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Housing Activists take False Creek

Demonstrators overwhelm police, reclaim Athlete's Village

by Dawn Paley Poverty Elimination

Marching towards False Creek // Isaac Oommen
Marching towards False Creek // Isaac Oommen
Breaking through the fence // Isaac Oommen
Breaking through the fence // Isaac Oommen

Also posted by dawn:

Two hundred people pushed their way into Athlete's Village yesterday to demand that the City of Vancouver honour their initial promise to designate 66 per cent of units in the complex for social housing.

A festive atmostphere prevailed as demonstrators, led by homeless and low income people and accompanied by a marching band, walked from Science World to Athlete's Village.

The city initially promised that 66 per cent of the 1,200 units built to house athletes would be reserved for social/subsidized and affordable housing. Over one third of the total units were to be reserved for people who are homeless or at-risk for homelessness.

Since then, the total units of "deep core" housing have been reduced to almost zero. Yesterday's demonstration coincided with an open house held by Bob Rennie's real estate company Millenium Water.

"It's a reality, they lied to us," said Downtown Eastside resident Robert McMillan as the march progressed towards the fence closing Athlete's Village off from the public.

"But they can only kick us so much until we fight back," said McMillan. "These rallies are getting bigger all the time."

Demonstrators removed fencing panels and quickly overwhelmed police and security to gain access to the site. Their message could not be ignored by the hundreds of people present at the open house to catch a glimpse at the now exclusive housing units being marketed by local real estate baron Rennie.

"House the poor, not the pigs," chanted demonstrators, referring to the fact that of the remaining 12.5 per cent of "affordable" units, priority will go to emergency services workers, including cops.

"We are demanding that they stick to their original promises from back when it was originally proposed," said Tami Starlight, from the Downtown Eastside Neighborhood Council.

Homelessness has increased steadily since the Olympic bid was granted to Vancouver, and selling the idea of social housing at False Creek was a key method by which local politicians gained support for the games.

"No wonder people are fucking mad!" said Starlight. "I'm fucking mad!"

Marchers then approached the Salt Building, which has recently been renovated at a cost to the city of over $10 million. Prevented from entering, demonstrators pushed against police, chanted and pounded on the glass until police were forced to vacate crowds from the building.

Though it wasn't possible to gain access to the Salt Building, and though the police brutalized some participants in the march, there was prevailing mood that the action was a successful challenge to the City's broken promises.

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