelle Ricker going for gold on "stolen native land."




Destructive tactics fail to attract public sympathy for the cause and alienate moderate activists


By Doug Ward



The performance of the anti-Olympic protest movement over the past two weeks bears resemblance to certain Canadian skiers who over-reached, lost their form and crashed.


The shambolic and small group of black-clad anarchists who threw a newspaper box at the downtown Hudson's Bay Co. store on the first day of the Olympics -- shocking Olympic revellers queuing for fuzzy red mittens -- did more than crack a store window.


They splintered the unity of the far-left anti-Olympic protest against the "Olympic industry" and athletes such as Alexandre Bilodeau and Maelle Ricker going for gold on "stolen native land."


They also further marginalized the Olympic Resistance Network, the main protest group, which had already failed to connect with middle-class left-liberal people in Vancouver who shared some of its concerns over spending billions of dollars on the Olympics rather than ending poverty.


The violent tactics of the black-bloc anarchists, a fringe subculture within a fringe political sub-culture, sparked a fierce debate in the anti-Olympic movement.


Many left-wing posters on various websites have even wondered whether the anarchists (whether they are true anarchists is a subject too complex to discuss here) were agents provocateurs assigned by the police to deep-six the anti-Olympic cause.


The division caused by the street-fighting on the morning of Saturday, Feb. 13, produced a farcical moment last week when B.C. Civil Liberties Association executive director David Eby was struck by a pie in the face for having told reporters that he was "sickened" by the riot.


The pie-attack came just before Eby spoke at a public debate about the street riots.


The BCCLA official went on to denounce the black-bloc types, who had comically argued that their vandalism was an attack on 'the elites."


"If there was any damage to the status quo by Saturday's tactics, it was fleeting," Eby said.


"What was not fleeting was the damage caused by those tactics to public support for the wider Olympic accountability effort and criticism of overspending on police by 2010."


Eby said at the debate that many people are uneasy about staging an "Olympic spectacle" while the city's homeless numbers increase.


"But will Saturday's tactics encourage them to try to understand us?" Eby said. "Or will it give them the excuse they need to ignore us and go on partying?"


The black bloc, a tactic used by some self-styled anarchists, typically involves wearing black clothing and often balaclavas to avoid identification. The tactic was developed in Europe in the '80s by anti-nuclear activists and gained notoriety during the Battle of Seattle when a small group of young, hardcore anarchists broke away from the much larger anti-World Trade Organization protest and vandalized Starbucks, the Gap and other chain retailers.


The black-bloc action in Seattle sparked debate in the anti-globalization movement over such tactics -- and has done so again in Vancouver.


Chris Shaw, the Vancouver General Hospital medical researcher who has become one of the city's most prominent anti-Olympic activists, said during the debate last week that the black-bloc tactics had sabotaged the protest movement.




Shaw said the rioting pulled the media's focus away from the "Olympic industry" and Vancouver's social problems and onto protest violence.


The street-fighting, he added, was a "wet dream" for the Integrated Security Unit, which handles all policing matters related to the Olympics.


The black-bloc brawlers created an image of protesters, Shaw said, as a "bunch of black-clad people who hate kittens and rainbows and everything else -- and just want to riot in the street."


full article http://www.vancouversun.com/business/Black+bloc+taints+anti+Olympic+movement/2620793/story.html



 







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