2010 Flashback: Final day Olympic protesters protected from hockey fans

With the 10th anniversary of Vancouver hosting the 2010 Winter Olympics upon us, we are looking back at some of the stories that were making the news in the Courier during those 17 days in February.

This story was originally published March 3, 2010

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They were heckled with obscenities and they missed the gold medal hockey game, but protester Eric Doherty said he had no regrets about staging an anti-Olympics rally on the last day of the Games.

Doherty is one of the organizers of Gatewaysucks.org, a group opposed to freeway expansion. Doherty, an advocate for public transit, social housing and a cleaner environment, led between 200 and 250 people along Cambie Street and into the Downtown Eastside last Sunday, carefully avoiding streets where they would likely encounter a high number of bar patrons.

While several people adorned in Canada’s colours jeered the protesters, Doherty was quick to point out that the hecklers weren’t true hockey fans, as the protest actually took place during the gold-medal game.

“A few drunks,” Doherty said, dismissing Sunday’s hecklers as an exception to the mainly positive response his protests received during the Olympics. “There’s no conflict between enjoying a hockey game and thinking the Olympics are a ridiculous waste of money.”

Police formed a line between protesters and the hecklers in order to make sure the situation did not escalate.  Doherty, a longtime social activist, said he was “pleasantly surprised” by the treatment his group received from police.

Const. Jana McGuinness, spokesperson for the Vancouver Police Department, confirmed Doherty’s account of the events in an email.

“VPD members ended up protecting the protesters from the hockey fans who were coming out of restaurants and bars and hurling items at the protesters,” she wrote.

No arrests were made.

Doherty has been a major opponent of the Gateway Program, which he has blasted for its “waste of public money and destruction of environmental resources.”

The program began in 2003 with the goal of reducing traffi c congestion through projects such as expanding Highway 1 and twinning the Port Mann Bridge. Supporters of the project argue it will facilitate travel throughout the province while cutting down vehicle emissions by easing traffic flow and reducing idling.

Kai Chan, an environmental sciences professor at UBC, echoed Doherty’s environmental concern but was unwilling to condemn the project.

“It’s going to have a big environmental impact and most of it is going to be negative,” Chan said. However, Chan said the scope of the Gateway Program was too large to reject all of it. When weighing economic as well as transportation and environmental matters, “[You can’t] lump it all together and say it’s all bad,” he said.

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