Protest groups stage anti-2004 ‘conference’

In defiance of police, anti-globalization groups on Saturday threatened to hold demonstrations during the August 13-29 Olympic Games, as a large assortment of protest groups gathered in Athens for an anti-Olympics «conference.» «If they ban us from handing out leaflets outside subway stations or placing posters in the street then of course we will stage protests and rallies,» Panayiotis Totsikas, of the «Campaign anti-2004» alliance, told The Associated Press. He made the remarks at the start of a two-day conference organized by his alliance and attended by more than a dozen protest groups in central Athens. Their long list of grievances also includes the growing cost of the Games as well as their impact on the environment and labor regulations. Totsikas announced plans to set up an international protest campsite near Athens in June or July next year to highlight their objections. «We have no illusion that these Olympic Games will have anything to do with the ancient Olympic spirit, as some people claim,» he said. «They will be the same old commercialized Olympics which have been held in recent years.» Police, fearing security problems, have said they will impose stringent limits on protests during the Games in a city where demonstrations are widely tolerated and occur almost every day. Anti-globalization groups are angry at the measures, and argue that plans to set up more than 1,000 surveillance cameras and deploy more than 40,000 police and soldiers for security will violate the rights of ordinary citizens. «Our goal is to prevent those measures from taking place, which undermine the conditions of our lives and the democratic system,» Totsikas said. «People who had illusions that the Games would bring something positive to Athens now realize it will have a devastating effect,» Totsikas said. Conference organizers are also angry at the deaths of several construction workers involved in accidents at the site of the Olympic Village, where contractors have been racing to overcome delays. On November 20, the company said the Olympic Village for the Games will be ready in February, a month ahead of schedule. Five workers have been killed on the site, with unions blaming the intense work schedule for the accidents.