Legal Observers Ready for Opening Ceremonies and “Welcome” Protests

Legal Observers Ready for Opening Ceremonies and “Welcome” Protests  

The British Columbia Civil Liberties Association has trained hundreds of citizen Legal Observers who will take to the streets, observing the security and policing of Olympics venues and demonstrations throughout the Games.  The Legal Observers are neutral citizen monitors, recording the ‘street scene’ to safeguard the right to demonstrate and deter through their presence and observation arbitrary, excessive or otherwise inappropriate policing of Olympic events.  Breaking news reports and video footage from the Observers will be the subject of daily media briefings.

Robert Holmes, President of the BCCLA:  “Canada will showcase itself not just as a host of the Games, but also as a free country.  The ISU, our security forces for the Games, acknowledge that “lawful advocacy, protest and dissent can occur in any public place anywhere and is not a police concern.”  Prime Minister Harper has said, “I would not support any actions in the name of security that stifle political free expression.”  While security challenges exist, we hope that our security forces will show the world how policing ought to be done by exercising restraint and discretion.  The police are to protect the rights of those who demonstrate just like the rights of others.  The response to the BCCLA’s public call for Legal Observer volunteers was overwhelming, with over 400 people being trained.  This is a unique program in the history of the Olympics and a genuine testament to Canadians’ concern for safeguarding their democratic rights.”

Some Legal Observers have already been seen in their signature orange t-shirts monitoring some arms of the torch relay and now full contingent teams will be deployed at the opening and closing ceremonies, the LiveCity locations in Downtown and Yaletown and all the major demonstrations that have been announced, including today’s Olympic protest “welcome” slated to march from the Vancouver Art Gallery to BC Place Stadium; the 19th Annual Women’s Memorial March, the “Tent-City” Protest and the Rally for a National Housing Program.

Erin Frew, Volunteer Legal Observer:  “I volunteered for the Legal Observers Program because in the run-up to the Games, it was pretty obvious that there was an anti-free speech agenda.  We kept being told that ‘the World is coming to Vancouver’ and that we’d better be looking good when they showed up. Somehow that kept translating into trying to suppress “non-celebratory” voices.   I decided that it was important for visitors to see us standing up for citizens’ rights.  I’m all for showcasing our values to the world – the values of a tolerant, diverse and robust democracy. “

For more information, including how to access legal observer video footage, online video of media briefings and registration for ride-alongs with Observer teams, tours of the grassroots Observer office and interviews with Observers (various languages available by request).

Media Contacts:
Micheal Vonn, BCCLA Policy Director 604-630-9753 or 778-829-3471
David Eby, BCCLA Executive Director 778-865-7997