Published in 24 Hours Vancouver | July 11, 2013 | Circulation: 251,700 (24 Hours)
The anti-gentrification war in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside is heating up after a group of nonprofits and businesses labelled protesters as “bullies” Thursday.
While the picketers insist they are simply defending their neighbourhood from rising prices due to an influx of upscale businesses, critics have decried the start of a new picket line at Cuchillo, the second restaurant targeted.
“It is bullying,” said Scott Clark, executive director of nonprofit Aboriginal Life in Vancouver Enhancement. “I’ve seen it first-hand myself: picketers yelling and screaming at customers going into Pidgin (restaurant), and all kinds of tactics that intimidate people.
“Gentrification is a real issue, but it’s not just happening in the Downtown Eastside… We’re just saying they’ve got to elevate their dialogue.”
One picketer, known as “Formerly Homeless Dave,” earlier undertook a month-long hunger strike over gentrification.
“We’ve made this a line in the sand,” said the man who declined to give his name. “It’s not just about one restaurant. If one is successful, there will be many more … pushing up rents not only for residents, but also for small businesses that serve the low-income community here.”
Crosstown Residents Association chair Fern Jeffries alleged she was bullied.
“I’m not easily intimidated, but I don’t like being pushed and shoved and screamed at when I’m going out to dinner,” she said. “These so-called peaceful protests can get pretty aggressive.”
Resident Gloria Lakes said she hopes rich and poor “can exist together,” but adds rents are increasing because of the neighbourhood upscaling.
“They’re bringing in all these big restaurants,” she said. “It’s bringing all these people in who don’t want us here. The rents are going up and they’re trying to push us away from this part of town. Where are we going to go?”