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Housing activists trash B.C. Premier's offices

Group stages raid to protest against 2010 Games

From Wednesday's Globe and Mail

VANCOUVER — Three anti-Olympic housing activists stormed Premier Gordon Campbell's inner sanctum in Vancouver yesterday, overturning furniture, shattering glassware and covering office floors with paper.

The members of the strident Anti-Poverty Committee had been buzzed through a locked door into the reception area after one of them told a staff member over the intercom that she was delivering flowers.

"All three then barged in and immediately started to destroy things," said Vancouver Police spokesman Howard Chow.

The Premier was not present at the time of the lightning raid on his offices, but two employees were "visibly shaken and frightened for their safety," according to Constable Chow.

The invasion did not last long. After a few minutes, the protesters - two men and a woman under 18 - sat down to await their arrest.

The mayhem is almost certain to lead to a review and a tightening of security at the provincial government offices located on the seventh floor of a swank office complex overlooking the city's harbour.

It was the latest in a series of increasingly aggressive actions staged by the militant APC against the coming 2010 Winter Olympics, acts that have already led to a significant boost in police security at Olympics-related events.

Earlier yesterday, RCMP cruisers with flashing lights blocked main roads leading to the site of an Olympics announcement by Mr. Campbell and International Trade Minister David Emerson at the site of the Richmond, B.C., speed-skating oval currently under construction.

"I'm not going to comment on security matters, but it's disconcerting. It really is," Mike Morton, spokesman for Mr. Campbell, told reporters outside the government offices. "These are days that are not fun."

Constable Chow said that precise charges against the arrested trio would be announced today, adding that at the very least they will by charged with mischief.

"These aren't protesters. These aren't activists. They are intent on committing criminal acts. They're criminals," he said.

Television footage showed the three protesters moving quickly through the offices, with one deliberately smashing a glass object on the floor while a staff member told police over the phone, "They're trashing our office."

As the incursion began, APC representative David Cunningham, himself arrested by police over the weekend, told a press conference at a different location that the action was designed as an "eviction" of Ken Dobell, a member of the Winter Games organizing committee and a "special adviser" to Mr. Campbell.

The APC threatened last week to avenge resident evictions from rooming hotels on the Downtown Eastside by symbolically "evicting" Olympic executives from their offices and homes.

"We have begun by evicting Ken Dobell from his office," Mr. Cunningham said. "His belongings have been put into boxes and thrown into the hall."

Although Mr. Dobell does not have a permanent office in the Premier's suite of offices, he has access to one there when he needs it.

A tour of the trashed offices did not disclose any of Mr. Dobell's "belongings", nor did any government files appear to have been ransacked by the protesters.

As he was led away in handcuffs, one of the male activists said: "We were just performing an eviction. They seem to think it's fine to evict other people." The female protester arrested at the scene said, "We evicted their offices just like they've evicted thousands of other people, except these people still have a place to sleep tonight."

Mr. Cunningham of the APC said the organization plans to escalate its tactics "and make the profiteering of displacing poor people from their homes and territories too costly to continue." He said he was not involved in planning yesterday's raid, but read out a press release moments after it began.

"We don't believe this class war should be one-sided, so we are bringing it to their [officials associated with the Olympics] offices. ... There is no better mascot for the Olympic Games than Ken Dobell," Mr. Cunningham said.

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