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Anti-Olympics protesters declare victory

The lead group behind most 2010 Games protests declared victory over Olympics organizers, despite potential internal splits and six pending police charges.

“With just a few thousand dollars and volunteer labour, the success of the anti-Olympic movement is truly impressive,” read a statement from the Olympic Resistance Network.

Before the Games, ORN members spoke in city council, and disrupted the torch relay. Two activists involved with the group were plaintiffs in a lawsuit against the city over contentious signage bylaws. Two weeks ago, the group helped coordinate a large opening ceremonies protest.

The ORN also organized a riotous protest the next day and participated in the Feb. 15 tent city. Because of these actions – and others – social issues such as homelessness and overzealous policing were forced “into the public debate”, the statement read.

During the 2010 Heart Attack protest on Feb. 13, some black bloc activists smashed storefront windows and tussled with police. Observers such as David Eby decried the tactics, arguing vandalism justified police crackdowns and alienated the public.

The civil liberties advocate got in a pie in the face shortly after. That led Five Rings Circus-author and prominent Games critic Chris Shaw to question whether the anti-Olympics movement was splitting along the seams.

“Much has been made of the politically motivated property damage on the morning of February 13th on the accusation that protesters discredited the movement,” read the ORN statement. “Yet drunken Olympic fans regularly engage in fist fights on the streets of Vancouver, urinate in alleys and commit random acts of vandalism.”

The statement played down any suggestion of internal division.

Vancouver Police recently arrested an activist who allegedly spat on officers during the opening ceremonies protest. Six people face charges ranging from disturbing the peace to assaulting a police officer.

Alex Hundert traveled from Kitchener-Waterloo to join activist groups for what was termed the 2010 Convergence. Participants may have “overstated” the power of the $900 million Olympics security force, he told the Tyee.

“Before the convergence, some people were actually scared,” he said. “While the police were out swinging their batons, they didn’t have the Tasers out, they didn’t have the LRAD, they weren’t shooting rubber bullets.”

Geoff Dembicki reports for the Tyee.

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