Anti-Poverty Committee Denounces Anarchists and Street Youth on May Day
First statement –
May 1st, 2002
For Immediate Release From: Anti-Poverty Committee Re: May Day Demonstration
“On Wednesday May 1st, the Anti-Poverty Committee held a ‘May Day’ action against the training wage. The demonstration started at Victory Square in Vancouver. Organizers from different groups spoke about the need fight the training wage and the importance of May Day as a celebration of international solidarity. ‘On International Labour Day 2002, we stand with all workers and oppressed people of the world and declare our continued commitment to heighten our resistance against imperialist globalization,’ said Carlo Sayo of the Philippino-Canadian Youth Alliance. The protesters then marched to the McDonald’s restaurant on Granville, where they blocked the entranceways of the restaurant for about an hour, shutting down business. Many people from the Anti-Poverty Committee and other labour/community groups spoke out against the training wage, the history of McDonald’s union-busting, and the racist treaty referendum.
After the visit to McDonald’s, the demonstration marched towards the art gallery. In an action that was not planned or approved by the Anti-Poverty Committee, a group of individuals marched into the Pacific Centre Mall, chanting ‘6 bucks sucks, 8 is not enough.’ The police arrested one man, who was dragged away spitting blood. Some of the demonstrators marched to the police station to show support for the arrested demonstrator. The police attacked this group at Main and Hastings, a traditional site for police brutality, and arrested three more people. At the time of this press release, all four people are still in custody. The Anti-Poverty Committee demands their immediate and unconditional release.”
Second statement –
A Statement From the Anti-Poverty Committee Regarding May 1st
“We, the Anti-Poverty Committee, are writing this letter to denounce the actions commited inside the Pacific Centre Mall by individuals at our May 1st demonstration.
Neither the derailing of our march as our demonstration was finishing, nor the subsequent vandalism carried out inside the Pacific Centre Mall, were carried out in solidarity with us or the workers inside the Centre. We were not informed that any such action was planned. The actions taken put workers at risk of being physically harmed, as was seen when one person was trying to break an enormous plate glass window with a piece of wood while people stood on both sides of it.
There was nothing political about what a small group of people did in the Pacific Centre. It was immature, adventuristic, and harmful to the interests of working class people. We are a mass based organization of poor and working people fighting for the interests of the oppressed, and the actions taken in Pacific Centre Mall unambiguously worked against these interests.
We, the Anti-Poverty Committee, are engaged in a very serious battle against this bourgeois government. The fight between capitalist oppressors and oppressed people is warfare. In a serious, dedicated political movement, we cannot afford to have people running around and engaging in destructive, clown-like behavior devoid of political consciousness. This is not the Dukes of Hazard, this is not a John Wayne movie: this is a life-or-death class struggle where every move counts, where every mistake counts. Those who engaged in this action have seriously damaged the Vancouver movement against poverty and against the BC Liberals, and we will not tolerate sloppy activities that hurt this movement. Workers in the mall, young people at the demonstration, immigrants at the demonstration who cannot risk arrest due to racist immigration policies, and many other important elements of the Vancouver working class have been alienated from participating in a militant movement against BC Liberals, and the masked-up people who rampaged through the mall are clearly responsible for this.
As we have shown at previous demonstrations, and on May 1st before this irresponsible derailment took place, the Anti-Poverty Committee is a group dedicated to fighting back against the provincial government through economic disruption. We have had a number of successful actions that were disruptive and powerful. However, we have never engaged in actions that put other workers at risk against their will, nor will we in the future. We work in solidarity with workers, indigenous people, women, people of colour, and poor people. Any group of people who does not work in solidarity with oppressed people, who puts them at risk against their will, has no place in this movement whatsoever.
In future events, we will be much more vigilant towards people who show up to our demonstrations and sabotage what we are trying to build. The interests of those fighting back against the BC Liberals must never be subordinated to the narcissistic desires of an undisciplined handful of individuals seeking an adrenaline rush.”
The real story –
The Anti-Poverty Committee is a new group of activists who have held several demonstrations in Vancouver and who plan to do welfare advocacy. They call for economic disruption to stop the current Liberal government. At the request of other groups, and to kick off their campaign against the new 6-dollar training wage, they decided to hold a demonstration on May Day in Vancouver. As with all APC demos they had a police liason and media spokesperson, as well as several “marshalls” to direct the crowd. APC had also supplied demonstrators with large placards on 2X4 pieces of wood.
