On Sunday October 12, activists from AW@L, Six Nations, Guelph, London, Kitchener, Toronto, Waterloo and Hamilton blocked the Olympic “Spirit Train” on the tracks as it approached Toronto, by locking down on the tracks and occupying a railway bridge.
This highly coordinated and well executed non-violent action was taken in solidarity with the Olympic Resistance Network of British Columbia, the Native Youth Movement of the Coast Salish People, and the Anti-Poverty Committee of Vancouver, who have called for actions against the Spirit Train and all 2010 Olympic related activities.
The non-violent action to block the Spirit Train was a resounding success as our goal to have national media coverage that actually spoke about the true issues surrounding the Olympics was met. Hopefully we have inspired others to take action as well. More and more people are gaining an understanding that the Olympics in general, and more specifically the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver, are no longer about sports and culture, they are about profit for a small elite and wide scale environmental destruction through development of stolen First Nations land.
Canadian Pacific (CP) called the action a "serious safety risk", though no train was within five kilometres of the blockade as scouts were tracking the progression of the train from Sudbury. Also, the lock down team had full safety control of the situation by using a self-release device. CP followed their pre-set safety precautions and no one was ever put in danger.
The situation was tense at times as the activist liaison negotiated with the police (first York Police then CP police), but after a three and a half hour blockade, and the arrival of independent media from The Real News, and corporate media journalists, a peaceful de-escalation was completed and no one was arrested.
The 2010 Winter Olympics are being held on unceded First Nations land and are causing environmental destruction through venue, road and real estate development. The Games are also leading to a massive expropriation of social housing units in one of Canada's most at risk communities - the Downtown Eastside of Vancouver.
Further, these games are diverting tax money from social and environmental programs so that a small elite of land developers may pad their bank accounts.
Additionally, the 2010 Winter Olympics are being used as a catalyst to expand the police state in Canada. Those made homeless because of the gentrification of Vancouver's Downtown Eastside, and those already living on the streets are being criminalized by the implementation of “no sit, no lie” laws. Also, security costs for the Olympics are likely to exceed 1 billion dollars as a planned force of more than 12,500 police, mounties and army will converge on Vancouver. It is quite likely that we will also see American troops on our soil resulting from the February 2008 signing of the Civil Assistance Plan by the Harper Government.
Broad coalitions are forming and the resistance to the 2010 Olympics is growing. This action is an escalation of the protest rallies that have met the Spirit Train at many of its stops including Port Moody, Edmonton, Winnipeg and Sudbury.
The Spirit Train itself is an escalation of the dissemination of Olympics propaganda and with each new escalation initiated by Olympics organizers and sponsors, there will be an escalation in the non-violent resistance to the 2010 Winter Games.
Dan Kellar is a PhD student at the University of Waterloo.
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