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Change in activists' tactics poses serious threat to 2010 Games: analyst

Change in activists' tactics poses serious threat to 2010 Games: analyst

By Stephanie Levitz, The Canadian Press

VANCOUVER - Changing tactics by Canadian activists pose a serious threat to security
at the 2010 Olympic Games in Vancouver, security analysts say.

The usually fragmented, single-issue groups are converging and organizing in ways
never seen before in Canada, said Tom Quiggan, a former security consultant with the
Royal Canadian Mounted Police.

Where there's usually a lull in protest activity in the years leading up to
mega-events like the Olympics, the last year has seen at least 20 violent acts
directly connected to the 2010 Games.

"I'm not aware of, nor have I seen in the past, this kind of organization that's
that far advanced this far ahead of the actual event," Quiggan said.

"There is some commonality of thinking here between anarchist groups, social
activists groups that happen to have a violent agenda and then I see native groups.
When you see that kind of convergence coming up, it makes you a little nervous."

The Olympics is a perfect unifier for Canada's disparate activist community, said
David Cunningham, the spokesman for the Anti-Poverty Committee, one of Vancouver's
leading activist groups.

"Once you have an anti-colonialist, anti-capitalist analysis of the Olympics, you
see that . . . this analysis or the targets or the demands are easily incorporated
into what you're protesting within your own community," he said.

From Vancouver to Halifax, anti-Olympic slogans are popping up at rallies of all
political stripes.

Even among international activists, there's traction for opposition to Vancouver's
Games. At a recent convention in Mexico, the famed Zapatista protest group, along
with native groups from Central and South America endorsed an anti-Olympic
resolution and called for protest.

The Anti-Poverty Committee and other B.C.-based activists now go on speaking tours
to drum up support. For example, earlier this year, two First Nations activists went
on a three-week speaking tour to underscore their demands.

Though opposition to the Games comes from environmentalists, social rights advocates
and taxpayer watchdogs, Cunningham said his hope is that everyone unites under the
banner of indigenous rights for the 2010 Games.

Vancouver's Olympic Organizing Committee, known as VANOC, has spent time and money
trying to include aboriginal people in the planning and execution of the Games, but
there are still some who feel the entire event is illegitimate as it's being held on
"stolen land."

Others - including the head of the Assembly of First Nations Phil Fontaine - say
native leaders will use the opportunity provided by the Games to focus attention on
aboriginal poverty.

Quiggan said Olympic sponsors like the Royal Bank of Canada have particular reason
to be concerned about the convergence of activist groups.

Co-operation among various groups has seen RBC banks targeted for anti-Olympic
vandalism at least nine times by activists in Vancouver, Ottawa and Victoria, and
calls-to-action circulating on the Internet explicitly propose RBC president Gordon
Nixon as a target.

RBC declined to be interviewed on its response to being a target of attacks, citing
security concerns.

One private security company who has worked with RBC said company officials are well
aware of the ongoing threats and are taking extra precautions as a result.

The Anti-Poverty Committee has also explicitly threatened VANOC board members, going
so far as to attempt to evict them from their offices and threatening their homes.

Anti-Olympic activists are taking a page from the protest efforts of animal rights
groups, said Michel Juneau Katsuya, a former Canadian Security Intelligence Service
agent who now runs a private intelligence firm.

In England and in the U.S., those groups have specifically targeted researchers and
executives of companies believed to be harming animals through their use as
laboratory subjects.

"That has been a demonstration that there is more and more fringe groups that are
starting to make a statement, not with the intent to kill people, but definitely to
destabilize certain things," he said.

"The Olympics? That would be like a beautiful platform for them."

Security officials need to be a step ahead of all of them, said Quiggan.

Direct monitoring of these groups is essential to avert potential disaster, he said,
and it appears right now that the security infrastructure in Canada is taking its
time putting in place preventative measures to protect the Games.

Quiggan said the appointment in October of Ward Elcock, the former director of CSIS,
to the post of head of Olympic Security, was a sign that things weren't going well
and someone was needed to start moving plans along.

"Two years before, a year-and-a-half before, you shouldn't be planning, you should
be doing," he said.

"You should have sources in the field, you should have agents in the field."

But Juneau Katsuya said its likely surveillance is already being carried out on
activist groups and though the planning might not be obvious, it's definitely

The challenge, he said, comes from finding a balance.

"More security increases the budget, rather than better security," he said.

"Better security doesn't equal automatically more money spent."

Cunningham said the change in tactics are a direct response to heavier policing and
people are drawn to subversive action out of a feeling that disruption is the only
thing that works to effect change.

His group and others, he said, don't plan to stop at the Olympics.

The year 2010 will also see Canada play host to the G8 meetings and the Security and
Prosperity Partnership meetings, held between Canada, the U.S. and Mexico.

Quiggan and Katsuya both said that's all the more reason a cohesive security plan
needs to be in place.

"The point is to pre-empt the problem," Quiggan said.


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