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“Free speech zone” crowded with pro-Olympic displays

Vancouver, B.C. – The BCCLA is disappointed that the organizers of the 2010 Olympics have crowded an area designated for free speech with pro-Olympic displays, making large demonstrations practically impossible in the Olympic city.

“Beijing created protest zones where people who wanted to protest could peacefully assemble,” said Robert Holmes, President of the BCCLA. “But the Vancouver Olympics organizers seem to think that even the tiny patch of green behind the Vancouver Art Gallery is too much to allow for those who don’t agree with the Olympics.”

The Civil Liberties Advisory Committee which met with the Integrated Security Unit, Vancouver City Hall, and VANOC had recommended the North lawn of the Vancouver Art Gallery be kept clear and available for public organizing, recognizing the traditional use of the space as a gathering point for rallies and demonstrations. The recommendation appears to have been completely ignored, as the space now features a pro-Olympic poster display, a provincial government log cabin, and a bobsled.

“Free speech needs air and room in which to be spoken and heard,” said Holmes. “With this effort to crowd out others, the Olympics organizers are offending the Canadian democratic principles that our governments committed themselves to uphold. For an organization supposedly dedicated to competition among athletes to be so fearful of competition of ideas is sad indeed. Speakers will be deprived of the right to express themselves and listeners deprived of their right to hear. This is a sorry start to the Olympics and must be quickly overturned by those in authority.”

This tactic of trying to block out the opportunity for others to communicate a message was used by VANOC in the fall of 2008 when it purchased all outdoor advertising in Vancouver and
Whistler and resold it only to approved sponsors. The Hughes Commission into demonstrations related to APEC made recommendations that demonstrations not be unreasonably confined.

MEDIA CONTACTS:
Robert Holmes, President, (604) 681-1310
David Eby, Executive Director, (778) 865-7997