By Mike Archer. Safety In Numbers – The Abbotsford Homelessness Crisis is moving to a new level as the City of Abbotsford prepares to remove peaceful protesters from the Abbotsford Chapter of the BC/Yukon Drug War Survivors (DWS) from Jubilee Park.
Despite admitting that they had received few complaints, the City and Mayor Banman appear determined to use the excuse that a BBQ and propane heater have been found on the site as sufficient grounds to employ force to move the protesters back to the ditches from whence they came.
The Face of Abbotsford’s Homeless. Abbotsford citizen Nick Zurowski looks on at the press conference Wednesday more held by Pivot Legal Society and the BC/Yukon Drug War Survivors. Photo by Bas Stevens
After posting a notice Monday that all tents, structures and belongings must be out of the park by 4 pm today, the City has given every intention of seeking an injunction to force the homeless members of the Abbotsford Chapter of the BC/Yukon Drug War Survivors out of the village they have created at the south end of Jubilee Park.
The Pivot Legal Society, acting on behalf of individuals at the protest site, will fight the injunction on the grounds that the residents of the temporary village do not have a reasonable expectation of safety based on the policy of the Abbotsford Police Department of dispersing and displacing them and the City of Abbotsford’s track record of using chicken feces to control its homeless population.
“The City of Abbotsford has a long track record of treating these people as though they are not part of this community, as though they were, ‘from away,’ “DJ Larkin, of the Pivot Legal Society told reporters Wednesday morning at a press conference beside the protest encampment.
Larkin also announced another human rights complaint was filed last Thursday with the BC Civil Liberties Tribunal for individuals being harassed and violated by the City and its police force.
Several residents of the camp stepped forward to explain that, for the first time in months, and in some cases, years, they feel safe in the protest village and are afraid to be moved back out onto the street.
“It’s safety in numbers,” resident Harry Clause told reporters Wednesday, and his concerns were echoed by several other protesters who rose to speak to the media.
“These people do not feel safe away from this site after having been harassed and hurt for years,” said DWS founder Barry Shantz.
The lawsuits against the City of Abbotsford and the human rights complaints against both the City and the APD just keep growing as the City’s policy of using its police force to solve the problems of homelessness and addiction draw more national and international attention.
“The City of Abbotsford simply doesn’t provide anywhere for people who cannot simply drop their mental illness or their addictions to drugs or alcohol in order to qualify for the limited amount of help Abbotsford offers,” said Larkin, adding that Abbotsford’s approach of criminalizing poverty, homelessness, mental illness and addiction has not worked, is not working and, if the courts agree with her, will not be allowed to continue.
The protest began Sunday, October 20 and the two sides have been eyeing each other for several weeks as protesters have reported police making more visits to the park and acting more aggressively when there, as well as visits earlier this week by fire department officials.
Protesters complained two weeks ago that the City had reneged on a deal to collect the garbage which the protesters had been dutifully picking up in order to keep Jubilee Park clean. The City sent a crew to pick up the garbage last Friday once the situation was reported to them.
The DWS, with the help of the Pivot Legal Society, is suing the City of Abbotsford in multiple lawsuits on behalf of individual members and homeless citizens claiming their civil rights have been violated in a number of ways including the now infamous Abbotsford Chicken Manure Homeless Incident which involved the spreading of chicken feces on members of DWS and other Abbotsford homeless citizens with the prior approval of the Salvation Army as well as through the imposition of City’s Anti-Harm Reduction Bylaw which prohibits Fraser Health and other organizations from using harm reduction methods such as handing out clean needles to keep addicts alive.
The BC Rights Tribunal has also agreed to hear a case based on the plight of the homeless in Abbotsford. The Abbotsford police are being investigated by the Office of the Police Complaints Commissioner for professional misconduct in the case of the arrest of Tim Felger and as a result of complaints that APD officers have destroyed belongings of homeless people and used pepper spray against citizens in Police Chief Bob Rich’s stated campaign of dispersing and displacing the homeless in Abbotsford.
You can follow Bas on Facebookwhere he publishes many of his photos.
To see more of Bas’ photos onAbbotsford Today click here
To see Bas’ photos of the homeless during Moving Day On Gladys Avenueclick here