There was excitement in the air on Commercial Drive this morning. People were beginning to mill about to greet the torch around 9am, the scheduled time for the flame to begin making its way up from Hastings and Commercial. Things were running late and there was a rumour that a group of protesters at Victory Square had caused a delay.
By 10am there were people lining the street all the way from 1st Ave to Hastings, and around the corner into the distance. Most were out to support the torch run with red and white worn on clothing, painted on faces, and waving in the air.
But at Grandview Park, a couple of hundred people had turned out to protest. They were in mostly positive spirits and feeling festive themselves, though they carried signs criticizing the Olympics for everything from overspending to questionable corporate sponsors and their connections to environmental degradation.
Led by the incredible Carnival Band the protesters moved their way down to Venables and Commercial where an impromptu party got going in the middle of the street. For good or bad, depending on your perspective, the powers that be decided to reroute the torch away from a possible confrontation. Legal, non-violent public protest blocked the torch from appearing on The Drive!
Victory in hand, the band marched the crowd up to 1st and Commercial where they blocked the intersection, played music, and danced in celebration. While I heard a few pro-Olympics spectators grumble a bit, most seemed in good spirits despite losing the chance to see the torch come through and many were even seen enjoying the excellent music and good vibes amongst the protesters.
But the highlight for me was walking by Brittania school after the parade disruption and hearing the students being addressed over the loudspeaker. Many if not all of the students had been out of school to watch the torch come through. The speaker was explaining the value and importance of freedom of speech and the right to protest. What a great lesson for the day!