Protests outside Pidgin restaurant will have to do without a familiar face for now. Following her arrest by Vancouver police on June 3, anti-gentrification activist Kim Hearty said that an order prohibits her from coming within a six-block radius of the Downtown Eastside establishment.
“When they [police] pulled me out of my cell after two hours and said like, ‘Would you accept these conditions?'…I was already freezing and really tired and just wanted to get the hell out of there because I've never been in jail before,” Hearty related in a phone interview with the Straight on Wednesday (June 5). “And so I accepted the no-go order.”
Hearty says she's scheduled to appear before a court on June 17. She'll probably know more about her legal situation that day, including how long she'll be the subject of a no-go order. Police announced Tuesday (June 4) that they are recommending charges of assault, theft under $5,000, and mischief. “The [Pidgin] pickets will continue and will probably grow,” Hearty said. She mentioned that she will participate in other anti-gentrification actions in the neighbourhood.
While he says the protests aren't driving business away from Pidgin, restaurant co-owner Brandon Grossutti said that these actions have been a “frustrating” experience for him.
“It seems like people think or, in a lot of [the] press, that we're just some big thing, and we're not,” Grossutti told the Straight in a phone interview. “We're just a couple of guys trying to support our families, and the families of those [working] inside our restaurant.”
According to him, protests are diverting attention “from a lot of the real problems in the neighbourhood”, like a lack of affordable housing.
“Closing down a restaurant doesn't address any of those problems,” Grossutti said. “And I wish that the protesters will put their efforts towards solutions in the Downtown Eastside, rather than just a restaurant.”
Grossutti maintained that Hearty assaulted him on May 29 when he tried to prevent her from stealing property that belongs to the restaurant. He declined to provide details.
Hearty, who is also the corresponding secretary of the civic party the Coalition of Progressive Electors, claimed on June 5 that she was trying to recover a papier-mâché pickle that was supposedly taken by Grossutti. The paper pickle is part of the paraphernalia used by the protesters.