All out against colonial wars!
Hundreds of demonstrators gathered yesterday in front of the Vancouver Art Gallery and marched through downtown Vancouver last night to denounce Canada’s role in Afghanistan and Haiti, the occupation of Indigenous lands, and the militarization of Vancouver during the 2010 Olympics.
“To begin with my presentation, I would like to make a controversial statement, which is: I am not anti-war,” said Gord Hill, a prominent anti-Olympics activist from the Kwakwaka'wakw nation. “Sometimes it is necessary to go to war to defend your people and your territories,” he said to a cheering crowd.
Hill explained that for over 150 years, Indigenous peoples in British Columbia have survived colonial invasion and warfare, and assimilation and occupation.
“The Olympic police state that we see before us today is a sign of the future, of what is to come, and we should all be very observant, and take notes of this and begin to prepare ourselves and our social movements for this reality,” said Hill. “This resistance is vital, it is how we will survive. That is what Indigenous history can also teach you, you must fight, you must resist, that is how your people will survive invasion, occupation, genocide,” he said.
As marchers made their way along Howe Street and along Robson, stopping briefly for street theater, police videotaped protestors and bicycle cops positioned their bikes in a kind of makeshift fence around the crowd. Some passers by stood silently and looked on, others, decked out in Canada flags with face paint on, yelled nationalist slogans at demonstrators.
Regardless of the heavy police presence, hundreds of demonstrators made their way through downtown. “I think that marching is direct action, it’s doing something, instead of just sitting there, like you can just do something on your computer, on the web, and that’s all very good, but going into the streets is putting yourself out there, and I think that’s an important first step” said Terry Engler, a long time union and community activist.
Though United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon called for an ‘Olympic Truce’ from Feburary 12-28, at least 17 civilians have been killed by NATO bombs in Afghanistan since the Games began.
Anthony Fenton, a journalist specializing in Canada’s foreign police called the Olympic Truce a farce, saying “the hypocrisy stinks to high heaven, and Canada’s right in the thick of it.”
“We’ve seen a transformation of the Canadian foreign policy apparatus since 9-11, and this is it now playing out to the fullest,” he said. “Canada is interoperable and integrated with the U.S. military machine in an unprecedented way historically,” he said.
Fenton described how the disaster capitalism model will continue to be applied to Haiti in the wake of the destruction caused by the January 12 earthquake.
“Haiti’s been the laboratory for so called neoliberalism, and it will remain so for the new post economic crisis global capitalism that we’re seeing emerge,” he said. Fenton said Canada is at the forefront of the neocolonial project in Haiti, where the government and Canadian security interests are applying a “whole of government” approach similar to that used in Afghanistan.
“Canada’s trying to militarize the Haitian police and paramilitarize them in a way that represses the population, Canada’s been in lock step with the UN occupation repressing any armed or militant opposition to the occupation, and all of this is going to continue apace,” said Fenton.
As the march paused behind the Four Host First Nations Pavillion, Telquaa, a clan mother from the Wet'suwet'en nation motioned towards their display and said that what the Chiefs involved in the Olympics were doing was not right.
“Look at all the police, protecting all these Four Nations,” she said. “Why aren’t they protecting our people?”
“They’re grabbing the youth out from the remote communities, then sending them to jail, into the city, and once they’re in the city and released into the streets, that’s why there’s more youth homeless in this city than ever before,” she said.
Telquaa said she’d like youth to take the reigns themselves, to start being the leaders of their people. “I think they should take the reigns themselves, start being the leaders, kick out their chiefs and councils and put themselves in power, other than that, you know, we’re doomed,” she said.
“I would like to see all of the clan mothers such as myself back on the lands, teaching them their language, teaching them the real values of life, not what this chief and council of today are teaching them,” said Telquaa.
Marchers continued on towards the tent city chanting “homes not bombs,” and “no justice, no peace,” collectively rejecting imperialist, colonial wars and demanding justice for everyone, everywhere.