NOTE: When possible, articles are shared in full for historical record and annotated with original link when source is broken and/or accessed from Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine or Google cache etc. during Feb. 2017.
Media coverage about homelessness and Olympics:
Stop the War on the Poor, says DTES Protestors24 Hours, March 15, 2009
Downtown Eastside residents angry at police crackdown via Wayback Machine – original
Canadian Press > CBC News, March 15, 2009
About 100 people gathered in wet weather to protest the Vancouver police crackdown. (CBC)
Residents of Vancouver’s poverty-stricken Downtown Eastside protested Sunday against what they see as a pre-Olympic police strategy to drive them off the streets through petty ticketing and random identification checks.
About 100 people showed up outside a police station on Main Street — formerly the department’s headquarters — in the heart of the gritty neighbourhood.
Pelted by wet snow flurries, speakers angrily rejected the police business plan that calls for more tickets to be issued for bylaw infractions such as jaywalking and street vending — laws they say aren’t enforced in Vancouver’s nicer neighbourhoods.
Clyde Wright of the Vancouver Area Network of Drug Users said members “have been ticketed for offences such as stepping off the curb unsafely, riding a bicycle on the sidewalk, having no helmet, having no bell on their bike.”
The police plan calls for more summons to be issued to enforce the fines, which Wright said are a hardship on residents living on social assistance.
“This is targeted harassment of poor people,” he told the rally.
Protesters set up a sidewalk sale hoping to attract police attention, but officers stayed clear, instead blocking the street to traffic as the rally spilled off the sidewalk.
Crackdown aims to make streets safer: police
The police business plan, released in January, outlines various tactics it says is aimed at curbing street disorder in what is perhaps the poorest neighbourhood in Canada.
It sets targets for charges under the provincial Safe Streets Act and Trespass Act and requires each police Beat Enforcement Team shift to conduct a minimum number of identification checks in the neighbourhood.
Another tactic involves not laying charges for simple drug possession, instead seizing the drugs to avoid lengthy paperwork that keeps officers off the street for hours at a time.
David Eby of the B.C. Civil Liberties Association says the crackdown seems to be an attempt to clean up the Downtown Eastside before the Olympics. (CBC)
No one from the Vancouver Police Department was available Sunday to comment on the protesters’ complaints, but spokespeople in the past have said police are trying to crack down on street disorder because residents want to feel safe.
But David Eby, president of the B.C. Civil Liberties Association, who attended the rally, said he believes the 2010 Winter Games have a lot to do with the plan.
“It’s hard for me to imagine this isn’t related to the Olympics,” he said. “It’s an entirely new initiative. More tickets than have ever been given out in a very short period of time.
“The goal is to harass the people who are living on the street down here, who are addicted to drugs or mentally ill or just too poor to even survive anywhere else. To harass them into other neighbourhoods and spread the problem out over the city.”
Downtown Eastside residents protest police ‘street sweeps’
CBC > The Canadian Press, Mar 15, 2009
Police cracking down on poor: Activists
Metro Vancouver News, March 16, 2009
Police accused of harassing the poor with nuisance tickets – via Internet Archive Wayback machine – original
The Province News, March 15, 2009, Ian Austin
VANCOUVER — Downtown Eastside activists took their protests of police harassment to the steps of the Vancouver police station Sunday.
The activists, who want to know why public money is spent to lay nuisance charges such as jaywalking, set up a garage sale at the entry to the station at 312 Main St.
“At a time when there is so much concern in the region about gun violence, all these police resources are being used handing out tickets to people who will never be able to afford to pay them,” said Ann Livingston, executive director of the Vancouver Area Network of Drug Users. “I find it unbelievable.
“It is further marginalizing people who are already struggling to survive.”
Under a portable tent structure, a group sold a variety of goods to protest tickets for unauthorized “vending.”
