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Up to 1,400 out-of-town Olympics protesters: Mercer

Somewhere between 1,000 to 1,400 people from outside Vancouver will join local Games protesters, according to Olympics security forces.

Most will come from across Canada, though police information suggests some American involvement. There will likely be “minimal numbers” from outside North America.

The estimates came courtesy of RCMP Assistant Commissioner Bud Mercer, who provided reporters with a Games security update today.

In 2007, delegates at an indigenous people’s assembly in Sonora, Mexico, called for an international boycott of the 2010 Olympics. The Olympics Resistance Network, a vocal protest coalition based in Vancouver, sent out a request for solidarity in early 2009.

A two-day summit for the "2010 Convergence" started Wednesday afternoon at two locations in east Vancouver.

The first major protest takes place Feb. 12, day one of the Games. A "welcoming committee" plans to meet at 3pm on the front lawn of the Vancouver Art Gallery.

Security forces haven’t identified any credible threats to the Olympics, Mercer said. Still, the 2010 Integrated Security Unit will go to “enhanced levels of resources” for major events such as the opening ceremonies.

Anti-Olympics activists have indicated their willingness to block roads and cause disruptions. A Feb. 13 protest is entitled “2010 Heart Attack: Street march to clog the arteries of capitalism.”

The Vancouver Police Department is responsible for crowd control outside Olympics venues. Its reaction to potential street blockages will depend on the situation, Mercer said.

“Our road systems are obviously critical to everything we do,” he said. “If you block a major artery that commerce, industry, business and the opening ceremonies require, you know the tolerance of the police is likely to change.”

Geoff Dembicki reports for the Tyee.

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