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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.


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Photo credit: DM GILLIS

After ten steady weeks of nightly protests by anti-poverty activists in front of the PiDGiN restaurant in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside, police have stated that they plan to arrest picketers. In a press conference delivered yesterday, Vancouver Police Department spokesperson Brian Montague stated that his department is “anticipating an arrest soon.”

A letter issued yesterday by the VPD states that PiDGiN picketers can now be arrested for “shouting, screaming, or swearing.” The statement cites section 430(1) of the Criminal Code of Canada, which means that the VDP is seeking to label the protest a criminal action. An associated VPD release states that the police are issuing the arrest order to prevent Vancouverites from being “denied the lawful use and enjoyment of property.”

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Raise the Rates

On Wednesday, March 27, residents across the city joined together to walk 14.5km across Vancouver for Welfare Justice. The walk was organized by the Raise the Rates coalition to highlight the need for a significant increase in welfare rates as well as a comprehensive anti-poverty plan in the lead-up to the provincial election this May. The walk commenced at Christy Clark’s office on West 4th Ave in Kitsilano and ended almost 8 hours later outside Adrian Dix’s office at the Joyce Street skytrain station.

Homeless Dave joined the walk for Welfare Justice on the sixth day of his hunger strike against displacement and gentrification. Welfare and housing are intimately connected and as Vancouver’s low-income housing stock erodes, people on income assistance are being hit the hardest. In 2012 alone, 426 SRO units in the DTES became unaffordable for people on welfare. A recent article by Seth Klein shows that despite government press releases, the actual increase in the social housing stock in BC has been negligible since 2006.

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This morning, anti-poverty activists protested inside NDP leader Adrian Dix’s office in the Joyce-Collingwood neighbourhood of Vancouver. They say that the NDP has yet to make a commitment to decreasing poverty in British Columbia. Recent research has shown that British Columbia is among the most unequal provinces in the country.

Today is the one year anniversary of NDP MLA Jagrup Brar’s completion of the “Welfare Challenge.” For the month of January in 2012, Brar lived off the $610, the amount allocated to single welfare recipients in BC. During his challenge, the MLA lost 26 pounds.

His challenge was an emulation of a similar challenge taken by former NDP MLA Emery Barnes in 1986. Since Barnes’ campaign, welfare increases have lagged behind increases in the cost of living.

One of the organizers Bill Hopwood said: “A year ago today, Jagrup Brar finished his welfare challenge. He couldn’t afford to live on $610. He got in debt, had to borrow money, and lost 26 pounds. Nobody can afford to live on that.”

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Public backlash yesterday against the City’s plan to increase fines on homelessness and street-vending to $10,000 caused the Mayor’s office to pull the item from the agenda just before the 6pm public hearing time.

According to statements made last night by Vision city councillors Geoff Meggs, Raymond Louie, and Andrea Reimer, the party has decided to postpone a decision on the matter — not because they are opposed to the high fines, but out of legal obligations in response to ongoing constitutional challenges against the City in court.

The stated reason for the postponement was that the PIVOT Legal Society has launched a court challenge against the existing $2,000 fines for homelessness. The court challenge did not arise at the last minute, however, and has been ongoing since November of last year. Councillors were in full knowledge of this legal challenge (and others), as well as the impacts of the legislation on the poor and on civil liberties, when on November 28 2012 they approved the new fines in principle and asked the city’s lawyers to draft the bylaws, to be voted upon after yesterday’s public hearing. The impacts of the proposed bylaws were also discussed in recent newspaper articles, including one in the Straight on January 9th entitled “Higher fines could hit Vancouver’s homeless hard.” Nevertheless, Vision felt the new bylaws were ready to come to a vote, and made no attempt to incorporate exceptions into the bylaws for homeless people or those who cannot afford $10,000 fines.

Tues Dec 11, 2012 — Today at 2pm, the Downtown Eastside not for Developers coalition (DNFD) is holding a demonstration against the government bailout of the Pantages condo project on the 100-block of East Hastings. News was recently leaked to the Province newspaper that BC Housing has bailed-out condo developer Marc Williams/Worthington Properties with $23 million in sub-prime loans. BC Housing said that it has a mandate to fund “revitalization.”

The Province reported: “Dan Maxwell, vice-president, corporate services, and CFO of B.C. Housing, said Williams’ application to the province’s community partnership program was accepted because the development will revitalize the block.”

The organizers of today’s demonstration are “calling on Marc Williams to sell the Pantages parcel to the City at the 2010 assessed value and for the City to buy the site and work with BC Housing to develop it as 100% resident controlled social housing with low-income community space on the ground floor.”

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