by Olympic Resistance Network
From the afternoon of June 3 until June 5, approximately 15 anti-Olympics activists were visited by Vancouver 2010 Integrated Security Unit (VISU) Joint Intelligence Group officers. Surprise visits by plain-clothes officers included home visits, work place visits, persistent phone calls, and intimidation of family members and neighbors.
The patterns of visits reveal that VISU has clearly been spying on activists and making note of daily routines. In one case, an organizer was stopped on the road near the skytrain he uses daily on his way to work and followed into the packed station, where VISU very publicly identified themselves and him. In some cases, the officers would not leave when activists refused to speak with them and demanded that they leave.
None of the activists approached agreed to these one on one “discussions” with VISU on Olympic security-related issues. Experience shows that such private meetings are aimed at controlling the visibility of protesters and gathering intelligence on community activities.
“This is not about dialogue; this was clearly aimed at intimidation. They knew where we lived, worked and even where someone went for coffee. They showed up at these places and intimidated our neighbors and co-workers and in some cases would not leave when asked,” said Harjap Grewal. “It is unnerving to think that because we speak out about free speech and the damage of the Games, there are intelligence officers spying on people’s homes and workplaces and harassing people on the street.”
Since 2007, police and intelligence agencies have targeted anti-2010 Olympics opposition as a “security threat” to the Games. This has included media articles based on reports from CSIS (Canadian Security Intelligence Service) and police specifically mentioning Indigenous and other social movements in Vancouver.
Police have publicly stated their need to increase surveillance of anti-2010 resistance. Beginning in 2008, CSIS and police also began attempts to recruit informants and gather information through interviews with people organizing anti-2010 resistance, or with people indirectly associated with our movement.
The Olympic Resistance Network denounces the continued harassment of activists and is preparing a legal letter to VISU to cease such intimidating visitations. These latest tactics are further evidence of the $1 billion surveillance and security apparatus, which sociologist David Lyon has dubbed “the Surveillance Games,” with over 13,000 RCMP (Royal Canadian Mounted Police), military and other security personnel, as well as joint U.S.-Canada military and North American Aerospace Defense Command operations.
We note that some of us and our allies are made more vulnerable by disability, lack of immigration status, prior records and parenting or elder care responsibilities, or face greater repression as Indigenous defenders or criminalization for being poor. Rather than allowing the state to exploit our vulnerabilities or fears or allow isolation to overcome us, we strive to protect each other and build greater solidarities in the face of this ever increasing surveillance and intimidation.
Finally, we advise anybody contacted by police for an interview about their concerns regarding the Games that the best response is to just say “No.” You are under no legal obligation to talk with either CSIS or the police. This also applies if you happen to be arrested and they want to talk to you then. Nor can CSIS or police enter your residence, unless they have a warrant, or detain you, unless you are under arrest.
Security agencies cast a wide net when collecting intelligence. Often times it is because someone is active in the particular movement being targeted, but not always. It includes situations where it is believed that divisions may be exploited between individuals and groups, to discourage people from becoming more active (intimidation), or when a person has a close relationship with the target of surveillance (including family).
Sometimes, agents have no idea how a person might respond to an interview request and take a chance they’ll co-operate. Some people think it might be fun or “interesting” to meet with CSIS or police, to play “Spy vs. Spy.” This is a bad idea. Intelligence agents are trained in interrogation techniques and often have large amounts of intelligence at their disposal based on extensive surveillance.
Not only are these agencies seeking info to certain “criminal acts,” they are also gathering psychological profiles of people. When it comes to dealing with state intelligence and police agencies, where information provided could target individuals or groups for repression, this is a dangerous game to play.
For these reasons, it’s a good idea to say “No” and contact others to let them know you’ve been approached by either police or intelligence agents.
Please contact the Olympic Resistance Network with this information about details of the incidents, any comments made by the agents or officers, the agents’ or officers’ names and contact information – you can ask for a business card – and if possible, a photo of the agents or officers.
To contact the Olympic Resistance Network, email firstname.lastname@example.org. We are happy to meet in person and your privacy and wishes will be respected.