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Take Back Our City Protest (NowPublic Article)

February 24, 2010

Note: This is an opinion piece.

Now that's what I call a countdown!

On Friday (Febuary 12th), thousands of protestors gathered at the Vancouver Art Gallery to show their opposition for the 2010 Olympic games.  The convergence was organized by the 2010 Welcoming Committee as an opportunity for all the groups who have qualms with the games to show solidarity. The idea was to welcome the games (and the world) with a massive public festival. Protest signs and shirts with clever slogans (like “I am a free speech zone” and “sure we’re for sport, but not land theft”) filled the north side of the art gallery and the surrounding area. The event had well over 2000 attendees from over 50 endorsing groups and proceeded as planned. Participants listened to a variety of speakers from various places and causes. Harjap Grewal spoke to the gathering, telling everyone “I’m absolutely ecstatic that all of us today are gonna take to the streets and give them a hit live they’ve never had before”.

The second portion of the event was a march to BC Place Stadium in an effort to literally “Take Back Our City” (as the event name implied). Organizer Garth Mullins sent the crowd into mass movement by saying,

“We’re gonna take to the streets today. We’re gonna do this because people said we couldn’t do it. People said you couldn’t have an amplified voice, like this one; people said you couldn’t have protest signs, like these ones; and people said you couldn’t go outside of a designated protest area. Well the world is my designated protest area!”

Attendees marched as onlookers paused to take notice. The parade waited once to listen to some individuals affected by the tar sands and then came to rest at BC Place. The solidarity notes labour choir led protestors in song upon arrival at the Stadium. The transcending lyrics of the first song were simple:

I send my love over the mountains.

I send my love over the sea.

I send my love into the heavens,
and it returns to me.

(Video footage from a subsequent song.)

This display of love and goodwill contrasts the flurry of negative comments visible on Facebook and other social networking sites. Comments like “all olympic protesters can burn in hell” and “…i want to bash in the head of every olympic protester” were just some of the hateful remarks from the Canadian community. Even at the rally itself a small group of  “anti anti-Olympic protestors” made an appearance. Their signs read “They say protest, we say party!” but they quickly noticed they were unwelcome at such a rally and moved on. Despite some criticism the event achieved is objective, which was to “show the world the negative impacts of the Olympic industry and celebrate our communities with our own games and entertainment”. Attendees came together and united against all opposition (both corporate and personal).

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