Olympics and the Charter

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http://thetyee.ca/Opinion/2009/10/18/ChrisShawRight/index.html

I'm generally in support of the Games, but the supposed restrictions on free assembly and speech for these games gives me concern.

I was, and am, quite upset at the thought that the police (well, rather bylaw enforcement officers, but they're backed by the police so that's a fair parallel) would have the power to enter your house to remove signs. That's absolutely ludicrous and everyone should be pissed about it. There is no way that it's legitimate and I would donate to the legal defense of someone who erected an anti-olympic sign that got taken down.

That being said, this article is complete B.S. I was going to launch into it's complete lack of journalistic integrity, and then I saw that it's an opinion piece. It's not even close to being accurate, let alone balanced in any way, but presumably they can pawn that off as just being 'Opinion' (you know, like fox news!) I wish you'd posted something more informative and less inflammatory to get the discussion going, maybe there would have been more action in the thread. Although I wonder if anyone supports it, I haven't heard a single voice that thinks it's a good idea.

1) There's no evidence of police harassment. Asking someone a question isn't harassment. This kind of moronic thinking in "defence" of our rights is part of what's wrong with our criminal system. If you think the police shouldn't be allowed to ask someone a simple question without it being considered harassment, then you are literally helping gangsters and criminals run the show.

2) "allowing policemen to bust doors down while looking for signs that offend the IOC". What's that smell? Oh yah, it's bull-poop.

3) Oh noes! We're going to become like the Soviet Union! Where have I heard that before? Oh yah, the health care debate in the States, what a hilarious coincidence.

Our rights are being threatened, and this is the garbage that's trying to support us? No thanks, I'd rather we argue our position from actual facts rather than fear mongering and one sided, inaccurate 'opinion' masquerading as journalism.

p.s. one thing I do support is having area's for protesting. Our right to protest ends when it starts interfering with another persons rights.

"p.s. one thing I do support is having area's for protesting. Our right to protest ends when it
starts interfering with another persons rights."

Freedom of assembly and movement are Charter Rights AFAIK. One can't support free speech
and then turn around and limit where one can protest, especially if that decision is being
made
by the very gov't that is the target of the protest.

"There's no evidence of police harassment. Asking someone a question isn't harassment."

If the police show up at your house for no good reason (no crime has been committed) what
do
you think your neighbours will be thinking? Usually where there's smoke there's fire, so in all
likelihood they'll be wondering what you did, and your reputation will probably suffer for it.
Why can't they make a simple phone call to ask these questions?

Question 1) Should protesters be allowed to stand on the podium to protest?

Question 2) Do you believe that police should only be allowed to talk to suspects and people who they already suspect have information about a specific crime?

My answer to your questions: If police show up at my house for no good reason I don't suspect my neighbors would care one way or another. I actually speak to my neighbors though, and have a relationship with them. I believe they've made their opinions of me based on our interactions, not some imaginary bogeyman.

This is actually a good example of the consequences of assuming that the police only talk to people who are suspects, and that everything the police do is in investigation of a crime. That's simply not true. Your assumption is unfair not only to the police but to the people they speak with. This presumption divides the people that police can talk to unnecessarily, and makes it difficult for police to ask people anything at all for fear that those people will be judged by individuals that make that presumption. The assumption that a cop asking questions is "smoke" to some criminal "fire" I believe is incorrect.

"Why can't they make a simple phone call..?": You get nowhere near as much information from someone on a phone call as you do in person. This is why salespeople still travel to sites to make sales, training still happens in person etc.

"Question 1) Should protesters be allowed to stand on the podium to protest?"

Not a public space. Bad example.

"This is actually a good example of the consequences of assuming that the police only talk to
people who are suspects, and that everything the police do is in investigation of a crime.
That's simply not true."

Sure it's not true, but it's what people assume. If the cops come to your house, yr neighbours
are just going to assume the worst until you set them straight.

