Dirt in the Public Eye

Thomas at job fair

Thomas Malenfant (center) interfering with Canadian Armed Forces recruiters at the University of Victoria earlier this year.

August 16, 2008

The Beijing Olympics are in full swing, and Vancouver is warming up for the 2010 Winter Games. Local activists warn that along with the coming crackdown on street people (and everyone else), we should get ready for intrusive security, surveillance and pre-emptive detentions. Meanwhile, the rich get richer, the poor get poorer, and folks in BC are showing off their anti-Olympic spirit.

Last week, I took a call from Public Eye Online editor Sean Holman about the upcoming Wild Earth eco-conference in Bella Coola. Holman suggested it wasn’t “appropriate” to invite anti-poverty activist Thomas Malenfant to host a workshop on Resisting the Olympics at a gathering focused on discussing non-violent activism.

Referring to Malenfant’s arrest last year for symbolically evicting the Premier from his Vancouver office, Holman asked why a “convicted criminal” was on the schedule for Wild Earth.

I reminded him that a convicted criminal is running the province. Premier Gordon Campbell was convicted two years ago of drunk driving while on vacation in Maui. So I had to ask Holman what kind of double standard he is trying to invoke?

Malenfant’s actions at Gordon Campbell’s office stemmed from the principle of holding government officials to account when they ignore the public interest — in this case, the crisis of homelessness. He will be discussing that principle and much more at the week-long campout August 25-31.

Malenfant notes that Vancouver police officers don’t always act within the law, but they get a free pass from Holman and others in the media.

“The Vancouver Police Department carries out far more vulgar illegal evictions on a monthly basis as part of their committment to social cleansing in the lead-up to the Olympic games,” Malenfant says. “The difference here that makes what I did ‘criminal’ is that it was in a West End office instead of an east side apartment and we weren’t wearing uniforms.”

Holman’s article went on to smear Malenfant’s motives. Holman quotes two other reporters who quote VPD Constable Howard Chow saying, “These aren’t activists, they’re not protesters, these are people intent on coming to events, to offices, to people’s residences, and they’re intent on breaking the law.”

Excuse me, but who granted Chow the power to discern who is an activist? It’s obvious that Malenfant’s actions were political. What does Chow hope to gain by pretending otherwise? It seems that the local police are nervous about social and environmental justice advocates joining forces at Wild Earth. Native and non-native activists are also finding common cause at the gathering. Police officers and certain journalists may try to slam the conference and its presenters, but as long as the government remains blind to injustice and inequality, people like Thomas Malenfant will keep ramping up the pressure on the officials responsible.

I should really be thanking Holman for the free publicity. We couldn’t buy that kind of placement on BC’s most prominent political blog. Not to mention the coverage of my snappy response (scroll down) that ran the following week.

So hey, corporate journalists – bring on the controversy! Sure, most of you are assholes, but if you bring me a pony, I’ll go for a ride.

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