East Van cross symbol has been around for decades, says Vancouver artist Ken Lum

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      There’s no dispute over the copyright of the East Van cross at Sixth Avenue and Clark, according to Vancouver artist Ken Lum, who based the art piece on a symbol that he said has been around for decades.

      The Vancouver Sun reported today (July 12) that Rocco Dipopolo, who they say is a former Hells Angel prospect, approached a Commercial Drive business owner who was displaying photos of the East Van cross, claiming he copyrighted the symbol.

      Lum said the City of Vancouver owns the trademark on the neon cross design, which is officially titled Monument for East Vancouver.

      “I don’t think this is much of a dispute,” he told the Straight in a phone interview.

      “The city owns that particular trademark, so he doesn’t have it.”

      The artist said he has not been contacted directly by Dipopolo.

      Dipopolo told the Sun that the cross dates back to the early 1990s, when it was used by a club that he was a member of.

      But Lum said according to some Vancouver residents he has spoken to, the cross dates back to at least the late 1940s, meaning the symbol “well precedes” its adoption by any East Van gang.

      “You talk to a lot of people, they’ll remember that symbol as being around a long time—a lot longer than the 1990s,” he said.

      Lum noted he also modified the original symbol, by rounding the corners of the cross. While he said there have been many variations on the cross over the years, it has almost always featured hard corners.

      He said it’s the modified version that has been copyrighted by the city.

      “It now belongs to the City of Vancouver, which I think is proper,” he said.

      “It’s part of the history of the city. So I don’t think anyone should be able to own that sign, not even myself.”

      Lum remembers seeing the symbol as a child in East Vancouver. The artist lived in Strathcona until he was seven years old, and then moved to the Knight and Kingsway area. He recalls seeing it frequently around East Vancouver in the 60s, and occasionally in the 70s.

      “It was always a marker of East Van,” he said.

      “It was never formalized as a physical form, and that’s what makes it so interesting was that it had this kind of organic life you might say of appearing and then re-appearing over the decades.”

      “It just had this kind of staying power,” he added.



      David Wong

      Jul 12, 2011 at 1:51pm

      Shit... that EAST VAN cross has been around since the 60s and 70s. My old east Van high school Annual (that's "yearbook" to you non-Vancouverites) have old friends signing off with the EAST VAN cross. I think our city would be much nicer if there weren't all these pricks trying to claim ownership on *our* city

      East is least

      Jul 12, 2011 at 1:55pm

      I always likened the East Van cross to the work of B.C. artist Man Woman http://www.manwoman.net who's dedicated his life to making the swastika a symbol of good. East Vancouverites have been doing the same with the help of artists like Ken Lum by taking this old gang symbol and stealing it away from those who use it for evil and turning it into a positive symbol of hope and pride. We love it so much in East Van we've been putting it on anything and everything for almost fifty years. I really don't care who put their claim on this logo it can never be owned by an individual, it's ours. Keep spreading the hope.

      \ E /
      / S \

      Take out the trash

      Jul 12, 2011 at 2:30pm

      So sick of the Hells Angels intimidating people and destroying East Van with their drugs. Dipopolo and his white-trash ilk can take a flying leap of a Harley. It's our East Van cross. You have no idea what RESPECT really means.


      Jul 12, 2011 at 3:06pm

      Clark Parker gang used it in the 80s/90s, probably what Dipopolo is talking about.

      E. Van 'Punks n Skins' with the cross as two coffins has been around since the late 60s when it said Mods n Skins or something lame like that.

      Anyways Vatican already copyrighted the cross about 2 thousand years ago so good luck with that


      Jul 12, 2011 at 3:40pm

      forgot to mention, if you have some of these logos on a jacket like a patch, or show it off as a tattoo (especially iron cross version) you will probably end up in a fight about it there's still gang leftovers that use it like that new nazi crew that seems to have moved into commercial drive area. (see the 'nazis in your neighborhood' posters the other day everywhere on the drive?)

      not like you 'aren't allowed' to wear it, but more like you better be a tough guy if you are and walking home at night. a skinhead crew and some other meatheads may single you out. some native gangs use it too around broadway station and may want to test you.

      John Turner

      Jul 12, 2011 at 5:26pm

      The East Van cross definitely has some roots in the skate scene, The East Van cross was used heavily by the East Van skate community (Jaks skate club) during the 70's. The East Van cross "borrows" from the Dogtown cross of Santa Monica/Venice California.

      Salty one

      Jul 12, 2011 at 5:47pm

      Having grown up down on the Drive I remember this spraypainted on the sidewall of that poolhall that was on the corner of Broadway and Commercial Drive. It also adorned sleeveless jean jackets and was jiffy marked on binders and t-shirts on guys and hot girls. They belonged. If you messed with one you messed with all. It might not be a religious cross but it's one that inspired the same kind of pride that being from Boston's Charelstown does. Other Vancouver neighbourhoods like Kits and Point Grey had no symbols other than their school colours. I don't live in East Van anymore but I'm sure proud as hell to say that I came from there and that symbol is part of that pride.


      Jul 13, 2011 at 5:49am

      Salty One ...Why are you proud to say you're from East Van? Did you choose to be born or grow up there? Did you choose the symbol? Local pride is just like the school colors you mentioned, It's for losers who have no real accomplishments to take pride in.

      east end single working mom

      Jul 13, 2011 at 10:52am

      Re: GarethF, u r such just a douche. Anyone who has grown up, and or resided in East Vancouver has had to defend themselves against all kinds of bias. The giant cross acts like a border crossing symbol. Yes, people rightfully do take pride in the community where they live. Why not? People should be proud. Sometimes it ain't easy being an eastender.

      My biggest peeve with the whole copyright debate, is why take something that obviously most people love, which has been around for decades (much more than 20 years, or wanna be gangs) and turn it into such a huge negative.

      People really do need to get things in perspective.

      East Van Identity?

      Jul 13, 2011 at 1:16pm

      While I think GarethF was trying to denigrate the idea of East Van Pride, I think he has a point. When identity is not a choice but a destiny tatooed into your hide (b/c you're part of despised or discriminated minority) it seems more real. I've lived on the East Side since the 70s and I think the idea of East Van identity is quite dated. Today, my neighbours are mostly well paid professionals, hardly a discriminated against group. But if I were an Aboriginal kid living in social housing with my 3 sibs and my single mom on welfare and going to schools where I'm labelled a 'social problem', I think I would have a much different point of view. Don't know but it's an idea.