The police have very little credibility when it comes to policing protests IMO, because they
continue to engage in the practice of using agent provocateurs. Go ask the RCMP if they will
categorically deny that they will use this practice in 2010. I'd love to hear their answer.

"Protestors are free to gather in any public space as long as their actions are legal."

BikerCK:

""Question 1) Should protesters be allowed to stand on the podium to protest?"

Not a public space. Bad example. "

You're correct, it was a bad example because it's not a public place. Mia Culpa.

I think atanarjuat said it best with this:
"A mob of protesters thronging as they please greatly constrict the movements of other traffic, or can completely commandeer a space intended for other use. We should not demand and expect the right to exist as an unbridled inconvenience to everyone else -- it's rather selfish (not just self-expression)."

If there are no reasonable limits then a small group of protesters could shut down ANY endeavor for whatever reason they desire. It would not take many people to barricade the downtown area, perhaps 4 or 5 on the burrard, granville and cambie bridges, a similar number on lionsgate, water, georgia and pacific boulevards. So without reasonable limits < 100 people could 'protest' whatever they'd like and shut down all of downtown Vancouver.

That seems completely unreasonable to me. So I believe that there is a compromise that should recognize the right to peaceful assembly and the reasons for it, while allowing for the operation of publicly supported endeavors and business.

"Just as ridiculous in my opinion, is the charge that the VPD will enter homes to confiscate signage. " --J. Chu

atanarjuat, did I imagine a previous post (from which I cut and paste)?

Apologies to Dugly -- I wanted to move my post after YM's, since YM pointed out that the VPD have no intention of designating assembly zones, which makes this debate rather academic.

I'll repost my opinion on designated protest zones here:

"Maybe I've just been conditioned, but I'm also accustomed to and accepting of the idea of having designated "protest areas." Yes, it is a limitation on freedom of expression, but in my opinion, a fairly modest one. I'm not opposed to reasonable limitations, although I would judge the actions of government on a case-to-case basis; that is, if the government designated a particularly remote, inaccessible, and invisible location for protest, then I would be proportionately incensed.

Here are some of my reasons:

1) Consolidation

It is to a protester's convenience if he can be directed to a crowd of like-minded people. Protests are only effective in sizable congregations, anyways, and this way, a protester and his audience (like journalists) at least know where to find a protest of magnitude.

2) Traffic and Crowd Control

Even on the sanctity of public land, our rights and use of that land have always been restricted. On a road, for example (as an obvious open space), we only possess the right to move with traffic -- not surprisingly, that is its intended design. Our use of parks is limited to our own enjoyment such that it does not damage others' enjoyment. And breaching the peace, whilst open to interpretation, is an offense anywhere.

A mob of protesters thronging as they please greatly constrict the movements of other traffic, or can completely commandeer a space intended for other use. We should not demand and expect the right to exist as an unbridled inconvenience to everyone else -- it's rather selfish (not just self-expression).

In summary, the designation of protest areas strikes me as an intuitive compromise to allow different groups to safely and conveniently enjoy their own activities of choice. "

phew! I'd love to be able to see into the future, but THAT would have been downright insane. and awesome. Very insane and awesome! (excuse me while I go to the casino)

"A mob of protesters thronging as they please greatly constrict the movements of other traffic, or can completely commandeer a space intended for other use. We should not demand and expect the right to exist as an unbridled inconvenience to everyone else -- it's rather selfish (not just self-expression)."

Sounds an awful lot like Critical Mass to me...

IN: we probably should stick to Olympic discussion as we already know everyone's well entrenched ideas on Critical Mass. However just from a factual perspective the roads are intended to be used by bikers as well, and it's not unbridled in so far as it's bound by time and limited impact.

Indeed. My point is not to defend the actions of any and all groups or governments in any context. We can always debate extents and justifications on a case-by-case basis.

My point, rather, is that rights without limitations are always going to be rights in conflict with others. So I don't object to limitations in principle.

