PiDGiN protesters demand police return confiscated sign

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      Anarchists, activists, and cops all seem to have a thing for signs.

      This has come to light with a demand for the return of a sign seized by police from people picketing PiDGiN, a restaurant that antipoverty activists see as part of the gentrification of Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside.

      Juxtaposing this police confiscation with the swiping by still-unidentified people of a sidewalk sign owned by Save On Meats restaurant—as an act of “class warfare” against the gentrifying elements in the neighbourhood—may be a bit controversial. Nonetheless, activists want the Vancouver Police Department to give back their sign.

      “The incident was partly just an attempted intimidation by the VPD against the PiDGiN picket,” Kim Hearty told the Straight by phone.

      A member of the Downtown Eastside Neighbourhood Council and the corresponding secretary for the Coalition of Progressive Electors, Hearty was one of three people picketing outside PiDGiN when the seizure occurred at around 6 p.m. on March 9.

      Hearty and the other two picketers, Joel Short and Nicholas Ellan, have written VPD chief Jim Chu and Mayor Gregor Robertson, asking not only for the return of the material but for an apology from the police as well.

      The sign on the right was taken by police, and protesters want it back.

      VPD spokesperson Const. Brian Montague asserted that the material seized was a “structure”.

      “It’s a stand-alone structure, and the bylaw says that you cannot construct or erect on a street, especially if it obstructs the sidewalk,” Montague told the Straight in a phone interview.

      Hearty related that she had insisted that the confiscating officer, Sgt. Mark Steinkampf, issue her a ticket if there was a violation of a city bylaw but Steinkampf refused.

      Montague explained that officers have the discretion to issue or not issue bylaw violation tickets.

      The VPD spokesperson also touched on the complicated nature of policing in the Downtown Eastside. “There’s been other cases where people get upset with the police because they do issue a ticket,” Montague said. “So whether we [do] or whether we don’t…someone’s going to be upset.”

      Montague said that based on the police report for the incident, the material was a “makeshift booth similar to what’s seen at a carnival made up of wood and slats and black cloth”. Hearty disagreed, saying it was just two pieces of wood with black cloth.

      The confiscated sign articulates the scorn antipoverty activists feel toward the moneyed classes frequenting the trendy and upscale establishments in the neighbourhood. For five cents, it invites onlookers to, as at a circus, “Come see the rich.”



      Homeless Dave

      Apr 3, 2013 at 4:42pm

      Sgt. Mark Steinkampf badge #1607 also told me and another person days before vpd stole sign "I SUPPORT THE OWNER OF PIDGIN RESTAURANT AND I THINK YOU PEOPLE ARE MISGUIDED"

      Rick in Richmond

      Apr 3, 2013 at 4:46pm

      Have the Pidgin picketeers arranged the return of Mark Brand's sign? I wasn't aware of this. If so, good for them.

      Hit back

      Apr 3, 2013 at 4:49pm

      It's best that the police keep the sign. Otherwise these anarchists will just use it to start a fire during their next riot.


      Apr 3, 2013 at 5:23pm

      @hit back

      The Pidgin protesters may be misguided, but they aren't anarchists and you might recall that anarchists had nothing to do with our last riot, unless of course you have somehow still clung tenaciously to Chief Chu's original hilarious and failed assessment of Vancouver's drunken hockey-lout rampage.

      Nicholas Ellan

      Apr 3, 2013 at 5:27pm

      I am the man pictured holding the sign.

      The overwhelming concern of the media for us white guys and our cheap wooden signs is shameful. There is another man, Homeless Dave, who is on day 13 of a hunger strike for social housing in the Downtown Eastside. The Georgia Straight has yet to report on that. Who cares, right?

      Your priorities are showing.

      Eugene M

      Apr 3, 2013 at 5:48pm

      Would another crack shack be a better use of this location? The local business owner here is investing their own money, hiring people from the community, and truly making a positive change in this neighbourhood. What would be a better solution, close it down, leave it shuttered as another abandoned storefront littering this neighbourhood? Is that going to build a better sense of community? I'm all for social justice, but it seems to me this protest is quite misguided. This isn't a Holt Renfrew, McDonalds, or Apple Store. It's some local guy trying to make food and sell it.

      Galaxy S4

      Apr 3, 2013 at 6:05pm

      All this protesting and sign 'controversy' is giving more publicity to a restaurant that serves mediocre food.


      Apr 3, 2013 at 6:37pm

      Why don't the DTES residents fight fire with fire and just all move into Yaletown?


      Apr 3, 2013 at 7:09pm

      I don't know Galaxy, I thought the food at Pidgin was pretty good. Cocktails too, could use some more moderately priced wines on their menu (though I can't usually afford a bottle when I go out anyway, so I guess it's kind of moot).

      Careful with That Axe, Eugene

      Apr 3, 2013 at 7:25pm

      Eugene really nailed it. It's not like the 21 Doors development which houses Pidgin used to be social housing for low-income families. Not like in March 2008, its tenants were evicted for the renovation and conversion of the property into market condos to be flipped for profit. Yup, gentrifying restaurants such as PiDgIn truly are a 'better' community than social housing for low-income families. There simply is no escape from the binary choice between gentrifying restaurant or crack shack and the sooner we realize this the better.