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Criminal protests threaten 2010 Games: Mercer

VANCOUVER - Throngs of masked protestors, Molotov cocktails in hand, breaking fences and causing injury. That’s an unlikely scene come February 2010, but one Olympics security boss Bud Mercer won’t rule out.

“Locally, provincially, nationally and internationally,” Mercer told city council today, “there are groups which are considering and planning to engage in criminal protesting during the 2010 Games.”

The majority of anti-Olympics dissidents will showcase their views in a lawful manner, the RCMP assistant commissioner and head of the 2010 Integrated Security Unit added.

But the 1999 World Trade Organization riots in Seattle and Quebec City’s 2001 Summit of the Americas clash teach a strong lesson, Mercer said.

“North America, and specifically Canada, is not a stranger to criminal protest during major events.”

To bolster his case, Mercer produced images he found during a quick perusal of the internet. The official Games mascots carrying Molotov cocktails. A photo of a banner reading “Riot 2010”.

"You pulled some things off a website that to me look like cartoons," Coalition of Progressive Electors councillor Ellen Woodsworth said. “I’m concerned that you’re holding these things up as an example of criminal behaviour.”

Woodsworth wanted council to endorse the Coventry Declaration this afternoon. But a planned motion was delayed until Thursday, to allow public comment.

The document, drafted at the recent Play the Game conference in England, takes aim at attempts to harass or intimidate writers who exercise free speech.

Last month, civil liberties lawyer Jason Gratl wrote a sharp letter to Mercer claiming plainclothes intelligence officers publicly approached anti-Olympics protestors in a threatening way.

Mercer played down those allegations today. “We have to make contact and we have to open dialogue,” he said.

Olympics critic Chris Shaw said he’d prefer to see the ISU hold public meetings, rather than meet with protestors one-on-one.

“They may not mean it to be intimidating but it has that impact on many people,” he said.

Geoff Dembicki reports for The Tyee.

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