The whole point of a protest is to be unreasonable, to risk arrest, as a sign of your
commitment to a belief. That's why trespassing is a key tool in direct actions, and
inconveniencing people is the means of of getting attention. A polite protest won't get you
face-time on the news.

Whether we like it or not, an effective protest almost always ignores the 'rules' for the sake
of a greater good (in the eyes of the protestors). Most, it not all, of our freedoms in this
democracy came about because somebody somewhere sometime broke the rules of a
governing body to highlight an injustice. Sometimes you gotta take the bad with the good.
Blind adherence leads to just following orders, leads to civil rights trampled and on occasion,
mass murders.

Before you all jump on me for being a wild-eyed anarchist, it doesn't matter whether I
believe that such things (unlawful protests) are 'right'. They are in fact essential to
maintaining our freedoms.

"So without reasonable limits < 100 people could 'protest' whatever they'd like and shut down all
of downtown Vancouver."

That strikes me as a bit of an overstatement.

I'd love to see what black civil-rights advocates in the 60's would have said about designated protest zones. "No", says the policeman, "you need to go to the back of the bus. You can sit at the front in protest".

atanarjuat said:
"My point, rather, is that rights without limitations are always going to be rights in conflict with others. So I don't object to limitations in principle."

My point is that the 'powers that be' have entrenched interests - they should not be the ones who define who can say what where. Conflicts are a part of life, and there are already laws in place to deal with undue impacts on others. Violations need to be resolved in a court of law (or in the court of public opinion [and then the legislature] during times of social change), not 'pre-empted' by the government of the day, separating people with different opinions into separate zones.

Back to the original topic, it seems that Mr Mair (and/or his sources) was inaccurate or misleading in his description of the signage bylaws. See the FAQ on Vancouver's website for more details. I realize that the site is somewhat biased and that the reality come February may not quite reflect the policy, but for what is stated in the Tyee article to be true, the city has to be outright lying.

Now it's my turn to say "Oh, maybe I should have read Chu's statement before posting." :)

"There are no protest-only zones, no demonstration pens and no corrals."
- J.Chu.

Glad to hear it. It will be interesting to see how things unfold, in any case.

Ginboh, I think there are two issues:
1. the City's stated intentions.
2. what the new laws allow (including the bylaw and the provincial legislation).

I don't believe the City is lying about its intentions, but I understood the law as originally written to potentially allow for some of the more troublesome actions that Mair wrote about.

1st, thank you everyone for a good discussion!

CK, if crossing lines is an important part of effective protest, maybe we should be more open to the idea of protest pens so that the line to cross is more clear! /tongue in cheek

That raises an interesting question. While we are presumably far more tolerant of protests than most places, I wonder if this makes things worse for the very reasons CK points out. Peaceful marches don't get much airtime. (I'm still not sure that's how we should measure how good a protest it is, but I'm sure it's related)

Craig: it was my understanding that the by-law in question has a specific end date. Is that not true? I would be even more concerned if it was in perpetuity.

Also, you suggest that there are laws in place to deal with undue impacts. Are you suggesting that we should be able to sue individual protesters for their actions should it impact our civil rights?

Many friends of mine have observed that I have too much faith in government for their taste, but I don't see the idea of designated protest zones as a defense of entrenched power; I see them as good organization. In my mind, it's an acknowledgement that an event is inherently controversial, and it plans around the need to accomodate safe protest.

Coming from Quebec, I am accustomed to green zone, yellow zone, and red zone protest divisions, in which, in theory, everyone knows what to expect. Granted, when the system has broken down, it has broken down sensationally*, but I think it's far better than a total lack of organization.

*While I am critical of the force used by authorities in the past, I don't object to the use of protest zones themselves.

"I don't object to the use of protest zones themselves."

Enforced protest zones, while 2010 messages cover the city, from billboards to my child's school-
supplied workbooks? Freedom of speech has been trumped by the power of money IMO and
that's anti-thetical to our country's professed values.

Doug, I don't know if the bylaw has an end-date.

