Calgary battens hatches against G8 protesters
By PATRICK BRETHOUR, DAWN WALTON AND LILY NGUYEN
Wednesday, June 12, 2002
CALGARY -- Calgary is locking thousands of protesters out of large chunks of its downtown as it hunkers down for the Group of Eight summit later this month, even though the leaders of the world's major economies will be more than an hour away at a mountain retreat.
Most corporate high-rises will be off-limits for unwanted visitors, overnight parking in city lots will be banned, transit service curtailed and tracts of the city's heavily used overhead walkways will be shut down.
Even the bales of hay and split-rail fences that would normally herald the arrival of the annual Calgary Stampede will be kept off city streets for the week of the June 26-27 summit, as the community girds for tumultuous protests.
Protesters had wanted to demonstrate near the summit site in a Kananaskis mountain resort about 80 kilometres west of Calgary. Unable to find land to set up a tent city, they shifted their protest plans to the city.
One in five Calgarians who work downtown will stay home or go on vacation because of worries about disruptions from protests and the security measures, predicted Richard White, executive director of the Calgary Downtown Association, which represents more than 3,500 businesses.
Calgary is no stranger to strict security. At the World Petroleum Congress in 2000, a 2.4-metre fence kept protesters away from oil-and-gas industry executives. But Mr. White said the preparations for the G8 summit go much further. "There's no doubt this is something Canada has never seen before," he said.
Still, he said he hopes that business can function as normally as possible.
Calgary's oil patch, whose corporate headquarters towers dominate the downtown, is also taking extra precautions. Major energy companies, including pipeline operator TransCanada PipeLines Ltd. and power generator TransAlta Corp., are closing their buildings during summit week to all but staff with access cards.
Petro-Canada will beef up its usual complement of security guards stationed in the lobby of the Petro-Canada west tower, said spokesman Chris Dawson. And the company has contingency plans up to and including evacuating and locking down the 52-storey building.
Access will also be restricted at Bankers Hall, one of Calgary's premier business addresses and home to Talisman Energy Inc., whose operations in war-torn Sudan have made it a favourite target of human-rights protesters. Only people with access cards will be able to get to the upper floors, Talisman spokesman Dave Mann said.
Security officials at Kananaskis previously announced a 6.5-kilometre security radius around the village.