Independent media needs you. Join the Tyee.

The Hook: Political news, freshly caught

‘Free speech zones’ elusive at Olympic torch relay kick-off

The creation of special areas where anti-Olympics protesters can gather safely has been one of the most the contentious security issues of the Games.

But at Friday’s torch relay kick-off in Victoria, RCMP officers on the scene appeared confused about the location, marking or even existence of the zones.

“I don’t know anything about that,” a male officer told the Tyee. “This whole city is a free speech zone,” said another.

The Tyee asked about a dozen officers where zones would be located, and how they would be marked.

Though answers varied, the consensus was that one zone was at the corner of Government St. and Bellville St. Another was across from the Empress hotel at the statue of Captain Cook.

As thousands of people milled on the front lawn of the B.C. Government Parliament buildings, seven RCMP officers sat on horses in front of what was ostensibly a “free speech zone”.

There were no fences or markings, and people walked in and out of the area.

“A free speech zone?” said Fran Thoburn from the Victoria Raging Grannies. Her and several others stood nearby, holding signs critical of the Olympics. “No, everything is okay here.”

An RCMP officer on the scene admitted that it’s difficult to tell protesters where they should gather. “They’ll say, we can give free speech anywhere,” he said.

Officers standing beside the Captain Cook statue appeared confused when asked if they were in a special protest area.

“I haven’t been told anything,” one female officer said.

B.C. Civil Liberties Association executive director David Eby helped lead teams of civil rights monitors today. Protest was light and uninhibited this morning, he said. “So far, so good."

Eby had been looking for “free speech zones” without any luck.

“If there was one here it wasn’t obvious,” he said. “It’s invisible. And that’s the way it should be.”

Geoff Dembicki reports for the Tyee.

What have we missed? What do you think? We want to know. Comment below. Keep in mind:


  • Verify facts, debunk rumours
  • Add context and background
  • Spot typos and logical fallacies
  • Highlight reporting blind spots
  • Ignore trolls
  • Treat all with respect and curiosity
  • Connect with each other

Do not:

  • Use sexist, classist, racist or homophobic language
  • Libel or defame
  • Bully or troll
  • Troll patrol. Instead, flag suspect activity.
comments powered by Disqus