Pivot questions Vancouver police warning to PiDGiN protesters

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      Pivot Legal Society is questioning a warning letter the Vancouver Police Department sent to protesters who have been picketing outside PiDGiN Restaurant in the Downtown Eastside.

      The VPD issued a warning this week to some of the demonstrators, citing the definition of acts of mischief under Section 430 of the Criminal Code of Canada, including anyone wilfully destroying or damaging property, and obstructing lawful use of property. 

      “Obstruction or interference with the use of property includes but is not limited to the following behaviours: shouting, screaming, or swearing at anyone that disrupts public peace or physically blocking any person from freely entering, leaving or staying at any public place,” the warning from the VPD reads.

      In a letter to police chief Jim Chu dated April 17, Pivot lawyer Douglas King argues the latter definition is “inaccurate” and too broadly defines the section of the Criminal Code. 

      “There’s been legal cases that have looked at this section of the Criminal Code and said that it needs to be a physical obstruction for it to amount to criminal mischief,” King explained in a phone interview with the Straight. “So we thought by the VPD saying any kind of behaviour that would just be disturbing people could amount to criminal mischief was not actually correct in the sense that the courts have said it has to be something more than that.”

      Const. Brian Montague, a spokesperson for the VPD, said the police wouldn’t be arresting an individual “for shouting at somebody during a protest,” but would be responding to a collection of events.

      “It’s not one specific incident, like shouting or yelling at someone, it’s a number of incidents like that, and like the ones set out in the letter...that would constitute us having to act and arrest somebody,” he said in a phone interview. “We’re not saying that we’d be stepping in and arresting someone who’s shouting and yelling or swearing.”

      According to Montague, the warning letter has been issued “to a very small group” of about two or three people.

      “The letter itself is meant to inform certain people that we believe are going beyond peaceful and legal protest,” he said. “It’s not given to every protester. We have observed certain individuals engaging in behaviour that could result in criminal charges.”

      King said he gets the sense that the protesters are not aiming to physically block people from entering the restaurant.

      “If there is physical obstruction taking place, especially now that a warning’s been given, I don’t think anybody is going to be upset if the police step in and make an arrest,” he said. “I get the sense that the protestors actually are respectful of that - that they don’t want to actually be physically blocking anybody, and I don’t think that’s what their goal is.”

      King added the message behind the pickets is centred on a call for low-income housing in the neighbourhood.

      “The protesters, their main complaint is that, 'This is not the housing that we wanted,' " he said. "This is a fancy restaurant that the low-income people can’t use.

      “So it’s really not so much about restaurants as it is about housing, and saying the city has allowed the developers to come into a neighbourhood where their impact and the fancy restaurants are kind of like the second wave of gentrification," he added. "You allow the condos in the first place, you create a market for that higher-end business and other businesses follow.”

      The pickets have been taking place outside the restaurant on Carrall Street for about nine weeks.




      Apr 19, 2013 at 10:37am

      The fine-point definitions are fun to play with (over a beer somewhere), but here's the reality: If some adolescent idiot in a hoody gets in my face, screams abuse and tries to intimidate me, that's an assault.

      I don't care if the Criminal Code, the VPD or the Pivot Legal Society agree on the technicalities - it's an assault, and I will defend myself.

      Cover your cojones kiddies.

      Reality Check

      Apr 19, 2013 at 12:58pm

      At David: No, that is really obnoxious behaviour. And the law only allows defense to the minimum necessary to prevent further damage. So your defence in this case is what - extremely reasonable behaviour?


      Apr 19, 2013 at 1:19pm

      I am concerned by reports of obstruction of way, and of the following of diners back to their car. Both of these actions court violence.

      As for words, of course an oath is neither stick nor stone; but nor are some words easily bourne, and it would only be a fool, a pedant, or a lawyer who would presume an absolute immunity to very normal, predictable reprisal.


      Apr 19, 2013 at 1:42pm

      @ Reality Check: Perhaps you didn't fully comprehend my comment. I don't care about the pointless, childish debates among the "legal scholars".

      Get in my face, scream abuse at me and try to intimidate me and my "defense" might be quick, direct and painful.

      Don't like it? Stay in the gutter and scream your mindless abuse from there. The sidewalk is for humans.

      Personal space

      Apr 19, 2013 at 8:57pm

      Lawful protest is fine but yelling and screaming within someone's personal space is not cool. No one deserves profanity and bad breath in the face. if I can smell you, you're too close. I can read your sign from where I am just fine. Temper tamtrums, yelling and screaming doesn't solve anything And discredits the cause.


      Apr 20, 2013 at 3:40pm

      The right to protest is precisely about the right to offend people. That's what the idea is - as long as their is no physical harm and no incitement to harm - people get to say their piece. If it is loud, boisterous and offensive - well - that's living in a democracy. If 'enjoyment' of property trumps the right to offend those 'enjoying' it - then we may as well call this a dictarship of the propertied. Those with property can then simply claim somebody is affecting their right to enjoyment anytime they don't like someone's behaviour and the law and its resources will be at their disposal. Those with the most property will, of course, be most protected. Sound familiar? It should - because it is the way things seem to be every day in all kinds of places and in all kinds of ways all over the world. Defense of democratic ideals means offending those above us in the hierarchy of property - and developing the skills and interest to be offended - and affected - by those below.


      Apr 20, 2013 at 8:48pm

      Umm, you're very confusing to me. But hey, there's the Pivot Legal Society once again jumping to the defense of those causing the troubles and blindly ignoring the rights of the peaceful citizens out for a nice dinner. What a joke Pivot is.


      Apr 21, 2013 at 8:34am

      Dougie King of Pivot is completely disingenuous. If the protest was only about social housing, then they would not target only one restaurant in the area. There are lots of upscale restaurants, cafes, condos that are not being targeted. Why do they get a pass? Why disrupt the business of one single restaurant owner when everyone else gets a pass?


      Apr 21, 2013 at 10:34am

      @ Umm:

      I'm not sure where you get your definitions (nor do I care), but:

      "The right to protest is precisely about the right to offend people." -- Completely incorrect. The right to protest is about the right to INFORM people.

      Protestors who inform and encourage others to join them get an audience. Protestors who offend or intimidate get kicked to the curb.

      "Defense of democratic ideals means offending those above us in the hierarchy of property" -- Utter nonsense. Offending or intimidating ANYBODY is just a quick way to harden the battle lines between those who disagree. If you doubt that, then you must spend more time on idealistic books and pamphlets than you do on real-world political news.

      Trying to use offense or intimidation to change someone's mind is contrary to basic human values, never mind "democratic ideals". It doesn't work, and never has.

      The next step for those who believe in the value of offense and intimidation is always violence. Rioters and terrorist bombers think that way.

      If that is in your future, I hope you are very strong. Most of your opponents will fight back.


      Apr 21, 2013 at 12:31pm

      I have heard from a few folks that work in the area that many of the protesters are been paid to do so by dealers. Nothing like new restaurants and the incoming customers to put a crimp on the open drug markets in the DTES. Bad for business when you are losing your street corners.