On the weekend of February 23rd and 24th the City of Maple Ridge organized a massive police assault against Anita Place tent city. Despite being forbidden by court order to create an exclusion zone, the RCMP used “common law” to treat the area as a crime scene and cordon it off behind barricades and a dumpster pulled across the roadway, guarding it with 40 to 50 RCMP and Municipal police officers brought in from throughout the Lower Mainland. Their two-day long raid aimed at seizing about 50 homeless peoples’ means of keeping themselves warm – confiscating any device that casts heat – even as an unseasonable cold snap continued.
The police raid concluded dramatically, with a standoff at the cabin built and occupied by longtime camp resident and leader Dwayne Martin, who barricaded himself inside, refusing to comply any longer with what he called the “impossible demands” of police, fire, and government. The RCMP made six arrests and kicked in Dwayne’s door with guns and tasers drawn. This massive mobilization of force in order to seize one homeless man’s propane heater represents the government’s irrational and excessive dependency on force alone to repress and manage the growing crisis of homelessness in British Columbia.
Protest rally to defend Anita Place and call for homes not prison camps
Tuesday March 5th
4:00pm to 5:00pm
Meet outside Anita Place Tent City in Maple Ridge
(223rd Street just south of 117th Ave – a couple blocks south of Lougheed, turn at the Chevron)
There is a myth that there is no way to fight a court order on the ground, but resistance against the injunction-backed prisoncampification of Anita Place tent city has pushed back the City of Maple Ridge. Since the shameful six arrests on Sunday, the City has not set up another “exclusion zone” or continued enforcement actions. The City’s villainous lawyer Jeff Locke has admitted the enforcement is “not working” and is applying to return to Justice Grauer to request even more power, including the full, temporary evacuation of camp in order to force it into compliance without the presence of residents or advocates.
The solution to the real problem of fire safety is not the criminalization of heating devices and repressive police powers. Even if the City does evacuate the camp and force it into compliance, homeless people will bring new heaters into camp, or will leave camp and set up tents in the bush with more risky heating systems. You can’t legislate someone to freeze because the threat of arrest will never be as severe or pressing as the immediate pains of the cold.
The immediate solution to the problems of fire safety at Anita Place is for the City and Province to provide safe electricity outlets at each tent and structure, and safe, radiant or ceramic electric heaters to each person who needs them. These resources would cost a fraction of the budget blown on two days of over-the-top police enforcement that achieved nothing, not even by the City and Courts’ own measure.
The longer term solution is to buy and build social housing. The rally on March 5th will call for the end of criminalization, police repression, and prisoncampification at Anita Place and against all homeless people in BC, and for the Province of BC to immediately buy the apartment building being built across from the camp and dedicate it to 100% welfare/pension rate social housing operated by and for tenants under the Residential Tenancy Act.
The fight for Anita Place is a struggle against the police state logic of austerity, and for housing justice for all!