Premier Gets Shut Down – Vancouver, Canada
Friday, June 14th, 2002
Gordon Campbell was set to speak at the opening of “Carr, O’Keefe, Kahlo: Places of Their Own” at the Vancouver Art Gallery on Friday, but didn’t show his face.
A crowd of about 400 people gathered there around 6pmto demonstrate againt Campbell’s Liberal government, to disrupt his speech, and to bring attention to the rise of corporate fascism in BC and the world. His choice of venue, an opening of feminist and revolutionary women artists, was an obvious insult to everyone living under his policies. Campbell has recently cut all funding to women’s centres; another attack in a long line of cuts to social programmes in BC. These cuts are killing people and are strengthening a state that is controled by the profit margins of multi-national corporations.
Police had erected a fence on the south side of the art gallery, where Campbell was to make his public speech outside. Police also had barricades at the west side entrance where a few people stood in front of the doorway, confronting and informing the guests as they entered the building. As guests arrived they had to walk through two rows of armed police guards lining the pathway to the door. As more guests arrived police showed a more aggressive pressence and shoved, grabbed, and threatened to arrest people standing around in the entranceway. Police cleared a path for guests using bikes, ironically, making it more difficult and confusing for people to enter the showing. One of the groups who had called for the demonstration, the Anti-Poverty Committee, made speeches off to the sidelines, while several people blocked the street with banners, puppets, and street theatre. Also, artists and artist groups such as the Gorilla Girls (who had also called for the demo) and the Andy Wharhol gang handed out anti-liberal literature. Many protestors decided to enter the showing and disrupt Campbell from inside.
When the time came for Campbell to make his speech the crowd moved to the south side of the building, approached the fence and began to shout and denounce Campbell. The Anti-Poverty Committee made a few speeches while the crowd continued screaming and chanting anti-Liberal and anti-capitalist sentiments. “Campbell’s Cuts Are Class War” and “Off With His Head” were popular.
People banged fists on the fence and then started to shake it. Some tried to dismantle it. The crowd grew more agitated and the police got more aggressive. One officer showed the crowd his pepper-spray, while others attempted to strike the fence shakers’ hands. Four officers entered the crowd from behind the fence and tried to arrest a person. The crowd started to spit on the police and jeer at them, eventually forcing them to leave the area drenched and humiliated. The person the police attempted to arrest got away.
A woman dressed as Frida Kahlo took the podium but her speech was too quiet to be heard by the crowd behind the fence. A member of the Anti-Poverty Committee then took the podium and started shouting to the audience and the crowd, and was tackled and arrested by police who dragged him away by the handcuffs. A second man, a bystander, was arrested inside the art gallery. Both men were held overnight and released the next day.
As the police arrested the A.P.C. member at the podium the crowd became angrier and began to kick at the fence, jump on it, and tried to tear it down. Police continued to strike at people as they attempted to pull the fence out from underneath and continued to spit on officers. At this point police fired pepper spray, hitting three people directly in the face and others indirectly. Those who were pepper-sprayed were taken to a medical station while those still at the fence screamed in outrage at the police. The crowd was stunned by the pepper-spray, but as they recuperated they realized that Campbell was not going to show up, thus did not continue attacking the fence. Pepper sprayed people returned to the fence to demonstrate their defiance and contempt of the police and the police state. One was heard ” this art is under the gun because facism is on the rise”. and “Khalo, O’Keefe and Carr were revolutionary women, fuck you pigs” Shortly after this the demonstrators dispersed, leaving with a sense of victory, and a group headed to the police station to demand the release of those arrested. Supporters camped outside of the police station and court house most of Friday night and Saturday until both people were released.
In our analysis, the militants who attacked the fence in open rebellion, and regardless of official activists plans and speeches, were the ones who contributed the most to the disruption of the event, the cancelling of Campbell’s speech, and to strengthening the social movement of the exploited in BC as a whole. The fence was a physical barrier between classes, rich and poor, that needed to be torn down. The rich cannot be allowed to mingle and sip wine while the poor are starved and beaten.
The fence was attacked by a diverse group of people, including, men and women young and old, parents, euro-canadians, native people — all people who are deeply, and adversly, affected by the cuts Campbell’s government is making, here and now, and also by the policies of capitalist globalization. We are tired of this false democracy. When the police try to move us back by telling us we are endangering Campbell, or that we’re only going to get hurt (by the police attacking us) we know that what the Liberals are doing here, and what capitalists are doing around the world hurts more. Pepper spray is agony for half an hour, state terrorism and murder last forever.
against capital and the state,
Insurrectionary Anarchists of the Coast Salish Territories (Vancouver and Victoria)