Vancouver's Anti-Olympics Movement Falters as Local Activist Hero David Eby Gets Pie in Face From Black Bloc Supporters

Who would want to pie this face? Photo by Yukiko Onley.

"You're a traitor," someone in the group of sixty activists shouted out, after lobbing a pie at David Eby. It landed squarely in his face.

British Columbia Civil Liberties executive director Eby was on the panel Wednesday night at a meeting for anti-Olympics activists. Called by media cooperative, VIVO, the meeting was called "Safe Assembly. There were about sixty people in the room, and many expressed support for the actions of Black Bloc-affiliated protestors on Saturday, individuals the Vancouver Police Department called "thugs" for breaking the windows and attacking people.

The panel featured Eby,  Chris Shaw, author of Five Ring Circus: Myths and Realities of the Olympic Games, and several other people. The last thing Shaw said he expected was one of the most vocal and effective advocates for justice to have a pie smashed into his face. "He was pied and the first video of the night was about Eby being a traitor. And then he got to speak," Shaw said.

Eby had denounced the smashing of the Hudson Bay Company window on Granville by Black Bloc protesters the previous Saturday.

"You're a disgrace to your profession," shouted the man who threw the pie according to Shaw.

"He got dragged out of the room kicking and screaming and that set the tone for the whole evening," Shaw said. "David was very calm about it. He wiped the pie off his face."

Shaw said he got "collateral pie-ing," as the pie exploded onto Eby and caught the people around him in the crossfire. "It just got more nasty from there," Shaw said.

Shaw said that many people have worked for over seven years building a political movement around Olympic opposition they had hoped would bring about positive change in Vancouver.  He expressed concern in "the turn of events and the negative reactions of many of those on the left brought on by the actions of the Black Bloc on Saturday."

"You just watch seven years of organizing evaporate. It was as if I just watched two chairs through a store window destroy a lot of what lots of people have been trying to do for a long time.  There  still is that potential to build something bigger. We were on the cusp of grasping something different. We might still, but in my view  it took a drubbing on Saturday and it took a worse drubbing on Wednesday. It set such a nasty tone for everything that followed.

"The left in Vancouver is famous for this and there was beginning to be change. That coalition was looking like it could be powerful and change Vancouver's social justice scene. And then a day later, it  faltered. Wednesday's meeting was one of the nastiest things I've ever seen in Vancouver's political scene."

Eby didn't want to discuss the pie. "It's not even worth discussing," he said.

"It was a really important discussion within the community about what we will and won't tolerate in the movement for a just society. The really important aspect of that evening was that we were all there to discuss the issues and that happened."

 

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Fair Comment ?

What's the big deal ? So a window was broken. It was a window of the store that sells Olympic merchandise. It's vandalism for a cause. Misguided thugs ? That's one point of view. Sure it's easy to dismiss people who break windows. But it sure gets your attention. David Eby, though I'm sure he means well is fading into the background simply because he's polite, debates issues and doesn't cause a fuss or disturbance. The 'powers that be' like activists like Eby. If that's all the opposition they get then they win. Occasionally one has to resort to civil disobedience...and I don't just mean sitting in from of the Art Gallery chanting. Back to the breaking glass. How much damage did they do really ? $1000 or so ? Well then. Find the culprits, charge them, fine them and make them do community service. Case closed. Just let's stop getting so high and mighty about a little petty vandalism in the heat of the moment. Compared to the damage caused to our environment by industry and multinationals based in foreign countries over the last decade, this is nothing. Put it in the proper perspective and use it as a rallying point, not a reason to discredit all would-be protesters.

Gandhi was polite. Mandela,

Gandhi was polite. Mandela, faultlessly so. Being friendly and willing to respectfully engage with the powers that be as well as people who are on the margins doesn't make you an ineffective activist. In fact, I believe it can enhance one's abilities. The important thing is your values and integrity. In my opinion, Eby has demonstrated a deep and consistent commitment to advancing the interests of Vancouver's most marginalized persons. His contributions have been and continue to be substantial. Smashing a window? I don't think that's helpful, and it should be condemned. I think that such actions make it very easy for the media and the politically unengaged to dismiss the legitimate reasons for opposing the Olympics. While I empathize with the frustration and anger behind the action, I won't countenance violence as a means to better society -- both out of a principled stance, but more importantly because I think it just does not work. It's counterproductive. I don't know what Eby's reasons were for condemning the action, but those are mine. This pie thing is ridiculous, and I am not surprised that Eby wouldn't discuss it -- it simply tells me that the people responsible for it are not, right now, worth collaborating with. I'm sure Eby has better things to do, like actually making a difference.