City of Vancouver spent $170,000 to police Vancouver's peaceful 4/20 protests

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      The City of Vancouver spent over $170,000 to police two 4/20 events last month, up by 72 percent from last year's cannabis protest.

      In a bulletin sent out late this afternoon, the city revealed incremental costs associated with managing the unsanctioned and unpermitted events. (The Parks Board voted on issuing a permit to organizers of the Sunset Beach event, but it was denied.)

      The peaceful protests were held at two different locations, with the larger, more popular event at Sunset Beach Park, and a smaller protest along the 800 block of Robson Street adjacent to the Vancouver Art Gallery.

      Police estimate that at its peak, 40,000 people attended the Sunset Beach event—a jump from 2016's estimation of 25,000—while between 200 and 300 took in the event on Robson Street.

      The costs for Vancouver Fire and Rescue and the Vancouver Police Department were $11,760, and $170,670, respectively. In 2016, the costs associated with the same departments were far lower, coming in at $6,900 and $99,400, respectively.

      The bill picked up by Parks and Recreation totaled $34,630, up $10,000 from 2016. 

      Police estimated that at its peak, 40,000 people attended 4/20 at Sunset Beach this year.
      Amanda Siebert

      Engineering costs covering sanitation, streets, and traffic rang in at $25,949, while emergency management rounded out the bill with an additional $2,370, for a total cost of $245,379. 

      Comparatively, last year's 4/20 festivals cost the city $148,000, which was up by 60 percent from the total in 2015.

      In 2016, event organizers paid the city a sum of $90,000, which it had raised ahead of the volunteer-run event. 

      This year, organizers raised a total of $160,000 to pay for city-requested amenities.

      "We pay for a lot of the costs associated with 4/20," head organizer Jeremiah Vandermeer told the Straight by phone this evening.

      "Thing like security, ambulances, first aid, garbage clean up, engineered drawings of the park and stage, sonar of the underground, police radios, on-site ambulances, washrooms, and more," he added.

      As for policing, Vandermeer said he was approached by many police officers at the event that said they enjoyed working during 4/20 "because there are so few problems".

      "We didn't have any trouble, and nobody stepped out of line. It's not like an alcohol-fueled event where there are often other issues. The thing is, this is a protest, but it's also a cultural event. So is Vaisakhi, so is the Pride Parade, so is the Celebration of Light, and those things all cost the city a lot of money too."

      He added that, if the Parks Board had approved a permit for the event, the city might be able to approach organizers for more money.

      "Every year, we try to get a permit and we're told 'no'. There's not really an avenue for them to come and legally ask us for money, but what we do is directly pay for the things that we need," Vandermeer said.

      Cannabis activist Jodie Emery took to Twitter to express her frustration with the city's management of costs, and pointed out the drastic increases for policing in particular.

      While some might raise eyebrows at the costs associated with the protests, 4/20 events still cost the City of Vancouver less than the Celebration of Light, which has rung up bills upwards of $500,000.