Tent city spokesperson accuses city of trying to intimidate protesters in Oppenheimer Park

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      The spokesperson for a Downtown Eastside tent city says protesters have no intention of removing structures from Oppenheimer Park.

      "Our mayor has promised that he would end homelessness and yet, we still have that happening," Brody Williams told the Georgia Straight. "Until homelessness has ended, we're here for the long run."

      Williams, who hails from Haida Gwaii, said that about 20 Vancouver police officers, social workers, and "park rangers" showed up at Oppenheimer Park, where about 20 people are living in tents.

      He mentioned that the authorities gave the protesters a "silly letter" that wasn't even on City of Vancouver letterhead.

      "There's nothing to it," he said. "They're trying to intimidate us."

      Well over half of the protesters on-site this morning were of aboriginal descent.

      Williams said everyone on-site supports the notion of maintaining "clean and sober camp".

      "We asked people from the camp here not to be using, only because we want everything to be done in a good way," Williams said. "We have Native medicine here. Also, it doesn't leave room for stereotyping, right?"

      Some won't give last names (left to right): Tyler, Liera, Robert Milton, Joyce Raw Eater, and Deborah.
      Charlie Smith

      The city issued a statement this morning saying it has given notice to the campers to remove tents and other structures.

      "The City has clearly documented and is very concerned about the disproportionate numbers of First Nations peoples who are homeless in the city," the statement declared. "Council has worked on significantly enhancing the City’s relationship with the three host First Nations—the Musqueam, Tseil-Waututh, and the Squamish Nations—whose Councils meet with Vancouver City Council regularly and together discuss critical public policy issues including the issue of housing for First Nations."

      The statement claimed that the majority of people at the tent city live in single-room occupancy hotels.

      "We can help people pack up and re-locate their belongings if they need help," the city stated.

      The city also listed numerous actions it's taken to address homelessness, including working with B.C. Housing to bring on 308 more units in the next few months. In addition, the city is trying to work with the province and Vancouver Coastal Health to keep 100 units at the Bosman Hotel funded over the next two to three years for interim housing.

      In the meantime, the city said it's "working closely" with B.C. Housing to try to reopen the Evelyn Saller Centre at 320 Alexander Street for the homeless.

      Williams, however, said that the tent-city demonstrators are not interested in staying in a temporary shelter.

      "It's unacceptable," he stated. "They're starting to warehouse people when they start to do that."

      Demonstrators say they won't leave until the mayor ends homelessness.
      Charlie Smith

      Williams, who's not homeless himself, said that he organized the camp last week after noting city staff giving notices to people to remove tents from the park.

      "So I got on the phone and the Internet and called all my friends," he said with a smile. "This is it. Here we are."

      When police showed up this morning, Williams said he told them that protesters have given the city an eviction notice from Oppenheimer Park.

      He's aware that there are other demands on park space.

      For example, this weekend Union Gospel Mission is planning a barbecue in the park. 

      The following weekend, the Powell Street Festival takes place in Oppenheimer Park.

      Williams insisted that the tent-city protesters have no intention of disrupting either event, noting that they are prepared to move the structures to other areas of the park, if necessary.

      "There was a tent city back here in 2008," Williams said. "The coordinators decided they would hire some of the people who were in the camp to do security for the Powell Street Festival as well. So that was really nice of them."



      Enough is enough

      Jul 21, 2014 at 12:14pm

      Homelessness is getting worse because the city is getting more and more expensive. We're all in this boat together, and the status quo isn't working. Enough is enough! I will support the tent city until there is no homelessness.


      Jul 21, 2014 at 1:14pm

      Give the park back to the citizens of Vancouver who have been paying for it's upkeep all these years.


      Jul 21, 2014 at 4:44pm

      Powell Street Festival is big enough to take up all of Oppenheimer Park, but go ahead and protest anyway. The Japanese Canadians have been displaced from the area before, they can take it. They only come back once a year anyway.


      Jul 21, 2014 at 4:58pm

      The park belongs to everyone in the city, and should be available to anyone in the city to use as a park.

      If 20 people are taking up space day and night with all their stuff and using it as a campground that not's considerate of anyone else who may want to use it for a day.

      It's a park, and not a campground, and should be kept as such.


      Jul 21, 2014 at 6:39pm

      If everything was equal, then everyone would have homes, and no ones would have to sleep in parks. PS let me qualify that, Home isn't a place with roaches and bedbugs.

      Alan Layton

      Jul 22, 2014 at 7:40am

      @Tommy - why would you think everything was equal, or should be? Is there any biological system in nature where everything is equal? Humans are part of nature and some will be more successful than others. Either accept that or invite those sleeping in the park to share your home, your livingroom, your bed. Didn't think so.

      Jon Q. Publik

      Jul 22, 2014 at 9:23am

      Wait I am under the impression that the best way to address the issue of homelessness is not to build houses but rather offer proper mental healthcare. However since that's a provincial issue, what the city is trying to do is fix a problem by throwing money at it via building houses.

      Bert Lahr

      Jul 22, 2014 at 7:06pm

      EVeryone can relax ……… Park Board Commissioner Sarah Blyth is at the park sorting everything out.