By Mike Archer. The protesters from the Abbotsford Chapter of the BC/Yukon Drug War Survivors have left the walled fortress in the parking lot of Jubilee Park and have huddled together back in the little strip of land the City of Abbotsford left for them to await their fate which will be decided in a courthouse in New Westminster sometime today.
Cover Photo by Bas Stevens
The big question, no matter what the judge decides, is how the City and its police force will react?
If the judge orders the homeless out of the park, how much time will he give them? If it is another 24-hour Abbotsford Shuffle they won’t be able to get much further than the ditches they come out of to get away from the chicken feces.
If he gives them two or three weeks over Christmas, will the City help them take down and store the building materials which were turned into a fortress last week or will they simply walk in and destroy them.
Most importantly; will the City finally discuss the proposal on the table to move the protesters to City land where they can build their own homes be self sufficient?
The question, as always in Abbotsford … where are they supposed to go?
If the judge refuses to allow the City to instruct its cops to use force or arrest the homeless men and women in the park the City will have to exercise something for which it has never shown any particular affinity – some judgement.
Either Way You Lose
The mood in the camp is much more upbeat than you might expect from a group of people who have been pepper sprayed, covered in chicken feces, had their property stolen and been relentlessly pursued and harassed all over the City of Abbotsford by police and municipal employees for more than a decade in what can only be described as an attempt to either exterminate them or drive them away.
Why are they upbeat?
Two reasons really:
1) There isn’t much more the people who run this City and seem to despise them so much can do to them that is more demeaning, disgusting or meaner than what they’ve already done
2) They know they are going to win this war
No matter what happens in court Tuesday the politicians and the staff of the City of Abbotsford and the Abbotsford Police Department have shown themselves to be fundamentally incapable of running a City the size of Abbotsford or dealing with the problems a grown up city encounters.
When the poor, mentally ill, drug addicted and alcohol dependent citizens come up with a plan based on self sufficiency and self reliance which will see them build their own homes and support themselves by means of a business plan which will help keep the streets and the ditches clean and pay their own way, the leaders of this City send in their thugs and threaten the poor with intimidation, spotlights, barricades, injunctions and jail time.
How incompetent can a group of individuals be?
The DWS Proposal
Forget the fact that the new Manager of the Economic Development Department, Siri Bertelsen, has reviewed their proposal, and is said to have described it as “refreshing and possible.”
Forget the fact that Deputy City Manager Jake Rudolph is also said to be in favour of the plan and thinks it is the best proposal the City has on the table.
Chad Brechin, ASCT, Building and Design Consultant and President of Abbotsford’s Integrity Design put the proposal together with Barry Shantz, head of the Drug War Survivors, and everyone who is aware of it is amazed at how well-thought-out it is.
In a nutshell the proposal involves moving the ‘unhousable’ homeless – those who won’t follow the Sally Ann’s restrictive and religious programs, or fit in with the ‘acceptable’ homeless which the City and the provincial politicians like Mike de Jong, Simon Gibson or Darryl Plecas are prepared to finance, and who suffer from mental illness, addiction and alcohol dependence – move them to a number of municipal properties, already identified and proposed, along railway Avenue where they can live and run their recycling and wood selling businesses to help support themselves.
The donated lumber which was assembled by volunteers in order to build the fortress in the parking lot beside Jubilee Park last Wednesday night is all carefully cut and prefabricated to function as floors for the 30 homes they hope to build when the City is prepared to make a deal on the land.
The World Will Not Forget
If the protesters lose in court Tuesday, they are at the very least hopeful that the City will not demonstrate an even higher level of incompetence and stupidity than it already has by destroying any of the building materials they will need to build their new homes.
“We are hoping that, whatever the judge says on Tuesday, we will be able to negotiate in good faith with the City to leave our building materials in the parking lot or move them and store them on municipal property where they will remain intact and safe so that, when we are able to get to our new homes we will have the materials the angels who helped us were kind enough to donate,” says Shantz.
“We are offering to take the structure down so long as the City is prepared to help us store the materials somewhere safe,” he said.
Shantz feels both the City and his members will need time to heal from the harm that has been done. The world has not looked kindly on Abbotsford’s treatment of its homeless and it is going to take a long time for it to live down the fact that it used chicken feces and pepper spray to rid itself of its homeless citizens, stole and destroyed their property and treated them like vermin when they dared to stand up for themselves.
The phony charade which is the ‘City of Character’ has become a laughable and embarrassing political, ideological, and religious fraud.
“The world will not forget what Abbotsford has done,” says Shantz, but he does see a way forward.
Shantz is going into hospital for the final and most serious of the nine eye operations doctors have ordered to restore his eye sight. He is worried that while he convalesces the police will chase his members back into the ditches, take their belongings, destroy the lumber for their future homes or worse.
“No matter what happens on Tuesday I hope that, with Christmas just a week away, someone with a heart and a head on their shoulders will be able to see that beating these people any more is just not humane. We have a proposal on the table which some good people, who know what they are doing support. It is perhaps the last chance these people, or the City they live in have for any sort of redemption,” said Shantz