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Last week, Pidgin co-owner Brandon Grossutti stole the satirical mascot known as “the People’s Pickle” from the protest picket outside his restaurant. According to one witness, picket organizer Kim Hearty attempted to retrieve the mascot from the back of the restaurant when Grossutti physically assaulted the community organizer.

Grossutti then relayed his own version of events to the Vancouver Police Department. Based on his allegations, on Monday of this week the VPD arrested Kim Hearty outside her home in East Van. After being held in jail, Hearty was released on condition that she not go within a two-block radius of the Pidgin picket.

Hearty is one of the main organizers of a legal picket action that the VPD have been seeking unsuccessfully to shut down for months. In April the police moved to arrest Pidgin picketers, announcing plans for an undefined number of premeditated arrests at the site of the picket. After a public outcry and strong show of support for the picket by Downtown Eastside residents, the VPD was forced to temporarily shelve their arrest plans.

Account of events

The Mainlander has been able to identify one eye-witness to last week’s encounter between Grossutti and Hearty, which occurred in the alley beside the Pidgin restaurant. The witness said that Kim had asked Grossutti to return the protest mascot he was holding in the back room of his restaurant. When he refused, Hearty picked up a bucket of dirty water and taunted that she would give back the bucket only when he gave back the mascot. The bucket was being used as a door stop at the time.

The eye-witness of the altercation told The Mainlander, “I did witness Brandon assault Kim by pushing her back and grabbing his bucket of slop.” This is consistent with Hearty’s account of the event. When police came to Hearty’s apartment the following Monday, they arrested her for “theft” of this “bucket of slop.”

The People’s Pickle is a satirical papier mache mascot that has been a fixture at the picket (pictured above next to Hearty). Early in the first days of the picket, Grossutti responded to claims that his restaurant was exclusionary and expensive by pointing to a dish of pickles on the menu for “only” $6. Since then the pickle has been a tongue-in-check symbol of the daily protests that has helped to keep spirits high in an otherwise serious situation of gentrification and heavy policing.

The law’s double standard

After the incident, several picketers immediately made a report to a police officer that Grossutti had stolen the mascot. Picketers say that the officer, who is known in the community as “ticketmaster” (#2427) for giving out the most jaywalking tickets to low-income residents, dismissed them and refused to take their report.

Grossutti and the police department have also refused to give their version of events to the public. However, in the comments section of a Georgia Straight article about the incident, Brandon Grossutti wrote on June 5th, “I didn’t want to give specific details of an incident going to court.” However, he proceeds to mention one specific eye-witness of the events. This eye-witness is the same person who told the Mainlander that it was Brandon who assaulted Kim, stating, “I did witness Brandon assault Kim by pushing her back and grabbing his bucket of slop.” A few days later, Grossutti, who was with two police, confronted this witness on the street with an “angry tone.”

Grossutti made his own allegations against Hearty directly to police, allegations Hearty says are “totally hypocritical.” Many accounts suggest that Grossutti stole the mascot, but he alleged to police that Hearty was a thief. The main eye-witness to the encounter says that Grossutti physically pushed Hearty, but Grossutti alleged to police that Hearty assaulted him. Amazingly, the police department arrested Hearty based on these allegations alone, without first speaking with Hearty herself or other witnesses.

A further “mischief” charge has been laid against Hearty, which come ostensibly under the VPD’s unconstitutional interpretation of the Criminal Code according to which protesting commercial enterprises is an criminal offence because it interferes with the consumer’s “enjoyment” of private property. Mayor Robertson has publicly given his blessing to this interpretation. Given the current leadership at city hall’s favoritism for private property over low-income people, it is another irony that Hearty’s phone and computer were confiscated by the VPD and to date have yet to be returned.

Criminalization of poverty and protest

A statement from picketers about the events this week said, “Grossutti’s actions are pathetic and his allegations are absurd, but the fact that the police department is using its resources to do Grossutti’s dirty work is not amusing. Gentrification is taking an increasing and serious toll on the neighbourhood, with over 400 low-income housing units being lost within a one-block radius of the Woodward’s development in the past year.”

The arrest of Kim Hearty comes as the latest incident in a series of targeted attacks, launched by corporate media and VPD, against the Pidgin picket. It shows the extent to which the VDP will seek to protect Pidgin and its pivotal role in advancing the gentrification frontier in the DTES. Longtime picketer and SRO hotel resident Fraser Stuart said, “It’s about money privilege, that the rich matter and the poor don’t. The police attack us because the Pidgin Picket has the audacity to challenge money privilege in the Downtown Eastside. Brandon Grossutti’s money and privilege is why Kim is arrested and he isn’t.”

