U.S. journalist John Weston Osburn was detained by homeland security on his way back in to the States after being twice denied by Canadian Border Officials on his way into Canada to cover protests at the 2010 Olympics. While in the area between border posts, Osburn was told that he was in a “no mans land,” and was denied the right to speak with a lawyer.
“I repeatedly told the officers that my rights were being violated and that I wished to be released. I felt humiliated, powerless and have rarely felt so unprotected,” said Osburn.
“The supervising officer made reference to making sure i had no weapons of mass destruction and that I wasn’t a terrorist, when it was obvious i have nothing to do with those things. This was all after i was thoroughly questioned and searched on the Canadian side which was two hundred yards away at most,” he said.
Osburn travelled 2000 miles to Vancouver from Salt Lake City, Utah, with the aim of documenting protests to the 2010 Olympics. He has worked with Indymedia and the Glass Bead Collective in the US.
•Independent/crowd-sourced Olympics protest coverage can be followed at http://2010.mediacoop.ca/
Interview with Wes by Vancouver Media Cooperative
VMC: Another independent journalist was turned away at the US-Canada border Tuesday on his way to Vancouver to cover protests at the 2010 Olympic Games. John Weston Osburn, a long time indymedia activist, drove 2,000 miles from Salt Lake City to cover Games with the Vancouver Media Cooperative. He was interrogated and denied entry into Canada, making him the second US journalist to be denied entry in the last four days.
After he was turned around, he went back to the US and tried to re-enter Canada, this time at the truck crossing, where he was again denied entry due to past convictions for misdemeanors. This time, he flipped on his video camera to record the experience. Stopped by homeland security, Osburn was again interrogated about the Olympic protests. When he told homeland security that he wanted to speak to a lawyer,
OSBURN: They told me I didn’t have that right, and I wasn’t in US or in Canada, I was in no mans land, as the officer described it. I asked again for my lawyer and he replied that he “owned me,” he said “I own you,” I was told to spread my legs and I was searched, then the put me in a holding cell, I was in the holding cell for about two hours, at one point I asked to use the bathroom, which they later allowed me to do but only, uh, they did so watching me.
VMC: In a disturbing pattern of recent interrogations of journalists coming to Vancouver, border guards seized Osburn’s computer and notebooks.
OSBURN: Basically they ransacked my truck, they went through and they took my journals, my sketchbooks, my computer, my digital camera, they thumbed through that, I’m assuming they made copies but that I don’t want to speculate on that, but they did definitely go through it. Then I was fingerprinted and I was photographed, when I asked if I had a choice of being fingerprinted and photographed I was told no, my tape of filming being turned away, they erased the tape.
VMC: Osburn says he was prepared to have to deal with some issues at the border, but he was surprised by his experience.
OSBURN: I was kind of expecting, I was expecting to get kind of shook down, but I wasn’s expecting the type of just, the animosity and just the humiliation. Even though it was only two hours, it was a really unsettling experience, because they made me well aware that I had no rights, they made me well aware that I had no rights and there was no one there to protect me.
VMC: Though Osburn is the first to be interrogated by US homeland security, his experience shadows that of other independent journalists trying to enter Canada on the eve of the 2010 Olympics. Democracy Now! Host Amy Goodman was interrogated about the games in November. Last Saturday, US journalist Martin Macias Jr was turned away at the border. At least two other independent journalists were subjected to lengthy interrogations at the US-Canada border on their way to Vancouver to cover resistance to the 2010 Games.