Protesters promise no violence

VANCOUVER, British Columbia -- Canadian anti-Olympic protesters are promising their voices will be loud but their actions nonviolent during the Winter Games.

Under the banner of the Olympic Resistance Network, a consortium of groups is promising a series of protests starting this weekend.

"We are absolutely a threat to the Games," Harjap Grewal of ORN said Thursday. "We are not a threat to the public."

Next week's protests will culminate in a march on the opening ceremonies Feb. 12. Chris Shaw, of 2010 Watch, said organizers hope thousands of demonstrators will participate.

ORN spokeswoman Harsha Walia said any violence during anti-Games protests will not be started by protesters.

"Police violence is a reality," she said, adding Vancouver is being turned into a "police state" before the Games. Two blocks away, barricades closed roads as dozens of police officers in fatigues guarded gateways watched by surveillance cameras.

Security for the Vancouver Games is costing Canadians almost $609 million, four times the original estimate.

Assistant Commissioner Bud Mercer of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police said that protests will be allowed to proceed as long as they area peaceful and lawful.

Anti-Olympic activists say the billions of dollars spent on the Games, including new transportation infrastructure and a convention center, would have been better spent on education, health and social housing.

The ORN held its news conference in the Downtown Eastside, an area plagued with poverty and drug use. Gord Hill of the Kwa-Kwa-Ka'wakw aboriginal nation said 30 percent of the people in the area are aboriginal.

"This is ground zero of the socio-economic impact of the 2010 Olympics," he said.

A tent city for protesters and the homeless is also being established not far from the opening ceremony venue. Walia said protest leaders have had safety training and medical and legal teams will be on standby. Immigration lawyers will also be available, she said.