"Also, you suggest that there are laws in place to deal with undue impacts. Are you suggesting that we should be able to sue individual protesters for their actions should it impact our civil rights?"

I meant there are criminal laws to deal with transgressions between people, and between people and organizations. Restricting a freedom of assembly or speech to prevent potential conflict is just so wrong to me (as opposed to restrictions to prevent significant harm, like gun legislation, which do make sense to me).

As for suing someone for impacting your civil rights, that sounds backwards and has undertones of entitlement [I believe you're not advocating for that, just offering an example]. Suing someone for causing you harm, maybe. But anyone with a holistic view of rights and responsibilities in a civil society should respect someone else's right to protest, even if it caused them some inconvenience, imho.

"Enforced protest zones, while 2010 messages cover the city, from billboards to my child's school- supplied workbooks? Freedom of speech has been trumped by the power of money IMO and that's anti-thetical to our country's professed values. "

Well, as Jim Chu has explicitly denied any intention of creating any designated protest zones, we are speaking hypothetically on this point.

Thanks for the clarification Craig.

You're right, I wasn't advocating suing someone for impacting our civil rights, but it sounds like if we're suggesting using existing laws to ensure the parity that would be an extension of that reasoning.

I'm of the opinion that there really hasn't been any evidence to suggest that civil right will be curtailed. Not withstanding Raif's comments which are demonstrably false. I do believe the bylaw has tremendous potential for abuse, and that your concerns are very justified.

However, in the case of the Olympics, what is the proposed solution from the demonstrators perspective? Are they protesting the bylaw? Or are they protesting "the Olympics"? Or are they anarchists protesting globalization? If it's the latter then their sole purpose is to use the Olympics to gain additional exposure for their protest, not specific to the Olympics (sure they might say this is an outcome, it just happens to have been going on for thousands of years).

In the case where it's just using the Olympic name and platform for exposure to an unrelated cause, then I'd likely lean more towards having designated protest areas (despite the fact that they aren't proposed right now).

In my opinion, protesting because it's Saturday, and there's nothing else to do, doesn't constitute protected speech. (Bonus points to any poster who recognizes the reference)

Someone may not agree with anti-globalization protesters using the Olympics for exposure, but as long as it's done legally, I say have at it. (And in many cases for other causes, I'd support non-violent illegal protests, too.)

"In my opinion, protesting because it's Saturday, and there's nothing else to do, doesn't constitute protected speech."

I don't recognize the reference, so you may be tongue-in-cheek, but here's the rub: if one individual or group can decide that another's right to express their opinion freely shouldn't be protected because they don't happen to like that opinion [hate speech exempted], then the right to free speech doesn't exist for anyone.

"In the case where it's just using the Olympic name and platform for exposure to an unrelated
cause"

That would cover pretty much every Olympic ad I've seen to date. After all, what do cars,
hamburgers and soda pop (not to mention electricity, phone service and government) have to do
with sport?

I have to disagree that all speech should be protected in the same way. Whether or not 'anarchist' protest should be protected in this context is a specific discussion, but in general I don't agree that just because someone says they're protesting, and thus should have free reign to behave however they like.

BikerCK, I believe that's a poor example, specifically, they're not trying to freeload their message on the backs of the Olympics under the guise of "protest, therefor free speech", as the anarchists and anti-globalization protesters are. In fact, it's quite the opposite.

It may not be an exact corollary, but I believe it does illustrate the point that when it comes to
the Olympics, free speech is really a matter of $$$. I think it's way wrong for the Olympics to
buy access to my child by putting their logo on school-supplied workbooks. Call me naive, but
IMO schools are meant to be places of learning, not indoctrination.

"IMO schools are meant to be places of learning, not indoctrination"

Many would say they are both, and may originally been setup to focus more on the latter.

"The characteristic conviction of the school promoters [in the 19th century] was that mass schooling could be an effective instrument for instilling appropriate modes of thought and behaviour into children; in their minds, the purpose of mass schooling did not primarily involve the acquisition of academic knowledge."
- http://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.com/index.cfm?PgNm=TCE&Params=A1ARTA0...

