The Electric Pencil

Putting the horse before the cart

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no2010About three weeks ago I read a post over at Friends of Grassy Narrows – it was an report written by Tom Quiggin on the threat that activists pose to the 2010 Olympic Games in Vancouver. Seems like it took awhile, but the report is now making a few waves.

“Extremist Activity Associated with the 2010 Olympics, the G8, and the SPP” takes a look at what Quiggin calls recent violent activity and the threat they pose to major international events – the Olympics, G8 and the Security and Prosperity Partnership – being held in Canada over the next two years. Quiggin, a former RCMP officer and independent security consultant who wrote the report for an Israel-based security agency, is particularly alarmed by what he sees as an early increase in activities meant to target events nearly two years away:

“A clear upturn in violent protest activity is occurring. There had been a downturn or exhaustion of activity following the rush of activities from 2002 to 2004 (G8 and Bush visit). It is unprecedented to see this kind of forward planning by activists. Even the highly active G8 campaigners were essentially involved in activities for less than a year before the meetings in Ottawa.”

As proof of this upswing, Quiggin points to 19 recent incidents across the country – including broken windows at various Royal Bank locations (which is sponsoring the 2010 games) and the stealing of the an Olympic flag in British Columbia – carried out by what he calls a convergence of “anarchists, aboriginal “warrior” groups, poverty activists, housing activists, anti-capitalists, anti-globalization activists, student activists, and others who are just interested in anti-social behavior.” It isn’t clear whether he defines all of the above groups as ‘anti-social.’

While Quiggin’s report is obviously meant to sound the alarm for the Canadian government and the organisers of these events, it would be interesting to get a better idea of what the opposition groups themselves think of the report.

Despite the fact that Quiggin casts them in a pretty disparaging light – defining them as violent actors who simply need to be stopped, with no attention paid to their actual demands – this report could actually inspire groups to continue in their campaigns since they are achieving their goal of disruptting – or threatening the plausible disruption – of these events.

Quiggin offers little in the report as far as solutions, except to say the government needs to engage in a ‘knowledge-led operation’ focussing on ‘integration’ and that the ‘”fine grains” of intelligence and information must be integrated over a wide range of potential sources and barriers. Cooperation among the various players is an absolute requirement.’ All buzzwords that I am sure Quiggin will be glad to decipher as a consultant.

But there is one glaring aspect that Quiggin misses: what he identifies as the goal of these groups – the disruption of high-profile events – is in fact not the goal at all. Rather it is a tactic. The goals are much less tangible, yet much more important, than what Quiggin identifies.

Those opposed to the 2010 Olympics are fighting to raise awareness and find equitable solutions for, among other things, problems of poverty and homelesness in British Columbia, and to force the government and private developers to stop development on stolen First Nations land. For those against the SPP and G8, their goals are even more varied, but they are brought together by the need for a more just economic and social system that isn’t based on free trade and the power of the rich, but providing the necessities each person needs to live a fair and decent life.

Until governments find consultants who can provide reports on working towards those goals, chances are the targets will remain the same. But then again, if that were the case Tom Quiggin would be out of a job…

Written by Tim McSorley

May 7, 2008 at 10:12 pm

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