Demonstrators in Victoria had been arrested and pepper-sprayed only days before. Last year on May Day in Vancouver, a group of people were arrested and pepper-sprayed for wheat-pasting posters about a transit strike.
At the beginning of the demonstration in Vancouver on May Day 2002 a small group of anarchists and militant street youth from both Victoria and Vancouver gathered. Many of them wore masks, some held banners, and one waved a black flag as the contingent marched along with the other demonstrators to the McDonalds. Most of the group attended the event because it was May Day and not because it was APC’s. They chanted “Class War Now!”, “Make the rich pay!”, and “Fuck six bucks, eight is not enough!”, injecting an obviously radical spririt to the demonstration. The group was not organized and had not made any plans.
Once the demonstration arrived at McDonalds, APC marshalls directed the crowd to block the doors of the building, which they did. The general assumption was that an occupation would take place and that the business would be shut down. Many people had anticipated a violent reaction from the police. Several people from the crowd spoke through a megaphone, including members of APC who shouted their standard “Fight Back!” rhetoric. Only one of three doors were blocked. It should be noted that the majority of people blocking the doors were the anarchists, street youth, and supporters since APC was busy adressing the crowd with speeches. Members of APC asked several masked-up anarchists to speak, but they refused. Customers inside the McDonalds continued to eat. After about half-an-hour APC called the demonstration to an end and urged people to march to the Art Gallery and disperse.
At this point many people from the crowd had already dispersed, but the group of masked anarchists, street youth, and their supporters spontaneously decided to march through the Pacific Centre Mall directly across the street. Some members of the group engaged in minor vandalism against corporate property inside the mall. Within a minute of entering the mall one of the masked demonstrators was hit in the face by a large man wearing a track suit who was angry about the march. The demonstrators decided to avoid further confrontation with this man. APC claims that one of the group in the mall tried to break a plate-glass window that people were standing on each side of with a piece of wood, putting workers risk. In fact the window was part of a display for an upscale clothing store, and so the only “people” put in danger were manequins. The fact that APC cannot distinguish between real live people and manequins begs the question of how they hope to advocate for those living in poverty. Clearly, APC has lied in a public statement.
The person who had been hit in the face was arrested in the mall and dragged away spitting blood. Some of the group then marched to the police station to show solidarity and 3 more were arrested there after a bottle was thrown.
It is strange that the first statement APC published was only sent to the anarchist websites “Ainfos” and “Infoshop” and that later public statements on Vancouver Indymedia would denounce the same people that the first statement demanded the release of.
APC says that it works in solidarity with indigenous people, wimmin, people of color, workers, and poor people, but the people that entered the mall represented all of these groups. APC says that the actions of those who entered the mall worked against the interests of working class people, but the group who entered the mall were working class people, including street youth. This also begs the question of how attacks on corporate property could hurt the interests of the working class. What does “economic disruption” mean to them?
Does inviting the media and having a liason with the police not endanger working class people who attend their demonstrations?
Inspector Bob Meanley of the Vancouver Police Department was quoted in the Vancouver Sun, May 3rd, 2002, as saying “This was a rampaging gang of criminals, hooligans and thugs, nothing else. On most occasions protesters are very cooperative. But we were clearly led astray, led to believe this was a lawful protest. In this case we were lied to.” The Vancouver Sun reported that Meanley and the police would be going over tapes made by mall security and television cameras to identify violent protesters. Again we ask, doesn’t inviting the media to a demonstration endanger people?
In the May 3rd issue of The Province it was reported that APC claimed that a splinter group had ignored its request to disband the rally. Inspector Meanley told The Province that “Everything seemed to be in order” and that he had discussed the plans for a peaceful protest with the APC organizers.
APC organizer Mike Krebs was quoted in The Province as saying “APC supports actions that are militant, not actions which put workers at risk …so we do not support anything that puts workers at risk.” Krebs was reported to agree with police inspector Meanley that the group in the mall were “criminals, hooligans and thugs.” and distanced himself from protesters who came armed with potential weapons. “If they had bags of rock and paint, that kind of speaks for itself.”
The question must be asked of what APC means by “militant” and how any militant actions could be free of risk. Why does Krebs and APC denounce protesters who came with potential weapons when they had supplied the large 2X4 placards? Why does APC denounce the actions of poor and working class people who take APC’s “Fight Back” and “Class War” rhetoric literally?
We ask how many more people have to starve to death or suffer police brutality before we are given permission to “Fight Back”?
May Day has existed for more than 100 years, as a traditional workers holiday, and day of anarchist action. It belongs to no person or group, least of all APC.
