The Vancouver Police Department is investigating an act of vandalism against Cuchillo restaurant in the context of ongoing anti-gentrification protests in the Downtown Eastside.
“The file has been forwarded to the investigators who are dealing with a number of files that are all related to both to this restaurant [Cuchillo], the PiDGin restaurant, and the anti-gentrification protests in general,” VPD constable Brian Montague told the Straight. “But unless they get some suspect information that would directly link them, there is no way for us at this point to link them.”
Cuchillo, a new upscale eatery located at 261 Powell Street, had its glass front door shattered early in the morning of Saturday, August 10.
Cuchillo and PiDGin, another restaurant new to the area, have been the sites of anti-gentrification picketers for months now. Activists criticize both restaurants for pricing their food higher than most people in the Downtown Eastside can afford, and for leading a process of gentrification that protesters claim will push long-time low-income residents out of the areas they call home.
Monague noted that the case is being investigated as an act of mischief and not an incidence of breaking and entering.
“No one has been arrested,” he said. “It looks like they are still pulling video or obtaining video, so I don’t have any suspect information.”
Meanwhile, anti-gentrification activists have moved to distance themselves from the act of vandalism made against Cuchillo.
In an email sent to the Straightfrom, an activist named Manuel Schulte detailed how anti-gentrification protesters are being blamed and harassed for acts of violence that they did not commit.
“No arrests have been made in connection to these incidents [acts of vandalism], while two have been made against picketers for protest-related activities,” that message reads. “Once again we're being blamed for vandalism we didn't commit, and aggressive diners are taking it as an excuse to assault us.”
In a telephone interview, Kim Hearty, one of the activists quoted in the email, told the Straight that people who disagree with the anti-gentrification movement are taking advantage of Cuchillo’s broken door. She argued that it is being used as “an excuse to attack anyone in the neighborhood who stands in the way of gentrification.”
On June 3, Hearty was arrested by the VPD for what she describes as legitimate acts of protest. In relation to that incident, she agreed to an order prohibiting her from coming within a six-block radius of PiDGin.
Hearty maintained that developers as well as the police have made it clear they want the picketing of PiDGin and Cuchillo as well as other anti-gentrification protests to stop.
“The broken door is being used to justify further aggression against the resistance,” she said.
In the email sent to the Straight, Schulte argued that it’s the protesters who need police protection.
“Things have taken a turn for the worse, and the cops are nowhere to be seen,” he is quoted as saying. “We are being spat on, shouted down, having beer and cigarettes hurled at us.”
Pickets began outside Cuchillo on July 5. Four blocks from Cuchillo, protests at PiDGin restaurant at 350 Carrall Street have occurred Tuesday through Saturday since February 5, 2013.