(ATR) The Vancouver 2010 torch relay diverted its route after being interrupted by a protest in Guelph, Ontario.
Yesterday highlights include an incident occurring as torchbearer Cortney Hansen, an employee of co-sponsor Royal Bank of Canada, was confronted by protesters and allegedly knocked down into the street in Guelph.
Security personnel came to Hansen’s aid at the scene and one protester has been charged with assault. The assailant is part of a group known as Kitchener-Waterloo Anti-Racism Action.
“The RCMP people kind of freaked out and caused the person with the torch to stutter-step and then trip,” protester Alex Hundert stated. “Basically, the relay team caused a disaster and the police decided they needed to arrest somebody.”
The flame remained ignited throughout the incident.
VANOC stated the interruption was an “isolated incident” and was responded to “rapidly and appropriately” by the Vancouver 2010 Integrated Security Unit and the RCMP.
This is not the first time protestors have interrupted the torch relay. In the past month other incidents have popped up in eastern Canada to protest treatments of aboriginals and criticize the money spent to stage the Games in Vancouver, where an estimated 3,000 people are homeless.
The spate of trouble started Dec. 8 when the RCMP torch relay guards were denied entry to the Kahnawake Mohawk Indian reserve near Montreal. Some band members protested while Alwyn Morris, a 1984 canoeing gold medalist, carried the flame on the reserve.
More than 100 people tried to disrupt the community celebration in Montreal on Dec. 10.
A week later, an even bigger crowd blocked streets in Toronto and forced the re-routing of the relay.
The route on the Six Nations reserve in southern Ontario on Dec. 21 was changed to a circuit in a parking lot at a bingo hall for fear of protests.
On Dec. 18 in Newmarket, Ont., Toronto Sun videographer Ian Robertson was tackled and photographer Dave Thomas was pushed by the RCMP officers escorting the relay. Robertson, 61, was hospitalized with a concussion. Brad Honywill, president of the Communications Energy and Paperworkers Union local 87-M called for the officers to be charged.
The protests were not unexpected after most stops on the fall 2008 Canadian Pacific Spirit Train were disrupted.
On Sunday, around 200 protesters gathered in Kitchener, Ontario.
“We understand that the Olympic Games are a high profile event and will attract attention and that people have the right to express their opinions, “ said torch relay director Jim Richards in a prepared. “We ask that they do so peacefully and respectfully.”
Today is day 61 of the relay as it departs Owen Sound traveling through 14 towns with the city of Barrie being the final destination point.
Among the 137 torchbearers are Canadian Olympic Committee CEO Chris Rudge and International Bobsleigh Federation president Bob Storey.
Olympian Brad Martin will carry the torch while he snowboards and 2010 Paralympic alpine skiing hopeful, Melanie Schwartz, is scheduled to carry the torch while she skies.
Tomorrow, the torch travels through 12 towns, will be carried by three Olympians and will ride in a yellow school bus in Huntsville, Ontario.
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Written by Tristan Luciotti and Bob Mackin
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