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Olympics battle rattle: The rules of engagement have already been written

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With now just under two weeks to go before the 2010 Olympics officially open, behind the scenes preparations are feverishly happening in the two opposing camps: the Integrated Security Unit (ISU) with its myriad elements and the anti-Olympic convergence with its own diverse collection of groups and issues.

I've spent enough time in the military to have a pretty good sense where the police and military must be in their pre-Games preparations. And, as a member of the resistance, I know how things are shaping up on this end as well.

So are my thoughts about where everyone is as the countdown clock runs out:

The police and military units have received their final orders and, barring changes in their intelligence briefings, pretty much know where they will be positioned, have completed their reconnaissances, know where their reserves are going to be located, and have given their own updated "warning orders" to their subordinates.

They have received most or all of the "kit" they will need.

In the next few days, the subunits will get formal orders and drills and rehearsals of various kinds will start to iron out any kinks that may have been noted in previous exercises.

For the military, communications people will be running diagnostics, engineers will be practising obstacle drills, others will have finished equipping their observation posts, and the crucial infantry will be conducting their small unit rehearsals.

The police will be doing much the same: The street and bike cops, especially the riot cops, will have their own crowd control drills.

For both military and police, "rules of engagement" and use of force doctrines will be issued, if they haven't been already. Liaisons with foreign militaries and police and the private security people will have been established.

All that now remains is gathering the last intel (intelligence professoinal), thinking through the various contingency plans...and waiting.

The Resistance planning is shaping up much as the anti-globablization movement of a decade ago did: Affinity groups will be well into their planning for whatever actions they have in mind and the organic support elements, medics, legal observers, media, etc. will now be locked into their own countdown final planning and drills.

The question is not whether these opposing elements will meet in the streets. The question is what happens when they do?

If I were a betting man, I wouldn't know how to put my money on the outcomes, outcomes that range from kittens and rainbows and no confrontation at all to an absolute shitstorm of the magnitude of a Seattle World Trade Organization or a Quebec City Free Trade of the Americas clash.

I am sure of only one thing and that is this: One person for sure knows what to expect.

That person is ISU's top dog, Bud Mercer. Mercer knows because he has already been told what to do by his higher ups in the political world and has given the officers he commands their marching orders across a range of scenarios.

What the security people will do with a rally, a regular but unauthorized march, a "snake" march, or direct actions is already in the cards. At least they think it is.

And it is how these cards are played that will determine whether Vancouver 2010 is remembered for noisy protests where no one got hurt and nothing damaged (besides the IOC's, and maybe Vancouver's, pride) or a far darker outcome.

Whatever Mercer and his gang have planned, I do know this: the first gas canister released, the first pepper spray jetted into someone's face, the first overly aggressive take down of a protester, and all bets are off.

The wild cards in the mix are the actions of private security people, including the foreign security elements. Add on highly excitable pro-Olympic people intermingled with dissidents in the streets and you get the overall picture of how things could all go south in a hurry.

In just 10 days, the street medics and I will be putting on our vests and belts of supplies and getting ready to hit the streets with the protests. In armouries and police stations, the police will be getting their own "battle rattle" on.

No bets, but just this final thing medics say to each other before heading out: "Stay safe out there."

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