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Adrian Nieoczym: The Games aren’t worth giving up our values for

Monday, January 25th, 2010 | 5:46 am

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By Adrian Nieoczym

One day when I was about 18, I was walking towards a subway station in Toronto after seeing a movie with a friend. As we neared the station entrance a cop car slowly pulled up beside us and stopped. My friend and I gave each other a worried glance but kept walking. An officer rolled down the window and barked at us to come back.

When we dutifully walked up to his car, he asked “what are you doing?” in a rather stern voice.

My stomach tightened as my dry mouth tried to spit out words that didn’t seem to want to come. As I realized that my hesitation was probably making me appear suspicious, my panic level took another jump.

I stuck my arm out behind me and pointed a finger at the subway station before finally stammering, “going to the subway.” My temporarily mute friend could only nod in agreement.

It turns out the police were responding to a robbery report in the neighbourhood and once we told them what movie theatre we’d been at, what movie we’d seen, how long ago it ended and where we were going, they concluded what we already knew: we had done nothing wrong and they had no reason to bother us.

I bring this up because I think how my friend and I reacted is pretty typical of how most Canadians unaccustomed to dealing with police would react to an unexpected visit from the cops. We associate having to talk to the police with having done something wrong and so if a cop wants to talk with us we immediately feel like we are in trouble no matter how certain we are that we shouldn’t be.

And when we see the cops talking to someone else, our first thought is usually, “I wonder what they did?” We are quick to assume that if the cops are talking to you, you did something to warrant their attention.

That is why this situation where police are routinely trying to interview people whose only “crime” is to publicly speak out against the Olympics, is so problematic. When saying something negative about the Olympics is all that’s necessary to draw police attention, the cops are identifying that behaviour as something inherently suspicious that the community at large should be concerned about.

That’s true even if police say they are not trying to intimidate anyone. People get the message: If you speak out against the Olympics you will be marked as a potential security threat and investigated. If that prospect scares you or you feel police attention could damage your reputation then you stay quiet.

Canada is a country that is supposed to be a beacon of human rights and democracy where the right to speak out is highly valued.

With all the money we’re already forking out to host the Olympics, do they really have to cost us our soul as well?

adrian@kelowna.com

250-575-3517

Adrian Nieoczym: The Games aren't worth giving up our values for4.255

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4 Responses to “Adrian Nieoczym: The Games aren’t worth giving up our values for”

  1. Mike says:
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    I agree, Adrian.

    The right to speak your mind in a mannerly and sensible way is much more important than anything you can learn from the Olympics. Whoops, did I use a copyrighted word?

    See you in prison.

  2. Mary says:
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    I totally agree. People should be allowed free speech in this country. Things are becoming more controlled these days. Since 911 people have been giving up rights out of fear for false security.
    As the saying goes if you put a frog in water and turn the heat up slowly it will not even know it is being boiled to death and that is what happening with people in this country at this time.

  3. mel wilde says:
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    Some excellent points Adrian. Legitimate protest should be as basic to our way of life as breathing.

    Having said that, I would urge everyone who hasn’t supported the Olympics (me first) to get behind the events and stand together before the world. Individuals like myself need to accept that it’s a done deal and our Nation and it’s image come before our personal views.

    Thanks for a very good scribble Adrian.

  4. Mary says:
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    Mel
    I am already supporting the olympics as one of many tax payers footing the bill.
    Our nation and image is in a sad state when we can pay for olympics and yet our province B.C. has the highest child poverty rate in all of Canada. Shame on Campbell.

    Please continue discussion on the forum: link

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