Homeless people in Surrey rise up against police and bylaw officers seizing their possessions

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      Some very poor people in Surrey are saying enough is enough.

      After repeated seizures of their possessions by police and bylaw officers, they held a rally outside the Surrey Urban Mission Society office in Whalley earlier this month.

      They've alleged that the City of Surrey "steals from the homeless".

      "When police or bylaw officers steal our belongings, they try to blame us by calling us 'disorderly' or 'aggressive,' or by saying we are moving too slowly or have too much stuff," a pamphlet declares that was distributed at the event.

      "But when we experience theft, it is not our fault as individuals," the pamphlet continues. "The Surrey Street Council has surveyed 39 members of the Surrey street community and found that 85% have lost belongings to police, bylaw, private security, or social workers. This is not an individual issue; it is a systemic problem."

      The Red Braid Alliance for Decolonial Socialism has been organizing Surrey homeless people, who are going public with their concerns.

      Shiloh Ghostkeeper is one such person whose belongings were seized. According to the Red Braid Alliance's publication, the Volcano, she was threatened with arrest when she objected.

      "This has happened to me many times before, but I've been able to stop them before," Ghostkeeper told the Volcano. "This time they threatened to send me to jail."

      The pamphlet describes instances of "theft" as "collective punishment against homeless people as a group".

      "Everyone time they steal from one of us and get away with it, they bolster their power and normalize the brutality they enact against us all," it states. "But it is also true that every instance of theft is an opportunity for collective resistance: a chance to name and expose police and bylaw brutality and fight back by any means necessary."

      The pamphlet ends with a demand for an immediate end to these thefts as well as secure storage lockers for every unhoused person in Surrey. There's also a call for "permanent social housing" with rights under the Residential Tenancy Act for every unhoused person in B.C.

      Currently, residents of temporary modular housing are not granted protection under the Residential Tenancy Act

      This leaves them with no avenue for appeal if a project manager chooses to evict them, impose curfews, or suspend them from the premises for any reason.