Thoughts about a protest and some bottles in Vancouver
Coast Salish Territory, Vancouver, Canada
April 28, 2007
On Wednesday, April 25, 2007, the Non-Partisan Association (NPA), the ruling political party of Vancouver, held a meeting. The Anti-Poverty Committee (APC) responded with a protest titled “NPA Your Time is UP!”
The APC had made a call-out for others to join them at their planned demonstration. In their call out, APC presented several demands made upon the NPA. These demands called for the NPA to invest money in low-income housing in accordance with its own Homeless Action Plan and to cancel the 2010 Olympics and the Civil City project. Civil City is a plan to crack down on visible signs of poverty such as panhandling.
In their call out, the APC said, “We the people are defending ourselves and fighting back!” However, the APC were quick to distance themselves from a person said to have taken bottles filled with paint and urine to the protest.
After the demonstration was dispersed by police officers using bicycles and horses, the Vancouver Police Department announced to the corporate media that an officer had seen a man drop a bag in a garbage can before joining the protest. Inside, were bottles filled with paint and urine, which police displayed to the media. The cops say these were intended for use against the police. They say the APC attacked officers at the protest by trying to push through the police line.
The Province newspaper quoted APC organizer David Cunningham as saying, “There were no such bottles, and if there are such bottles, those belong to the police, not to the Anti-Poverty Committee.”
Cunningham is also quoted as stating, “If anybody brought those, it was the police who brought them and are trying to stage a disinformation campaign to undermine the work of the Anti-Poverty Committee.”
On a Global BC television news broadcast of April 26, 2007, APC organizer Thomas Malenfant said, “No member of the Anti-Poverty Committee had any of that contraband at all. We can’t control who comes to our demos, but that was no one within the APC.”
If Cunningham has been quoted correctly, we must ask how he could be sure the bottles belong to the police, especially since the police say they also found a wallet with identification in the bag and are looking for the person it belongs to?
Contraband is defined as an item that cannot be possessed legally. However, bottles filled with paint or urine don’t fit this definition. What then is the purpose of Malenfant calling them such?
APC seems to be responding to police attempts to criminalize them and spread disinformation about them with disinformation of their own. This goes beyond a simple disassociation from the bottles and the individual who brought them, endangering and isolating anyone who would bring these items to a demonstration or action. Malenfant’s statement assists in criminalizing the possession of such bottles. Cunningham has stated publicly that the person who brought the bag is a cop. If the person wasn’t a cop, Cunningham has, without reasonable cause, slandered and isolated an individual who the police say they are pursuing.
However, these kinds of statements were not made by APC after the February 12, 2007, protest and action against the Olympic Countdown Clock Ceremony at which police say eggs filled with paint were thrown. The difference there was that indigenous warriors who weren’t members of APC were arrested and the police were unprepared. Police repression of demonstrations has increased since then.
The use of paint-bombs at street actions in Vancouver was not without precedent even before the clock protest. The Indigenous Resistance Organizing Committee said one was used against a cop at an Anti-Canada Day demonstration last year. Anonymous reports claimed several were thrown at the Main Street police station during street actions in 2005 and 2006 on the March 15 International Day Against Police Brutality.
After this year’s street action on March 15, three people were arrested and charged. Police referred to those who took part in the action as “criminals”, even though none have yet been convicted of any crime related to it. This is part of an overall increase in criminalization and repression that is not limited to targeting APC.
In 2002, APC publicly denounced a group of people who vandalized the inside of Pacific Centre Mall after breaking-away from an APC-organized May Day demonstration. Police arrested and charged four people after the mall incident. APC has never retracted their denouncement.
APC’s recent statements and its 2002 denouncement assist the cops and the media’s efforts to isolate and demonize simple acts of rebellion such as the throwing of paint-bombs against government or capitalist targets. They also detract from anti-capitalist and anti-colonial resistance in Vancouver and around the world.
APC cannot be allowed to wage a war for credibility within the corporate media at the expense of the resistance movement that exists outside its organization, and which it cannot control.