The VPD’s approach is not reserved for Pidgin alone, but unfortunately extends to all property owners and gentrifying businesses in the DTES. Police harassment, arrests, and ticketing is an integral part of gentrification and is strategically used to silence dissent and push low-income people out of sight and off gentrifying blocks.

A recent Pivot Legal Society report reveals that in the last 4 years 95% of all Vancouver’s bylaw and traffic violation tickets were handed out in the Downtown Eastside, despite having the lowest rate of jay-walking. On the gentrification frontier, a person can be arrested for almost anything. Being poor, having mental health issues, dealing with addiction and simply not being white are among the most common causes for arrest and police harassment.

Kim Hearty sees the VPD’s increased targeting of low-income people and the attacks on the picket itself as mutual processes. “This week there was a ticketing blitz on the United We Can bottle depot block. The police swept the block and gave bylaw and traffic violation tickets to everyone who didn’t flee. That’s how the police get rid of the low-income community from the sidewalk, by creating tickets, criminalizing people, for being poor,” she said.

“And this is how they are trying to get rid of the picket, by criminalizing the picketers one by one. But if we’re persistent it will have the opposite effect, like the anti-gentrification protests in Istanbul. The more the corrupt government tries to use repression, the more the resistance grows and grows.”

27 Responses to Pidgin owner Brandon Grossutti steals protest mascot, bystander witnesses “assault” on Kim Hearty

  1. Jane says:

    After reading this article it has sadly become blatantly obvious Mainlander is not giving an honest unbiased report.. as of today you’ve lost a reader. Your reports are causing more harm in the DTES than helping solve problems in the community.

    If the Pickle was on the sidewalk…then there are bylaw laws being broken. In our society there are consequences for the breaking of bylaws.. to plead poverty as an excuse is offensive.. I’m poor but don’t feel the need to break laws.

    Originally I had sympathy for the issue, I now realize this has gone ridiculously off course, the protesters have become a serious, potentially dangerous problem for all citizens. I find it very difficult to believe Kim Hearty was acting in “a humorous manner”. Nothing about this protest has been humorous.

    I’ll go one step further, if any daily protesters are receiving gov’t funding/welfare then perhaps it’s time the government questions a few things.. if you are healthy enough to protest everyday then perhaps you can find part time work or a volunteer position. I did … Work with changes to the community instead of alienating society against so many of us.

    This is becoming a shameful childish situation. The opportunity for change or consultation for a peaceful mutually beneficial resolution has been lost. A sense of entitlement has taken over and drowned out logic. It isn’t garnering any sympathy from the general public.

    This protest has turned into a situation that has much deeper political roots and has done nothing but make laughing stocks of those of us that want to climb out of poverty and despair.

    I now have a great deal of empathy for the workers and owners of Pidgin that have families to feed…the Pidgin employees aren’t getting a guaranteed gov’t cheque monthly and they don’t deserve to be put in the line of fire of a political agenda for COPE.

    This has become an embarrassment for the city, and frankly, painful to read about or watch..the protest is backfiring as more people’s hearts are hardening to the original point.

    Sorry for the rant and no disrespect intended to anyone, but this article with it’s one sided slant has really effected me and has colored my opinion….

    It has always been my position that society owes me nothing, it’s my responsibility to contribute productively to my society at whatever level I’m capable of and no matter how small my contribution may be..

    Thank you for the opportunity to voice my opinion.

    • Nicholas Ellan says:

      No bylaws have been broken; nobody is getting paid to protest; and defending affordable housing from gentrification is not a “political agenda” it is affirming the right of all to live with basic dignity. Not everyone can “climb out of poverty and despair” on their own and everyone already does contribute to society “at whatever level [they're] capable of” but, in many cases, our current society deems some insufficiently “productive” and leaves them to suffer the indignities and illnesses of poverty, here in one of the richest cities in the world.

      That’s inexcusable, and that’s why I’m in the streets with Kim Hearty.

      • Page Turner says:

        Why oh why won’t you naysayers listen! The devil is in the details. No laws were broken and ditto on ALL of what Nicholas said.

        • Tim says:

          Naysayers tire of the same broken record, Page. You want everything, and contribute nothing. Why?

          It’s time you organized housing for yourselves. Build a co-op. Do the work, and stop complaining about others failing to do it for you. Did Mau Dan Gardens get built by whiners? Four Sisters? Lore Krill? Jackson Avenue? City Gate?

