Vancouver police and Our Streets provide radically different interpretations of what happened outside Carnegie Centre

    1 of 1 2 of 1

      A group called Our Streets has put out  a lengthy statement about what occurred outside the Carnegie Centre on August 9.

      The statement came after Vancouver police issued a news release entitled "VPD officers assautled in melee with large crowd in the Downtown Eastside".

      You can read both statements below.

      Vancouver police statement

      Several Vancouver Police officers have been assaulted in the Downtown Eastside this afternoon following the arrest of a man causing a disturbance at the Carnegie Centre.

      Officers were called by Carnegie Centre staff just before 3 p.m., who reported a man throwing computers and behaving erratically. As officers were taking him into custody, the man resisted arrest and fought with police. A large crowd gathered, and became hostile and combative with the officers.

      Several police officers were assaulted. Multiple arrests were made.

      VPD officers were in the area at the request of the City of Vancouver to stand by and keep the peace while workers conducted their information campaign into the tent and structure removal along Hastings Street.

      More information to come as it is made available.

      Our Streets statement

      Our Streets is deeply concerned about the continued involvement of the Vancouver Police Department (VPD) in the decampment of the Hastings Street Tent city. VPD involvement in the decampment directly led to unprovoked brutality and the presence of over 50 police officers at Main and Hastings after the City Engineering workers (CEWs) had left for the day. The violent actions of the police towards unhoused residents, advocates, and peaceful witnesses, many of whom play active roles in the coordination of the Our Streets program, is abhorrent and unacceptable conduct.

      Our Streets has been liaising with the City of Vancouver for over a month related to oversee the development of a ‘block stewardship’ initiative in the Downtown Eastside neighbourhood of so-called Vancouver. In collaboration with residents tenting on and around East Hastings Street, we empower community members to steward the blocks where they reside by supporting them to care for their neighbours and keep each other safe. Over the past month, Our Streets demonstrated that community-led initiatives work. We removed countless bags of garbage, handed out hundreds of lifesaving harm reduction supplies and have empowered street-entrenched residents to keep sidewalks clear for scooters and wheelchairs. In this same time, the City has not supplied any of their promised amenities (e.g. adequate storage, washroom facilities, etc.) needed to make the streets safer and liveable for unhoused residents. Instead, the City moved to decamp all residents from the street.

      On August 8th, 2022, members of our team met with CEWs and City staff to discuss the City of Vancouver’s impending enforcement of Vancouver Fire and Rescue Services’ (VFRS) July 25th Fire Order, which called for the removal of structures and tents between Carrall and Gore. At this meeting it was acknowledged that CEWs would go out on August 9th with uniformed police constables to share information with block residents, focusing on areas and structures deemed “high priority” – particularly in front of the condemned, City-owned Regent Hotel at 160 E Hastings. Our Streets team members had previously urged city staff to not include police in any street cleaning activities. Prior to this point, Our Streets attempted to negotiate with the City of Vancouver and VFRS to determine what actions were required to bring encampments into compliance but were repeatedly given vague, non-commital answers. A subsequent media release published by the City of Vancouver on August 9th communicated that they would conduct the work with “thoughtfulness and care of residents and their circumstances'', and highlighted the importance of community partners in addressing “the fire and life safety risks along these blocks”. Despite these commitments, a significant and escalating police presence led to the mass brutalization of neighbourhood residents.

      VPD constables arrived at the 100 block of East Hastings Street in front of the Regent Hotel today at approximately 9:30 AM. At this point, VPD officers accompanied CEWs, and representatives of VFRS, who parked vehicles directly against the south curb, leaving residents with little room to organize their belongings. Contrary to the City’s promises, BC Housing outreach workers did not arrive to offer residents assistance. A number of Our Streets representatives arrived around 10:00 am and began meeting with supporters, doing legal observation, and speaking with the media to ensure that they were engaging respectfully. There was a demand from a supporter to block off Hastings from Main to Carall to ensure the safety of block residents, supporters, and Our Streets team members. CEWs began interacting with residents and assisting in packing up people’s belongings, while VFRS representatives did not engage, designating one media representative as a point person. The majority of activity between 11:00AM and 12:00PM consisted of supporters helping residents to clean the area and organize their belongings. CEWs provided garbage bins for this purpose and did little to actively assist. Our Streets members were responding to residents needs at this time, including by assisting residents to fill out BC Housing Application. BC Housing had no presence throughout the day, and we did not see organized outreach activities from other organizations with the exception of those involved in block stewardship.

      Residents had worked with Our Streets organizers to plan a block meeting at 3 PM, and team members began preparing for the event. At around 2:00PM, CEWs and VFRS representatives began to pack up and leave the scene, while the VPD presence continued. Around this time, a passerby entered the scene, behaving erratically, but not posing any threat to people in the area. Supporters and block residents conversed with this person to deescalate the situation. Around 2:30PM, CEWs left the scene and were replaced in presence with VPD officers to surveil the crowd. Supporters were then asked by residents to leave in order to give them some space, and promptly did so. A group of Our Streets members and supporters proceeded to walk down the sidewalk on East Hastings Street towards Carnegie, arriving there around 2:45PM. At this time, the passerby who had been behaving erratically caused a disturbance in front of Carnegie, again, without posing any serious threat to bystanders. Private security at Carnegie signaled to the large group of VPD officers, who proceeded to escalate the situation by physically restraining and roughly detaining the man by “hog-tying him” by bounding his feet and hands, while a growing crowd filmed the incident and yelled to express their anger at what they were witnessing. The man was carried back to the paddy wagon. At this point, a woman in the crowd of bystanders allegedly threw a light object in the direction of a VPD officer. Police quickly tackled and arrested her, and a confrontation between police and bystanders ensued. VPD constables were pushing and shoving bystanders, pulling people from the crowd and deployed pepper spray. Supporters who were walking by and not involved in the initial incident were violently grabbed by police and thrown to the ground, with one person having their head slammed on the pavement. Other members of the crowd then intervened, and five arrests were made, including three members of the Our Streets team. A massive police presence assembled at the intersection of Main and Hastings, blocking off the intersection with a line of officers. The arrested individuals were taken to the VPD station at 238 East Cordova Street, followed closely by a support team who will remain there until release.

      Despite concerted efforts to villainize residents of the Hastings Tent City and the lack of action from the City to provide basic infrastructure for the community, Our Streets will continue to support block residents as decampment proceeds and has thus far refused to participate in the relocation of belongings unless explicitly asked to do so by block residents. The VPD’s escalation of VFRS and City of Vancouver’s decampment of the Hastings Tent City, ostensibly conducted with “thoughtfulness and care”, is a repugnant reminder of the traumatization of unhoused people inflicted on a daily basis in so-called Vancouver. We call on the VPD to immediately cease its involvement in the decampment of the Hastings Tent City, and on the City of Vancouver and VFRS to pause their enforcement of the July 25th fire order until block residents have been provided with safe, habitable alternatives to their current shelters.