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Anti-Olympic protesters promise further action in lead up to Games

With a giant banner that read ‘Riot 2010’ hanging outside the window, members of the Olympic Resistance Network held a news conference Thursday afternoon to tell the world that not everyone in Vancouver is benefiting from the Games.

But there was just one problem. None of the nearly 200 members of the international media in Vancouver this week for a pre-Olympic briefing came.

It was a tough week for anti-Olympic protesters, who failed to get the ear of the International Olympic Committee or the international press. Earlier Thursday afternoon, activists held a small protest outside the Vancouver Convention Centre, where the international media were getting a briefing from Tourism Vancouver. Security would not let them in and the press did not come out.

While the anti-Olympic movement has been quiet lately, over the past two years protesters have stolen the Olympic flag from City Hall, vandalized the countdown clock and disrupted Olympic ceremonies. But with the Games almost a year away, protesters promise an escalation in tactics.

Angry that development has disrupted traditional native ways of life, Seis'Lom of the Stlatlimx band told reporters there will be blockades during the Games.

“Our people are ready to die for that [way of life],” said Seis'Lom. “We will go to jail for that. We will put the roadblocks up where they have to go up… We want no more ski resorts on Indian land. We want those sacred territories to be left pure as they were when our ancestors walked on those lands.”

The Olympic Resistance Network is a coalition of aboriginal, poverty and environmental groups. While they have a long list of grievances, their main complaints centre around the rights of aboriginals on unceded territory, poverty in the Downtown Eastside and homelessness.

Pivot Legal Society lawyer Laura Track said 1,400 rooms in the Downtown Eastside have been lost since Vancouver was awarded the Games. She noted that Vancouver’s Inner-City Inclusivity Agreement promised that affordable housing would not be lost and that no one would be made homeless because of the Games. Homelessness has more than doubled during the same time.

As activists accuse VANOC and governments of breaking promises, they expect the Olympics will continue to make things worse for aboriginal and low-income people.

“The impact of the Olympics is not as great as they say it is,” said Carol Martin from the Downtown Eastside Elders Council. “It’s pushing people more into poverty, there’s more violence [and] there’s more destruction of land.”

While the international media avoided protesters during this visit, it is unlikely they will be able to ignore them come 2010.

Sean Condon is the editor of Megaphone Magazine.

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