“The poverty in this area has been put on the police business plan as a crime issue,” said David Eby, executive director of the B.C. Civil Liberties Association. “People can’t afford these tickets — it’s $100, and that’s almost one-third of the $375 they have to live on each month.”
Priscilla Mays of the Downtown Eastside Women’s Centre accused the police of trying to sweep the streets before the Olympics.
“It is not a coincidence that the increased ticketing is happening in the lead-up to the Olympic Games,” she said. “It is happening to ensure that residents live in a state of fear and intimidation so that the [Downtown Eastside] is cleansed of poor and homeless people in time for the tourists.”
City Coun. Kerry Jang said the ticketing is part of the Project Civil City campaign that’s a leftover from the previous city government.
“We are speaking with the police of a different approach,” said Jang. “Our solution is to create more housing.”
Downtown Eastside residents fear they’ll be jailed during Games
Canada.com > Vancouver Sun, Feb. 16, 2009 (Press Reader.com version available)
Some people can’t afford to pay fines given during ticketing sweep for civil disorderCanada.com > Vancouver Sun, February 16, 2009 (Pressreader.com version available)
Police crackdown not welcome
24 HOURS News, February 16, 2009, by Matt Kieltyka
Downtown Eastside residents are feeling a little uneasy with the Olympics fast approaching and it starts with the police, protesters say.
Supporters of the Downtown Eastside Women’s Centre took to Pigeon Park yesterday to protest aggressive bylaw enforcement by police.
The women – backed by the B.C. Civil Liberties Association, Pivot Legal Society and Carnegie Community Action Project – say a 50 per cent spike in tickets issued to DTES residents last year is criminalizing poverty.
“People are being ticketed for basically being in the street,” said organizer Harsha Walia.
Walia believes that enforcement – many for acts such as jaywalking and loitering – is being conducted “to make sure the Downtown Eastside is cleaned up for the Olympics.”
BCCLA acting director David Eby said the tickets have a knock-on effect, through court no-go orders, that prevent people from accessing essential services in the Downtown Eastside.
Pivot lawyer Douglas King says his agency is helping people dispute the infractions in court.
He has also called on city council to eradicate former mayor Sam Sullivan’s Project Civil City, an initiative King says has opened the door for aggressive ticketing.
“The city voted against Civil City when Gregor Robertson was elected,” King said.
Downtown Eastside residents say tickets unfair
CTV News, February 15, 2009
The 2010 Olympics are being blamed for police sweeps and aggressive ticketing in Vancouver’s poorest neighbourhood.
Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside — is where addicts can openly inject drugs on the street — but jaywalking is an offense that comes with a ticket and a fine of $25 for people who can least afford to pay.
Activists say police are giving out more and more tickets to clean up the Downtown Eastside in time for the Games. And they claim the tactics are wreaking havoc for the most needy.
“I think that’s ridiculous, they wouldn’t do that on Granville, they wouldn’t do that on Robson, and people do that over there,” said local resident Paula Potter.
Vancouver police issued a flurry of tickets in the Downtown Eastside last year. Community groups say officers are targeting residents for minor infractions.
“We’re seeing things like ticketing for jaywalking, spitting, and “illegal” vending,” said Harsha Walia of the Downtown Eastside Women’s Centre.
It’s being executed as part of the province’s Safe Streets Act, passed in 2004 to crack down on aggressive panhandling, and championed by former Mayor Sam Sullivan. The mayor came up with his “project civil city” plan in response in order to deal with public disorder.
Last year, officers issued 467 tickets for violations under the safe streets act, more than double the previous year, the majority of them in Canada’s poorest neighbourhood, the Downtown Eastside.
Residents say it’s all about maintaining an image before the Olympics.
And there are plans to increase ticketing the area even more. According to the VPD’s draft business plan for 2009, the target is a minimum of four street checks per officer per block.
“It’s totally unfair and totally disrespectful,” said Wendy Pedersen of the Carnegie Community Action Project.
