Report from Wild in the Streets
by the Wild in the Streets Anarchist Group
June 9, 2004
“Wild in the Streets” took place between June 2nd to June 6th and included two movie nights, an anarchist punk show, a picnic/potluck, and an anti-police action.
On the last day, three people were arrested during an anarchist march against the recent police “crackdown” on Commercial Drive, the Community Policing Centre in Grandview Park, and the “Police State” in general.
Even before “Wild in the Streets” began, posters appeared on Commercial Drive calling for residents to “counter the anarchists’ cop-hating campaign and let the police know how much we appreciate having them working in the Commercial Drive area.”
The Purple Thistle Centre was packed for the movie nights, with about 30-40 people attending to watch “The Beat of Frances Street”, a movie about six squatted houses in Vancouver that were held for several months in 1990, and “Libertarias”, a fictional account of the anarchist womens’ movement during the Spanish Civil War.
About 40-50 people showed up for the picnic and potluck in Grandview Park on Saturday and passed around some anarchist publications. Several cops were gathered outside the Community Police Centre on the other side of the park, and a cop watched the picnic from an unmarked vehicle and took notes.
On Sunday, June 6th, about 30 people took part in the anti-police march on Commercial Drive. Almost all the participants wore black clothing and masks and held black flags. Some used buckets for drums. A few were dressed in carnival-style clothing or were unmasked. A couple of people spontaneously joined in.
The Vancouver Police Department had at least two video surveillance teams operating – one on the northeast corner of Broadway and Commercial and one up above on the Skytrain platform. When the march began, there were almost as many cops as anarchists on the street. One surveillance team in a van moved along with the march.
Chants included “No more pigs in our communities. Off the pigs!” – “No justice, no peace! No fascist police!” – “Revenge! Revenge! Revenge for Frank Paul!” (an indigenous Mi’kmaq man who died after police dragged him out of jail while he was unconscious, and dumped him in an alley.) – and “No more missing women!” (in reference to the Vancouver Police Department’s extensive abuse of sex trade workers and their 19 years of willful negligence in the cases of more than 60 missing women in Vancouver’s downtown eastside).
As the march made its way up the Drive, bits of donuts were tossed at the cops and the windows of a Starbucks café were splattered with coffee grounds. Tragically, a yuppie happened to get hit by some grounds as he opened a door to leave the cafe.
One cop who was amusing himself by bashing his bike into people eventually got mad enough to make an arrest when he realized that nobody was cowering before his authority. The cop ripped off a person’s shirt and then grabbed him from behind. A chaotic scuffle broke out at this point, as the cops tried to arrest people and chased others down an alleyway. The majority of the group held steady and linked arms, preventing the cops from snatching anyone else. After a brief stand-off, the march ended at Grandview Park, as the group sat in a circle, completely surrounded by police. People who just happened to see what was going on, or were in the park, taunted the cops and showed their support for the anarchists. Eventually the police dispersed.
Three people were arrested in total. One was released right away, but two were charged with “assault on a police officer” and held for about 28 hours. Supporters packed the courtroom and waited outside the jail for their comrades, helping to speed up their release.
One person who was arrested was roughed-up by a cop who made the pathetically cliché remark: “You’re not so tough without your friends now are you?”. The cop smashed the person’s head into the ground, twisted his arm in an attempt to break it or pull it out of its socket, and then dragged him along the ground, leaving bruises all over his body. But there was nothing unusual or particularly “brutal” about this kind of treatment, since the cops beat and torture poor people every day.
The Vancouver Police Department has kept quiet about the event, and told the only corporate news station that reported on it that they couldn’t “say exactly what the demonstration was about”, and they wouldn’t go into “details” about it.
This action was significant because it disturbed the peace of Commercial Drive yuppies, while also serving notice to the cops that unlike political activists, anarchists will not be intimidated and will stand with dignity in total opposition to the political elite and their guardians.
The overwhelming police response displays the intolerance of the State for even the slightest “social disorder” (the Broken Windows theory) and the cops’ hatred of anyone who openly challenges their position of power.
But the police actions during “Wild in the Streets” don’t so much reveal the “strength” of the anarchist struggle in Vancouver as they do the vulnerability of the State. As exploitation and control expand and more and more people are socially excluded, resistance is also likely to increase.
And anarchists must be repressed by the police because they openly call for revolt, creating points of reference which indicate that anyone can decided to act against her own exploitation and seize control of her life.
Overall, “Wild in the Streets” went far beyond the expectations of the affinity group that organized it and planted the seeds for future anarchist action in this city.