OLYMPIC CRITIC DETAINED, QUESTIONED, AND REJECTED AT USA BORDER
– For immediate public release – Thursday, December 10, 2009
Critics of the 2010 Olympic Winter Games (being held in Vancouver and Whistler, British Columbia, Canada) continue to be subject to police harassment and intimidation, including another activist detained and questioned at the Pacific (Truck) Crossing border station and denied entry to the USA on Thursday, December 10, 2009.
Marla Renn, a member of the Olympic Resistance Network (ORN), was travelling to Portland, Oregon to speak on the negative impacts of the 2010 Games. Renn was scheduled to speak at educational events at Mt. Hood Community College, Reed College, Portland State University, and the Red and Black Cafe. She was held for over six hours as both Canadian and US border guards interrogated her about the subject of her speech, her contacts in Portland, and her political activities. She was previously denied entry for a Seattle speaking event on the grounds that ten anti-Olympic shirts were unauthorised commercial merchandise, but the shirts were found after she had already been questioned on political issues. Likewise, the excuse for rejecting her this time (lack of employment since her graduation in August) was brought up after her planned speech and political activities were addressed by border guards.
Renn was targeted for immediate questioning at the US border. She was photographed and fingerprinted, her property was searched, her cell phone was taken and accessed, and her documents (even the book she was reading) photocopied. She was warned that any attempt to enter the US within the next six months may result in two years imprisonment. At the Canadian side of the border, she was again searched and questioned extensively on the Portland events, her speech, and attempts to build anti-Olympic support in the USA. “Continued harassment of peaceful organisers and speakers by the police and border guards show that their real objective is to silence dissent and not to protect the public,” says Renn.
Recently, journalist Amy Goodman (of Democracy Now) was travelling to speak in Vancouver and was detained and questioned about her speech as border guards assumed she would be criticizing the Olympics. Professor Chris Shaw, also of ORN, was detained and questioned at the UK border when travelling to speak on Olympic issues at an academic conference. Other activists have been questioned and even rejected at the Canada-USA border.
Across Canada, political organisers have been subject to harassment, surveillance and questioning about anti-Olympic activism. People’s housing, academic work and employment have been jeopardized by police visits. Even family members, friends, neighbours and co-workers (people not involved in political activity) have been contacted by police. The targets of these investigations are community members involved in open public organising, with publicly accessible groups, meetings, events, and websites. Combined with the efforts of the City of Vancouver and Olympic officials to deny free expression by restricting political displays in public space, the intent is clearly to silence public criticism and traditional protest methods, such as political signs, speaking events, marches, and rallies.
Contact: Marla Renn, 604-788-3995