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Olympics controversy in Antigonish

Blog posts reflect the views of their authors.
“The group used graphic illustrations attached to their posters for the meetings that were of concern to us,” said the RCMP.
“The group used graphic illustrations attached to their posters for the meetings that were of concern to us,” said the RCMP.

An interesting article that appeared in the Xaverian Weekly. 

Come to the Halifax Launch of the Dominion's special issue on Vancouver 2010 to learn more about the Olympics and its impacts.


Olympics controversy in Nova Scotian community

Antigonish RCMP inquires about the activities of community discussion group
By Devanne O'Brien
The Xaverian Weekly (St. Francis Xavier University)

A community discussion group focused on the 2010 Olympic Winter Games has received attention from the local RCMP.

The group, headed by two Antigonish youths, Rachelle Enxuga and Jesse Campbell, has been hosting weekly public meetings with members of the community to discuss the social implications of the Olympics.

Both Enxuga and Campbell spent time living in Vancouver, the host city for the 2010 Games in February.

“I wasn’t aware of the issues [surrounding the Olympics] prior to moving to Vancouver,” explains Enxuga. “But there’s a lot of awareness there.”

Since it was announced in 2003 that Vancouver had won the Olympic bid, opposition to the Games has mounted. Aboriginal rights activists, anti-poverty crusaders, and environmentalists alike have all rallied at public events in protest.

“Living in a host city is when people really start asking the critical questions,” says Campbell.

For him, the key issues are the criminalization of poverty, violation of indigenous rights, displacement of homeless citizens, mounting public debt, environmental concerns, and free speech issues – social ills he says are exacerbated during the preparation and execution of the Olympics.

While the Olympic Torch is coming through Antigonish on November 17, Enxuga and Campbell say their group has no intention of protesting.

“The fact is, we feel that in this community the protest would only serve to isolate the group, and that people wouldn’t be aware of the issues,” explains Campbell. “We don’t think it would be appropriate in a very small community, which is why we chose to have a community discussion group to raise awareness of these issues.”

The discussion group, however, has caught the eye of the local RCMP.

In the last week of October, Enxuga says she returned home one day to find that a police officer had called her house.

She phoned back.

“They told me that if I was planning a protest that I should come down and talk to them,” she explains.

Initially, she made plans to go speak with the RCMP to explain the nature of the discussion group.

However, she and Campbell phoned the police back a few days later, and spoke with Sergeant Brian Rehill. She notified him that she would not be going to meet with the RCMP.

“I told him that we didn’t want to go to the station,” she says. “Then we started getting into a phone conversation.”

“He asked me about our group, and what we had been doing, and then he asked specifically about the poster,” Enxuga continues.

The first poster the group used to advertise their meeting showcased an image of a riot cop. Their second poster depicted handcuffs in the formation of the five Olympic rings.

Sergeant Rehill confirms that the RCMP noted the posters.

“The group used graphic illustrations attached to their posters for the meetings that were of concern to us,” he says.

“We were just inquiring as to what the group was about, what their intention is for the torch relay,” he explains. “That’s all we were trying to find out.”

Campbell says he also spoke to Rehill about the group’s posters.

“[The posters] were intentionally provocative,” explains Campbell. “We thought maybe they would make people come to the meetings or look online about the issues surrounding the Olympics.”

“But I’m on the phone with the police, and they’re asking me why I chose to put an image on my poster? Why should I have to justify that to the police? It’s freedom of expression.”

Campbell also expressed concern that the RCMP made the effort to find out the number of people who had attended their meetings.

“All I said to [Campbell] was that they had 11 at the first meeting and 3 or 4 at the second one,” notes Rehill. “It was misinterpreted [by them] if they think we had people spying on them.”

“As we all know, the torch run has gone countrywide, and it’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for [the torch-bearer],” Rehill says. “Obviously, they don’t want a group to disrupt that dream.”

Enxuga and Campbell don’t accept this explanation for the RCMP’s inquiry about their group.

“When they first called, we naively wanted to rationalize it,” explains Campbell. “We thought maybe we were overreacting, but then the more we started to think about it – that there was an easy way to contact the group [through the email on the poster] but that they chose to contact Rachelle through a private, unlisted number…”

“That’s not a simple matter of wanting to know if there’s going to be sort of a disruption planned. I think all of these things are a deliberate form of intimidation.”

Rehill reiterates his position that the police were only interested in finding out the group’s plans for November 17.

“We just want to make sure on [the date of the torch relay], things are going to remain peaceful,” he says. “I don’t think they are a militant group.”

Campbell still feels differently about the situation.

“In the first place, we are not planning a protest for the Olympics,” he says. “But if we were, we would still have the right to protest.”


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Comments

re: Olympics controversy in Antigonish

I haven't spent much time around activists in my life but I know many common people(meaning not overly political) are quite cynical about the whole modern Oylmpics/big business hype, however I can't see any of them being very sympathetic in anyway to protestors who try to disrupt the torch run, in fact I think any disruptions or attacks will have the opposite effect of causing more people to come out in support of the torch run. The games may be tarnished in the eyes of many but the cynicism is directed against a kind of abstract faceless enemy of pure sport, none seems to be transferred to the athletes or the volunteers, including those involved in the torch run. I just hope that this will be resolved without using any same day loans.

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