Almost exactly one year ago this site pondered if VISION Vancouver mayor Gregor Robertson had showed signs of reaching his Peter Principle in his responses to militant protests. The anarchists ran wild last year; burning down a house, marching down the street with flaming torches, and criminally harassing a restaurant owner. Throughout this series of events, we saw little-to-no leadership from the police or city government.
This year has brought us new protests, and the continuing lack of leadership from Gregor Robertson. There weren’t any flaming torches at this year’s May Day parade; but one of their leaders openly encouraged violence against the police, the protesters took his advice, and the guy is still out on the streets. In fact, he’s now one of the public faces for a “homeless” tent city occupation of Oppenheimer Park.
The city recently gave the occupiers an ultimatum that they must leave, they responded by saying that they’re “on stolen native land” that they’re reclaiming. First Nations protester’s claims were quickly neutralized when leaders from their nations publicly declared the occupiers aren’t speaking for their communities. Yet somehow, despite the farce, (and potential for violence) the camp still exists today.
Same, Old, Tactics:
When Occupy hit the stage in 2011, Vancouver was one of the world’s most well prepared and equipped occupations. Tent cities are one of the most favoured and consistently used tactics by DTES radicals; some of the more memorable include the 2002 Woodwards squat, and the 2010 Olympic tent city (raised by the same people who encouraged a gang of thugs to run around smashing-up the city).
The Oppenheimer tent city isn’t much different than Occupy, Woodwards and the Olympics; but they do have a traditional Great Plains teepee, and a “longhouse” they’ve made from tying together some twigs and branches. Like Occupy, they also have a “sacred fire” ‘justifying’ their occupation because it’s “impossible in one hundred square feet rooms” to conduct sacred fires in their housing units. (Can you guess who the BS artist is who wrote that?)
Same Old People:
The reason we know there’s a sacred fire is because it was reported to us by Harsha Walia in a special contribution to the Vancouver Sun. Walia is one of the country’s most unabashed supporters of activist violence- after the Olympics she was recorded defending the “Black Bloc” who smashed-up the city calling them “deeply heroic” for “de-arresting” people from the police. (Note: G20 ringleader Alex Hundert was locked-up for encouraging this behaviour.)
Audrey Siegl is one of the spokespeople for the protest. She’s a jet-set Musqueam protester, a former DTES resident, and deep in the thick of the DTES radical activist scene. Curiously, considering she was representing a camp of “homeless” protesters, Sigel flew out to Ottawa this week to participate in Beau Dick’s “copper breaking” protest (Love Is The Movement activistocrat Clayton Thomas-Muller was there to assist).
Siegel is joined by another First Nations spokesperson- Stella August, an activist with the DTES Power of women. This organization, as many know, has been led (‘facilitated’) by Harsha Walia. DTESPoW leads an annual march for housing. In the picture below you can see Siegel with Oppenheimer protester Rosanne Gervais making t-shirts for this year’s march- the same print is being used for posters seen at the park. The prints are being created at the Carnegie Community Centre, all on the taxpayer’s dime.
Dan Wallace was the man who called for violence against the police back at May Day. Wallace has put a lot of his resources into helping to organize and equip the camp and appears to have taken a leadership position. You may also remember Wallace as one of the people who chained their necks to the gate of a Chevron refilling station back in May.
The camp has had no shortage of visitors, often the same people we saw at Occupy Vancouver, and other recent tent cities. The above picture shows BCTF activist Shasha Wiley-Shaw, an Occupier and participant in this year’s May Day parade, who is most famous for lying to the media about the police breaking her arm during a 2012 “Casseroles” protest. Standing beside her is activist Adrienne Smith, a recently graduated lawyer- David Eby and Jenny Kwan attended her ceremony when she passed the bar (Smith works for PIVOT Legal).
From The Frying Pan Into The Fire:
Oppenheimer Park will be host to a “Direct Action training and Support” event on Saturday. Two of the organizers are known to this site. First there’s Dan Wallace, who has used the Facebook page as an opportunity to gather resources for the camp. The other is Anthony Gauthier who has worked Vancouver Cop Watch- a group that shadows Vancouver Police officers as they do their jobs, often yelling abuse (sometimes racist) while the cops are trying to do their jobs.
The event’s Facebook page calls for supporters of “the new REVOLUTION movement” to come learn how to fight for a group of issues that are incredibly similar to those backed by the Council of Canadians (who always seem to be in the background at these kinds of events, one CoC leader has been confirmed attending- Harjap Grewal married to Harsha Walia).
The organizers haven’t provided many details on the type of direct action training they’ll be providing- by definition, direct action is usually something that puts people at risk of being arrested. As we saw during May Day, Dan Wallace’s type of direct action promotes violence against the police. Gauthier’s friends at cop-watch are notoriously anti-police (and have been supported by PIVOT Legal), Walia is a global icon for activist violence.
In addition to training, Wallace plans to use the direct action course as an opportunity to encourage people to join the protest, asking participants in a Facebook posting to: “bring your tents and leave them if you can” and “Spend a night or 2 to help with evening security”. We may see a boost in camp population this weekend- or, perhaps like Occupy, a new host of empty tents.
Same Old Response- In A Dangerous Situation:
When Occupy Vancouver was launched, Gregor Robertson’s response was so pro-Occupy it was echoed joyously by Occupiers around the world:
“We have seen the Occupy Wall Street movement grow and spread to dozens of cities across North America. In these turbulent economic times, I recognize and appreciate the concerns and angst that people, especially young people, feel about the economy, rising inequality, the environment, and state of the world right now. I fully support the right of people to demonstrate those concerns publicly and peacefully.”
Robertson’s response angered a lot of people, some pointed-out the hypocrisy of how the mayor used laws about “structures” to shut-down the Falun Gong’s protest across from the Chinese consulate but he was wholeheartedly behind the structures at Occupy. Robertson was accused of having double-standards (and eerily eager to please the Chinese government).
Occupy Vancouver’s first drug overdose was a bit of an embarrassment for the mayor- so, as the protest began to take form as a political liability, the city sent-in health and fire inspectors to try and shut down the camp. Their first official action was ban occupiers from erecting any more tents- isn’t it time to do that, before Wallace fills Oppenheimer with a new wave of occupiers?
A city with competent leadership wouldn’t have let things go this far. A police force with competent (and unbridled) leadership would have taken Dan Wallace into custody the moment after the riot he called for came to fruition. A competent newspaper would mention in their articles that Harsha Walia has a stake in the game. Instead, what we have here today, is an institutionally enabled farce.
Let’s hope Gregor Robertson’s absence of leadership doesn’t result in another dead body this time…