VANCOUVER - Like an angry mob of townsfolk grabbing pitchforks to duel a beast, activists are gearing up to confront a man Canada's burgeoning Occupy movement fingers as a villain: George W. Bush.
Mounties say they're expecting hundreds of people representing at least four distinct groups to converge Thursday around a Surrey, B.C. hotel where Bush and his fellow former president, Bill Clinton, will engage in a lunch-hour conversation.
Several dozen officers will patrol the area and expect to close down roads during the Surrey Regional Economic Summit, an event charging $599 a head for tickets. Media won't be permitted into the discussion, a stipulation of the presidents' contract devised months before the Occupy movement was born.
Police say they are expecting the West Coast protests to advance to the "next stage" as the two men meet, though Cpl. Drew Grainger with the Surrey RCMP said police expect demonstrations to stay peaceful, as they did at numerous marches across the country on Saturday.
Activists will also attempt to use legal channels to arrest Bush.
The Canadian Centre for International Justice will ask a justice of the peace Thursday morning to approve a 69-page draft indictment against Bush, alleging he was behind the torture of four men who were detained in Afghanistan and Guantanamo Bay.
The private prosecution is supported by 4,000 pages of documents the group contends illustrates a case for trying Bush under the Canadian criminal code.
The legal manoeuvre comes in tandem with a letter signed by more than 50 human rights organizations and individuals, including Amnesty International.
The group called on the federal government last week to arrest Bush when he crosses the border.
"From a Canadian perspective it shouldn't be permitted that anybody, whether a U.S. official or officials from other governments, be allowed to simply come freely to Canada to give speeches and to make quite a lot of money without being held to account," said Matt Eisenbrandt, legal director of the justice organization, who will file the legal documents.
Dick Cheney, who was Bush's vice president, has vigorously defended the administration's interrogation techniques, claiming they saved hundreds of thousands of lives.
Members of the Occupy movement are trying to shine a spotlight on the growing gap between the wealthy, comprising the so-called "one per cent," and the rest of the population, dubbed the "99 per cent." Camps were first set up in New York last month with protesters contending corporate greed and inequality is boosted by corrupt politicians.
On Wednesday at the Occupy camp out behind the Vancouver Art Gallery, protesters taped rough cardboard bearing the icon of a raised fist to metre sticks. Around them echoed the beats of a First Nations' drum.
On Twitter and Facebook, messages multiplied, blurting encouragement and plans.
"Here's a man who's not an eloquent speaker, does not seem to have the education to support what he's doing and really does seem to be completely in bed with these lackies," said Kiki, an Occupy Vancouver protester who's lived in a tent since Saturday and will attend the rally Thursday.
She pointed to the U.S. invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan led by the former commander-in-chief, describing the wars as missions controlled by oil interests. She said Bush is a clear example of how closely multinational corporations work with the government.
"The government should be controlling the corporations and keeping them in check, and not vice versa."
Grainger said police are aware of the "negative feedback towards George Bush."
He said intelligence was gleaned by officers attending Saturday's rally and by watching social media.
Police also noted they see no legal reason to arrest the former president, and Grainger referred further comment to federal Minister of Immigration Jason Kenney.
A statement from Kenney's office noted Amnesty International has never called for a court order barring visits by former Cuban leader Fidel Castro or the late Togolese dictator Gnassingb� Eyadema, and suggests it's a case of cherry picking.
"This kind of stunt helps explain why so many respected human rights advocates have abandoned Amnesty International."
Grainger said officers have "learned lessons" from protests during the Vancouver appearance last month of Cheney at an upscale book club.
Organizers of a speech by Bush in Switzerland last February cancelled an event at the last minute, fearing disturbances fuelled by a Geneva-based rights group pushing for his arrest.
But organizers of the Surrey summit say it's full steam ahead, noting its goal is to present a diversity of opinions on the changing world economy.
Conference co-ordinator Norman Stowe said he has no security concerns and quoted Mayor Dianne Watts: "If we only listened to the people we agreed with, it would be a very short conversation."