          No. These projects were all built as co-ops by the people who did the work in order to live in them.

          Many, many people have built co-op housing in the past. Just last month, the City committed $22 MILLION in free land to new housing co-ops. SOURCE: Globe & Mail, May 9th, 2013. They predict that this new housing — about 350 units — will be available at 74% BELOW market.

          Do the work, Page, and build the housing you say you are entitled to.

          If you prefer to picket and pout, you will end up with nothing. Do the work, Page. Build co-op housing. Start today. Only then will you earn what you say you deserve.

    • RH says:

      Thank you Jane for such an honest and commendable opinion. I too would love a return to common sense and a mutually beneficial resolution. Best of luck to you.

    • erling says:

      One article in the Mainlander produced this change of heart? I call bullsh*t.

      • Cake-Eater says:

        I would like to second erling’s call, especially with the turn Jane’s comment takes near the end, like… the wandering towards poor-bashing, COPE-conspiracy territory? Jane sounds like a regular Goose-step Gazette reader, and not a fan of the Mainlander.

        “She” also shares the same hateful attitudes & assumptions of a lot of deeply conservative, pro-business folks i’ve spoken with (those people who believe ALL THOSE PICKETERS DON’T HAVE JOBS & NEED TO PULL HARDER ON THEIR BOOTSTRAPS!) but is just -slightly- better at being polite about it.

        I also call BULLSHIT.

        • AJW says:

          Haha, zing! Nothing like calling somebody a Nazi, for disagreeing with an article. Good on you, @Cake-Eater. Because the most destructive conflict in history is the same as disagreeing with your opinion.

          You can’t claim that because @Jane implies a loose connection to COPE, that she’s obviously a goose stepping, pro-business, Nazi…

          • GDawg says:

            You should re-read the comment. You are hallucinating the word “Nazi”.

            You have reading comprehension issues here.

            “Goose-stepping” has been around since the 1800s and is often used to describe someone promoting unthinking conformity.

    • Lee says:

      Jane,

      I respect that you disagree with the protest as a tactic (and I support the picket). However, what I find distressing about your comment is your conviction that society owes you nothing. Do you truly believe that it is right for you to devote your effort toward building a community that can then turn around and say “thanks for the help, now I’m going to cut you loose”? Under such a system, there can be no human rights, no justice.

      What’s more, society is not some external force to be propitiated. Nor should it be conflated with what is sloppily referred to as “the economy”; nor is it synonymous with the elite “polite society”, “good society”, and so forth. It is a dynamic network to which we all belong, regardless of our employment status, the size of our contribution to the GDP, etc. It is in shaping this inclusive definition of society that the Pidgin protestors are participating, contributing one hour a day of their free time (hardly the waste of man-hours it’s been made out to be by those who measure the value of time in dollars).

      I sincerely hope that all those who want to “climb out of poverty and despair” don’t feel that the only way – the right way – to do so is to keep your head down, work hard, and expect nothing other than a low wage, in the hope that those in power won’t turn around and kick you in the face. That attitude is why politicians and the people who bankroll them think they can get away with decisions that harm the poor and desperate (to say nothing of almost everyone else). We should expect better of society than that.

      • Jane says:

        Lee we can agree to disagree but if you are going to twist my comment like a piece of licorice please be accurate.. Thanks

        • Cake-Eater says:

          What part did she twist, Jane? The painful politics of individualism you were peddling? Cause y’know… i don’t have look too hard to find this: “It has always been my position that society owes me nothing, it’s my responsibility to contribute productively to my society at whatever level I’m capable of and no matter how small my contribution may be..”

          I don’t see any twisting happening, but i do see some serious derailing coming from your end of things, like… can you please not twist Lee’s comment like a piece of liquorice, because your comment -does- contain certain ideas that -can- be refuted (and were, quite eloquently, i might add).

          In any case, let me announce my support for erling’s comment… AGAIN! Jane’s comment is bullshit, and sounds like a fabricated blah-blah-brandon.

          • Jane says:

            Where did I state people should have low paying jobs.. no my name is Jane .. and yes I don’t feel society owes me anything, ..In my opinion anyone that has a problem with that obviously feels sucking the public’s teat is fair game. Happy not to be a member of that club, but I’ve obviously hit some nerves. Lets see how that works out for everyone with the new government.. :(

            I’ll now disconnect the email response notification for this post as it’s obvious the bars are closing.. can’t help but roll my eyes at some of these comments..

          • Lee says:

            Thanks for the kind words, Cake-Eater! Perhaps the glory of internet message-boards is that even if the person to whom you respond ignores the content of your post, the points made are still up there for others.

