anti-olympics torch relay in east london todayTagged as: anti-militarism leyton_marsh olympics wanstead_flats
Neighbourhoods: stratford wanstead
while marines abseil into london with the heavily militarised olympic torch, desperately protected from protest by a merciless 'security bubble' that has already assaulted a young boy on a bicycle, an altogether more dignified and peaceful ceremony saw the first outing of the official vancouver poverty torch to london today.
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the vancouver torch began life as part of an awareness campaign in british columbia to highlight poverty issues and broken olympic promises around vancouver's homeless and poor. the torch opened the 'poverty olympics' held in vancouver downtown eastside in february 2010, and it helped highlight housing issues and pressured the authorities into implementing some poverty-reduction plans for the area forcing them to keep at least some of the undertakings made as part of the vancouver 2010 olympic bid.
this year, the torch was brought to the uk after an official handover at the olympic cauldron in vancouver, and it made its first appearance in london at a counter olympics planning day at the bishopsgate institute in the city of london in april. it is the first time an alternative torch has been handed from one host city to another, and it will hopefully be carried on as a powerful tradition to highlight injustice, repression, and displacement at future games.
this afternoon, runners and supporters (numbering around 20 at the start) met outside stratford station, in the ugly corporate heart of the olympic machine. among groups represented were the leyton marsh campaign, the counter olympics network, and the carpenters estate against regeneration plan. police were represented by two 'protest liaison' officers on bicycles (neither of whom were sporting police identification badges).
after a brief speech on the steps to the westfield consumer mecca shopping centre, we were on our way.
as the runners made their way round stratford and up leytonstone high road, the public reacted with good-nature, many getting the point of it and cheering or tooting, as the runners shouted out slogans like "olympics for the sport, not for the millionaires", "no to the olympics for the 1%" etc.
amongst the traffic we passed several official olympic BMWs, including one followed by police and carrying members of the IOC - the runners offered the torch to them to hold, but they declined.
after a few miles, it was down some residential back streets, where some young boys joined us and carried the torch briefly, and on to the 'fred wiggs' tower, on the roof of which are stationed troops and missiles.
the runners carried on round to the north of wanstead flats to visit the main entrance to the snappily-named 'police mustering briefing and deployment centre' (MDBC). i had to look up 'mustering' in this context, and it's a primarily military expression for assembling troops etc. - very apt!
after a photocall there, for the wanstead guardian and some foreign press, it was back to the shadow of the fred wiggs tower for a small reception and refreshments put on by locals from the wanstead flats campaign which has been fighting the huge police centre built on normally protected epping forest land.
the torch will make another appearance on friday afternoon in a run from clissold park to leyton marsh.
there will be a large public protest next saturday in east london - see counterolympicsnetwork website for details.
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Contact email: rikkiindymedia(At)gmail[dot]com