Police say Pidgin protesters crossing the line
CTV British Columbia
Published Wednesday, April 17, 2013 8:52PM PDT
Police issued a stern warning Wednesday to some Downtown Eastside activists they say are taking civil disobedience one step too far.
For the last eight weeks, protestors have entrenched themselves in front of Pidgin, a trendy restaurant they say is a symbol of increasing gentrification of their neighbourhood.
While they’ve maintained their protests are peaceful, one of the owners of Pidgin said he has seen customers take unfair abuse from the activists.
“I saw a 70-year-old couple once get out of a cab, and just get absolutely berated. Screamed at on both sides,” Brandon Grossutti said. “Other times I’ve seen a young couple with a baby in a stroller getting screamed at as they come in.”
Grossutti said he has seen everything from protestors blocking the door, to swearing at people who enter and exit the restaurant, to standing on window ledges to stare at the diners inside.
Vancouver police said protestors participating in criminal mischief could face charges.
“When public safety is at risk and civil disobedience turns to unlawful acts, the police have a duty to act on those,” Sgt. Brian Montague said.
Police have sent a letter to a handful of protesters warning them that swearing, shouting, disturbing the peace or blocking the entrance to Pidgin could get them arrested.
He also said police are anticipating an arrest related to the protests, but couldn’t say who the suspect was or what the circumstances were surrounding the case.
“Their actions have gone beyond what would be considered a lawful protest, and would be considered criminal,” he said.
Back at the restaurant, protesters maintained they have not crossed a line in their demonstrations.
“There has never once been anybody prohibited from getting in and out of the restaurant,” a man calling himself “Homeless Dave” said. “This is really pressure coming from the local business associations that are trying to protect the perception of the gentrifying businesses in the community, and want to make it a safe haven for the rich customers to come.”
“The people down here are holding their ground because this is the poor neighbourhood in town, and we won’t be kicked out,” said DTES resident Susan Neeves.
Wes Regan, head of the Hastings Crossing Business Improvement Association, said he believes in the right to free speech, but questioned those targeting a single restaurant instead of a broader issue.
“When does it stop being a civil demonstration to raise awareness about an important issue, and when does it start becoming a vendetta against a business owner, and trying to destroy his livelihood?” he asked.
With a report from CTV British Columbia’s Jon Woodward