“Imagine how you would feel if you had no money and stepped off the pavement and you got a ticket for jaywalking, knowing nobody cares about your safety, that really it’s about scooping you off the streets for the Olympics.”
Not paying the ticket can mean ending up in jail or being banned from the neighbourhood.
The fight will go to court this week. Residents are being encouraged to contest their tickets on Tuesday.
With a report by CTV British Columbia’s Jina You.
“Downtown Eastside crackdown misguided, groups say”
Globe & Mail, February 12, 2009, Frances Bula
If Doug Everitt lived anywhere besides the Downtown Eastside, he doubts he’d be getting the kinds of tickets from police he does.
The 50-year-old construction worker has had five in the past few months, some for riding his bike without a helmet, some for jaywalking on the streets near the residential hotel where he’s been living.
“I just feel like I get targeted because it’s something they can hold over my head so they can get me off the street when they need to, like the Olympics,” said Mr. Everitt, who has had his struggles with drugs and is now on methadone. “And it’s gotten a lot more aggressive lately.”
What he’s noticing is the effects of the Vancouver Police Department’s new 2009 business plan, which set new targets for ticketing and street checks in the Downtown Eastside to maintain public order.
The neighbourhood, home to a high concentration of poor, mentally ill and drug-addicted residents, is infamous for its pockets of chaos, with crowds of people selling random articles on the sidewalk or gathering in alleys to buy and sell drugs.
The police plan, which was initiated in December but made public two weeks ago, is coming under fire from the B.C. Civil Liberties Association and AIDS groups for the way it targets people like Mr. Everitt because they live in a particular neighbourhood.
They say the crackdown, which envisions banning people from the neighbourhood if they accumulate enough tickets, actually endangers people’s health, since it prevents the drug-addicted and marginalized from accessing the numerous services in the Downtown Eastside aimed specifically at their problems.
The groups sent a public letter to Vancouver Police Chief Jim Chu objecting to the new plan, which set a goal of issuing 20 per cent more tickets for bylaw offences, 10 per cent more tickets under the provincial Safe Streets Act, and requiring any beat officers to do at least four random “street checks” per block every day.
“This doesn’t solve any of the underlying issues,” said David Eby, a lawyer with the civil liberties association.
His association’s letter, which was also signed by six AIDS organizations, noted that “bylaw offences identified for targeting by the Vancouver police appear to be those most closely associated with dire poverty, including sleeping outside and street vending.”
The police crackdown is also prompting concern from other social-service agencies in the area.
Mark Townsend, who runs a non-profit that operates a number of residential hotels for people who have psychiatric or addiction problems, said many of their residents are getting ticketed. One resident, who is mentally ill, is now afraid to go outside for fear of being arrested.
Mr. Eby noted that a scientific study on the effects of a previous crackdown, called Operation Torpedo, showed that more aggressive policing succeeded mainly in spreading drug and public-disorder problems to Commercial Drive, Broadway and the West End.
Operation Torpedo started in 2003 and tapered off about a year later. It increased the numbers of beat police and even saw officers on horseback going through the neighbourhood.
The police chief at the time, Jamie Graham, said the department was moving to more aggressive policing to create some order in the neighbourhood and make it more livable for residents intimidated by the level of drug-dealing and general mayhem.
But critics say that approach doesn’t really get rid of anything.
“Yes, the Downtown Eastside is chaotic but just because the chaos is spread out over a larger area doesn’t solve the problem,” Mr. Eby said.
Vancouver city Councillor George Chow said his Vision party, which dominates council, hasn’t formalized a specific response to the police plan. But he did note that he and his colleagues are pushing for other measures to try to control street disorder in the Downtown Eastside, like finding indoor places for dumpster divers to refurbish or sell what they have collected.
Special to The Globe and Mail
‘Street sweeps’ protested Downtown Eastside groups oppose ticketing campaign
The Province Newspaper, February 16, 2009