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Activist claims anti-Games comments got him banned from US

Speaking out against the Olympics can get you barred from the United States, according to a prominent activist. Gord Hill claims that’s what happened after the CBC carried his controversial views on Games-time disruption earlier this month.

“I can’t be charged for my thoughts or my views,” Hill said today. “Yet I can be harassed and denied entry into the United States.”

In mid-October, Hill told a CBC reporter he’d sympathize with the bombing of power lines. He supports most Games-time disruptions, including attacks on energy infrastructure.

But he wouldn’t actually plant bombs. And the Olympics Resistance Network member told the Tyee his group has never called for such a tactic.

On October 17, two intelligence officers from the 2010 Integrated Security Unit left business cards in his mailbox, Hill said. He wasn’t home. That day he’d left with a friend for an anti-Olympics workshop in Seattle.

At the border, American guards denied Hill and his friend entry. The activist had tried to bring 15-20 anti-Olympics t-shirts into the US without the proper merchandise documents.

On October 20, Hill said he was approached by two intelligence officers near the intersection of Pender St. and Columbia St. They questioned him about his CBC comments. Then one officer brought up the failed border crossing three days earlier.

“He told me I would never be allowed in the States again,” Hill said.

The activist was charged and convicted with mischief for storming the unveiling of the Olympic countdown clock in 2007. Yet in the three or four times he’s travelled to the U.S. since, that’s never been an issue, Hill said.

Vancouver 2010 Integrated Security Unit spokesperson Mike Cote couldn’t confirm intelligence officers had approached Hill on the 20th. But it’s definitely possible, given the nature of the activist’s comments.

“I think it’s safe to say that I wouldn’t be surprised if the ISU personnel do pay Mr. Hill a visit to determine what – if any – his intentions are in terms of threatening the games,” he said.

But claims that an officer told Hill he’d been barred from the U.S. carry little weight, Cote said. The ISU doesn’t have the jurisdiction to stop American agencies from letting certain people across the border, he said.

And information about Hill has not been shared with the U.S., Cote added.

“Mr Hill made comments that were concerning to us,” he said. “But that’s all they were. They were words. Mr. Hill is entitled to his opinion.”

A spokesperson for US Customs and Border Protection said security intelligence is regularly shared between Canada and the U.S.

“We do that on an ongoing basis,” Mike Milne said. “It certainly would be applicable during the Games as well.”

If a certain person is deemed a threat by Canadian authorities, American border guards could be alerted. And that person could be denied access to the U.S.

“There are a number of people on any daily basis that are flagged,” Milne said.

Geoff Dembicki reports for the Tyee.

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