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Anti-Olympics protesters force reroute of torch relay

A large group of anti-Games protesters successfully rerouted the Olympic torch relay near downtown Victoria Friday evening.

“The Integrated Security Team implemented a rerouting contingency plan to ensure the safety of all participants,” read a statement issued by VANOC.

The disruption came near Cook St. and Rockland Ave. after an estimated three hundred protesters blocked an intersection. Vowing to interfere with the torch route, they pounded drums, clanged cymbals and chanted anti-Olympics slogans.

Meanwhile, dozens of yellow-jacketed police stood watch on the perimeter and redirected traffic.

At one point, the Tyee and 24 hours spotted a VANOC torch shuttle bus with the license plate FLAME 8. Unlit torches – and what appeared to be downcast torchbearers – could be seen inside.

Further down Cook St., dozens of spectators waited under umbrellas in the drizzling rain. Victoria resident Mike Doiron said he’d been waiting about an hour to snap a picture of the Olympic torch.

“Obviously the protesters want to get their message through,” Doiron said. “It’s a free country. But I'm kind of disappointed standing in the rain and we didn’t get to see it.”

Protesters departed from Centennial Square at about 5:00 pm. They followed a long and windy route throughout downtown Victoria.

That included a nearly half hour stop at the intersection of Fort St. and Douglas St.

Though dozens of police followed the procession – and seven horse-riding cops brought up the rear – there were no clashes with protesters.

Some observers had feared arrests and crowd control tactics such as pepper spray would accompany Games-related protests.

Geoff Dembicki reports for the Tyee.

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