No oppressed person should have to beg for survival or the right to resist this system, and they will not! When APC says it will use “vigilance” in the future against these kinds of protesters what exactly do they mean?
– Vancouver Anarchist Mallrat Brigade
“These were the actions of working class people tired of being trampled on by both the money-grubbing capitalists of the Right, and the back-stabbing hypocrites of the Left.”
– Class War Federation (U.K.)
A critique of the APC statements regarding May 1st
Mayday is an international workers holiday with a history going back more than 100 years, it doesn’t belong to APC. Are members of the Anti-Poverty Committee unaware that since its inception May Day has been internationally known as a traditional day for anarchist and communist action? May Day cannot be symbolic; nobody can control angry workers! When you say ‘Fight back’ and ‘This is class war!’ – do you mean it? Nobody can hijack May Day.
You denounce ‘the vandalism carried out in the Pacific Centre Mall’ in two different statements. The first was presented to members of APOV at the APC general meeting and named the Anti-Poverty Coalition of Victoria as the group responsible. The second statement was essentially the same with APOV’s name removed, and released publicly on Indymedia Vancouver and infoshop. Before this a message sent only to the A-infos website demanded the release of the prisoners and that a crowd marched to the jail in solidarity. First of all, APOV was unable to attend the demo, therefore made no plans and so didn’t lie about having plans.It was a spontaneous decision by the crowd of workers, indigenous peoples, women, people of colour and poor people to enter the mall, so no one marshaled any body through the doors of the mall. The act of going through the mall had nothing to do with APC since they were telling people to go to the Art gallery. And the crowd split and some people did leave. Using APOV as a scapegoat is exactly the tactics of the cops and media. When fighting this ‘life-or-death class struggle’ and chanting ‘The people united will never be defeated’ and then avoiding discussion and therefore creating divisions, APC is hurting the movement. How can ‘a serious, dedicated, political movement’ ignore the impact of such divide and conquer tactics? What are you trying to build, and with who? Does APC prioritize Corporate property over the lives of poor people? You say you fight the provincial government through economic disruption. On May 1st where did economic disruption occur – at McDonald’s for 30 minutes, where people inside continued to consume, or ‘rampaging’ through the mall demonstrating our rage using your ‘dangerous weapons’ ( 2×4’s with wooden signs saying ‘Fight Back’) against numerous multinationals, not just one McFuck’s.
You masturbate your ‘political conciousness’, yet appear to have no awareness of Vancouver history. It was a violent fight to get what CampHell is trying to take away. Are you waiting for a minister’s roundtable to kiss ass or do you want to fight back? This is ‘warfare’. Your authoritarian complex is hurting the movement, who do you think you are to be so self-righteous to think you can control a group of poor people. You can’t control people and advocate for them at the same time. Be specific who you want to work with. We are working class, poor, indigenous, women, and people of colour who will fight by any means necessary. If somebody throws a rock at a cop at a downtown eastside demo, will they be denounced? What do you expect to happen when rallying radical speeches inspire an angry crowd? We need words AND ACTION!!!!
How can you be so arrogant, racist and sexist as to call people immature, adventuristic, undisciplined and devoid of political conciousness? Did you read what you wrote? Sometimes it’s better to wait until the ‘adrenaline rush’ is over before making public statements.
The more masks at a demo the better. There could be enough masks provided for everyone. It not only represents international and local solidarity, but can help prevent individuals being targeted by the pigs.
As far as risks go – do you really think this world is safe? The state kills people everyday. The least we can do is fight first and not wait to be vicitims. It’s really patronizing to tell poor people to be peaceful and calm. Capitalism is killing us – there’s no time for compromise, negotiations or hesitations. You seem to have the fervor for cowardly acts of threatening ‘vigilance’ towards people who show up at YOUR demonstrations (narcissism?) and ‘sabotage’ (express ourselves) what you are trying to build, but you back down from having a militant stand against the state? APC claims to be committed for the long haul. What exactly are your long-term goals – a political party? Explain yourself! Since when has collaboration with the cops been beneficial to building a movement? Do you trust the media to tell the truth when they are in the back pocket of the pig force? Why don’t you just hand people over to the cops at the beginning of YOUR demo instead of using the ‘working class’ cop/media’s precious time sorting through video surveillance? I guess it saves APC’s labour to have the state create more propaganda for you.
We urge you to state your position regarding diversity of tactics, so that there is no ambiguity. If you advocate peaceful non-violent civil disobedience rather than direct action SAY IT !
The Clown Brigade