Update: The people of Vancouver-Point Grey have now elected Eby into office, God help us all…
Radical activism in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside (DTES) has been getting out of hand for several years now- beginning in the early 2000’s with the formation of the infamous (and now defunct) Anti-Poverty Committee. The APC was a militant anarchist organization run by many of the same people who are leading the radicalism today- Ivan Drury and Harsha Walia are two of their most notorious alumni.
David Eby arrived on the scene in 2004- a promising young Dalhousie Law student who turned down opportunities in the corporate world to instead focus on social justice (and a future career in politics). Eby quickly became a legend in the DTES- building a political base including an almost cult like following by the neighbourhood’s anarchist and radical activist community.
It was over the next few years that the DTES activist community began to gradually unravel to what we have today- a dangerous self parody that often crosses the line between peaceful protest to violence and criminality. Welcome to David Eby’s Downtown Eastside Olympic Legacy.
In addition to his work on poverty, Eby became the go-to-guy for activists facing legal troubles. Like in 2006 when the APC squatted at the North Star Hotel. In addition to legal support, Eby took the role of one of the APC’s spokesmen to the media- not only explaining their legal position, but also trying to justify the illegality of their actions.
This kind of support helped to embolden the radicals, opening their minds to bigger and better actions in the future. The 2010 Olympics was the ultimate prize- an opportunity to cause embarrassment to the government and a free-pass (in their minds) to engage in mob violence. Anarchists and other radical activists planned for the Olympics years before the games. It was their intention to protest the Olympics by shutting them down completely. Had the protesters been successful at their task they could possibly have cost the city and province tens or hundreds of millions of dollars in damages and penalties.
By this time Eby had graduated from his work at PIVOT and was hired as the Executive Director for the BC Civil Liberties Association in 2007. Eby took a vital role in the planning of the Olympic protests- leading the development of a team of “Legal Observers” whose job it was to observe the police and record any instances where they crossed the line.
On the opening day of the Olympics it was common knowledge among the protesters that the anarchists planned to engage in a violent protest that they dubbed “Heart Attack”. Just a few hours before this protest began the anarchists made a special request that the legal observers were not present- they were concerned the observers could be used to provide evidence to the police. Eby responded by withdrawing the observers, seemingly deciding it was more important for the BCCLA to defend the rights of violent anarchists over the rights of the people of the city of Vancouver.
Defending himself from the political backlash after the violence, Eby stood out and publicly denounced what happened. He was initially lambasted by the anarchists- one even threw a ceremonial cream pie in his face. It was during this time when activist leader Harsha Walia made her famous debate about the use of violence- strongly supporting what happened during Heart Attack, and praising anarchists who took actions like “de-arresting” activists from the police. (This is a must-watch video if you haven’t seen it.)
Eby’s relationships with the radicals were quickly mended and, despite the fact many openly advocated for the use of violence, Eby continued to world closely with them and continued to support them with their legal troubles- no matter how outrageous (or dangerous) their activities became. The DTES radicals were all to enthusiastic to embrace Eby and were undoubtedly emboldened by his support. It wasn’t long before Eby was sharing a stage with Harsha Walia- now Canada’s most prominent advocate of activist violence.
When Occupy popped-up at the Vancouver Art Gallery David Eby was on the sidelines providing legal advice, and talking to the media. Eby was contacted when the risk appeared that radicals may engage in violence but it was too hot of an issue, and he declined. A few days later a cop was hit in the face by an anarchist flagpole.
In June 2012 a group of radical protesters started the “Casseroles” protests, mimicking the student fees protests taking place in Quebec. The protests became one of the worst embarrassments in the history of Vancouver activism. During the first protest an elderly security guard at City Hall was punched in the face by one of the protesters. In later protests, they brazenly attacked and tried to bait the police into making mistakes- smashing pots and pans in front of officer’s faces, screaming and swearing, and taking intentional actions to escalate the conflict.
When the protesters were arrested Eby had the audacity to speak out to the media and claim that the police were “criminalizing dissent”- this, despite the fact that all evidence showed otherwise. The protesters took Eby’s words of support and engaged in a campaign of openly lying to members of the media. Ultimately, they were called-out and their lies were exposed on CKNW’s Bill Good Show. But, even after the lies, Eby continued his support.
Vancouver Cop Watch was established in the summer of 2012, and quickly went down the path of the the Casseroles protests. Their focus skewed off-course from an initial intent to observe and report on the police (like Eby’s legal observers) to focussing on stalking cops while they’re doing their jobs, shouting abuse, and even racist insults. When the time came that Cop Watch members were being arrested, they’d yell a familiar tune out to the cops- “we’re calling David Eby!”.
On Wednesday, PIVOT announced a plan to distribute leaflets to residents about their rights when dealing with private security guards. In an article about the plan in the Globe & Mail, they profiled Jennifer Allen of Cop Watch as an “outreach worker” in the community. This is a complete outrage- she’s the same person who prides herself in how much trouble she causes for the police, and the same person who was caught on video yelling racist insults at the cops in the above video. But, despite this behaviour, PIVOT think’s it appropriate to continue working with her.
This brings us to the action that’s happening right now. A new restaurant was opened in the DTES called Pidgin- the radicals have decided themselves that this restaurant shouldn’t be allowed to exist so they’ve been actively pestering their customers with the intention of forcing the owners to shut down. Protesters have been making noise, banging on windows, shining flashlights onto guest’s tables, and doing their best to achieve their goal of killing Pidgin’s business.
Yesterday the Vancouver Police sent a final notice to the protesters, providing a list of what they consider to be criminal activities, and threatening to make arrests. In response, PIVOT and the BCCLA have promised to work hard to challenge the legitimacy of any arrests. This is despite the fact most Vancouverites look at the Pidgin incident with a sense of distaste.
The precedent that would be set if they were to win their legal battle would open the door for others to take similar disruptive actions. If Pidgin protesters are allowed to behave this way, why couldn’t pro-life protesters do the same? What if a group of people decided to try and interrupt Eby’s campaign office- would that be okay? Of course not.
Eby’s now stepped-away from supporting the radicals, but the legacy he left behind is thriving. In the case of the Pidgin, it looks like the taxpayers will have to foot the bill of taking this through the courts. And that’s the story of David Eby’s Downtown Eastside Olympic Legacy.