</tangent>

stop the presses!!!! I finally figured out what IMO stands for!!!!

My day just got great.

CK can you elaborate on that connection? I don't see how the advertising around the Olympics is a question of, or even related to, free speech.

I don't disagree that it's wrong for the Olympics to BUY access to your child by putting their logo on school-supplied workbooks. I doubt that's how that happened though. Let's table that particular discussion for now if you could elaborate on what the connection is. If you'd rather explore this then that's fine to of course.

I would say that any communication in the public sphere is an example of free speech.

As it's been said, the power of the press belongs to those who own one. Marshall McLuhan's
comments can probably better encapsulate my thoughts on the subject.

"Madison Avenue is a very powerful aggression against private consciousness. A demand that
you yield your private consciousness to public manipulation."

and more importantly:

“Once we have surrendered our senses and nervous systems to the private manipulation of
those who would try to benefit from taking a lease on our eyes and ears and nerves, we don’t
really have any rights left. Leasing our eyes and ears and nerves to commercial interests is
like handing over the common speech to a private corporation, or like giving the earth’s
atmosphere to a company as a monopoly.”

For all the high-minded ideals behind the Olympics (which frankly even I would love to get
behind) it's important to remember what is has evolved into: a spectacle provided for the
purpose of conveying advertising messages. Wouldn't it be fascinating to know the monetary
value of the ads which will accompany the Games? Which would be the larger figure? The
advertising budget, or the budget for the Games themselves?

cheers

I disagree that anything communicated in the public space is free speech. It's kind of like the reason why we can discriminate against white men. If it's not in danger, it's not protected.

I also disagree that the Olympics are merely a spectacle provided for the purposes of conveying advertising messages. As evidence, I purport that when people talk about the Olympics we talk about the events and triumphs. When Simon Whitfield won silver last year I could have been more impressed. I also have no idea what advertisements preceded or succeeded.

In fact, I can't tell you which advertisers sponsored the Beijing Olympics, but I remember several moments of the sports. Bolt breaking the 100m sprint record, phelps getting his golds (and the replay of the race he barely won), the handoff where the US relay team dropped the baton. The swimming in front of the Summer Palace, Adam Vankoeverdan missing gold and on and on. How about you?

But don't forget about the sponsorship deals the winners get. Bolt for Puma/Gatorade, and Phelps for...um...marijuana?

Dugly,

The cynical view would be that, while you're unlikely to associate a product with a specific event, the drama/nationalism/controversy etc of the olympics (on an ongoing basis) makes for a big spectator draw, which makes them valuable from an advertiser's perspective. The organisers create a spectacle sure to draw millions/billions of eyes, which allows them to collect massive amounts of advertising dollars. It's the same sort of thing as the superbowl; really, how is it different from any other game that season, and yet the hype and tradition that surrounds it attracts so many spectators that the adspace is unbelievably expensive - I'm sure that revenue more than offsets the added expense of the half-time show and other details.

"I also disagree that the Olympics are merely a spectacle provided for the purposes of
conveying advertising messages. As evidence, I purport that when people talk about the
Olympics we talk about the events and triumphs."

When you tune in to watch Fringe (and everyone should watch this great made in Vancouver
show btw) do you talk about the plot later, or the commercials that surround it? What you
talk about, and what you absorb as part of living in a consumer-driven culture are not always
the same thing. Can you sing the Big Mac song? Or the Oscar Mayer wiener song? Can you tell
me the specifics of a Miami Vice episode circa 1985?

As with all public spectacles, you're not the consumer. You're a product. The passive viewer,
marketed to advertisers who are willing to pay big bucks to have your undivided attention.
There's a reason every sports jersey in the Olympics has a corporate logo and country
affiliated with it. Brand recognition. Great discussion, gotta bow out for now.

cheers