  2. Lori Baker says:

    If someone was doing a perceivedly bad job in fighting against cancer, would that make you like cancer more?

  3. erling says:

    It’s so obvious that this was cooked up to get the no-go order. A five buck plate of pickles says most or all of this nonsense never makes it through charge approval.

  4. Richard Marquez says:

    Todos somos Kim Hearty!

  5. ragechill says:

    the bourgeois bucket-o-slop is no match for the people’s pickle. kim hearty forever

  6. Unless Grossetti gives the pickle back, he’s the one who should be charged with theft!

  7. Dylan says:

    I don’t think anyone should be arrested or charged for stealing a paper-mache pickle or a bucket. Come on VPD.

  8. How can any writer be proud to put this one-sided irresponsible piece out into the world? Regardless of the readers’ bias, there’s no way to read this any way but loaded.

    The first section titled “Account of Events” includes only one account from a unnamed protestor, along with some editorial sarcasm.

    The second section is titled “The Law’s Double Standard”, and tangents off to discuss jay-walking and a specific officer’s ticketing record, both of which are entirely unrelated to the protesting and arrest at Pidgin.

    Finally, we have “Criminalization of poverty and protest”. We can all agree that Criminalization of Poverty is a bad thing, right? Then why bother even reading the last section, why not just rally around that talking point and take to the streets?

    Real discussion around actual topics that may result in solutions requires opinions, compromise and cooperation. All of those things are much more difficult to write about because they require research beyond overhearing a conversation, and arguments that are founded on more than a Straw Man concept like “Criminalization of Poverty”.

    Slanted, emotion-laced articles, while they may be intended to fight for people who can’t fight for themselves, instead create an American-politics-like situation where a very important and complicated issue is reduced to Us vs Them & Me vs You.

    We must be better than this.

    In order to create any sort of solution and avoid escalating mud-slinging into something more serious, our journalists must be held accountable to present journalism rather than rhetoric, research rather than talking points.

    I don’t have a solution. And neither do you. If we can all agree that the DTES and Pidgin is a much more complex issue than can be distilled into a single battle cry, than there is a chance that we can create something real that is better than what we have.

  9. Tim says:

    The Pidgin picket is over. Tonight, the Downtown Eastside Neighbourhood Council put out the following statement on their website: “DNC statement on the Pidgin Protest. The DNC shares many of the goals of the anti-gentrification protesters, but feels that the specific actions in front of 350 Carrall St. have served their purpose. The DNC therefor disagrees with the continuation of this action, and calls on the protesters to move on.”

    These people are in total disarray. They are quarreling openly among themselves, doing more harm to their own cause than ever could a $6 plate of pickles.

    Why is this? Because from the beginning they chose the wrong target. They demand social housing, but picket a restaurant. They demand a better neighbourhood, but refuse to challenge the crushing power of the drug dealers and the pimps. They demand 10,000 units of free public housing, but refuse to lift a finger to help build them. They demand everything, and contribute nothing.

    From the beginning they had zero credibility, and zero support. Now, the “leadership” has finally figured out that this picket is costing them money. It’s a curious coincidence, but on the DENC website, where they announced they are pulling support for the Pidgin picket, they thank Vancity for a “recent much-needed infusion of money”.

    Coincidence? No way. Vancity was pissed that their Carnegie $ was going to attack some of their own business clients.

    The Pidgin picketers couldn’t even figure that one out. And now their own friends have turned on them. No one is surprised.

    • a member of the DNC says:

      I knew this would happen…
      The Downtown Eastside Neighbourhood Council now has a board that doesn’t consult the members.
      We used to have monthly members meetings where every action and statement issued was discussed and voted on before it went public.
      We have a new board that meets in secret, kicks out members without notice and issues public statements without consulting the membership. The last members meeting was April 6 so the statement about the Pidgin Picket is not coming from the members.
      Any statement that comes from the so-called “DNC” at this point is only coming from a handful of people and does not have the backing of the membership. The DNC has now become just another example of the struggle for power and control in a community that has neither.

  10. Tyler says:

    Don’t you hacks here at The Mainlander have anything to say?

  11. John Thomass says:

    Jane I would like to request that you stop using the sidewalks and roads that my tax dollars have been maintaining for the last 40 years. I would also ask that you begin to pay cash for what ever medical needs you may have including prescriptions and if you should require the assistance of the police or fire departments tough.

    I don’t mind you not paying back the cost of your primary education since it doesn’t seem to have taken root anyway.

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