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Enough is Enough!

Downtown Eastside community rallies against police brutality

by Sandra Cuffe

Downtown Eastside community rally against police brutality. Vancouver, March 15, 2012. Photo: Sandra Cuffe
Downtown Eastside community rally against police brutality. Vancouver, March 15, 2012. Photo: Sandra Cuffe
Filming crew shoots rally against police brutality from atop the Empress Hotel
Filming crew shoots rally against police brutality from atop the Empress Hotel
Police camera facing VANDU entrance immediately after the rally against police brutality.
Police camera facing VANDU entrance immediately after the rally against police brutality.

Also posted by SandraCuffe:

Also in Poverty:

DOWNTOWN EASTSIDE - A lively community rally occupied the intersection of Main and Hastings earlier this evening, as part of the International Day Against Police Brutality. Close to a hundred people gathered in a circle in the busy intersection to listen to community organizers and residents speak out about police abuse and issues facing the Downtown Eastside.

The action was organized by the Downtown Eastside Neighbourhood Council (DNC), the Vancouver Area Network of Drug Users (VANDU), and the recently formed Vancouver Cop Watch (VCW). The new group of volunteers dedicated to street patrols and police surveillance dedicated the rally to Coast Salish First Nations people, among those most affected by police brutality.

"Policing is just another form of colonization in Canada," explained VCW co-founder Jennifer Allan, highlighting the colonial history of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) and ongoing examples. "Still RCMP are dragging their feet when it comes to missing and murdered Aboriginal women."

"This has been going on a long time," said Richard, one of many Downtown Eastside community members to speak of police violence against local residents. Those gathered in the intersection of Main and Hastings heard stories from local residents about having bones broken, being thrown into a cell with no clothes, and other abuses by police.

"Many people here have mental problems," addicition and/or other issues, added another rally participant. "These people are being criminalized, are being driven into jails, because the province has cut back funding [for treatment]."

"There's been people killed in these alleys by police officers," he continued. Shortly thereafter, others used chalk to write the names of people killed by Vancouver Police Department (VPD) and RCMP officers onto the pavement in the middle of the intersection.

"Every day I see people being harassed for no reason," VANDU president Hugh Lampkin told those gathered. "We're not just throw-away people down here."

"We have to stand up," said Lampkin, referring to the well-known statement by Martin Niemöller decrying inactivity in the face of Nazi atrocities against targeted groups. "Don't wait until it's too late and they come for you and there's nobody left."

"The more eyes on the street we have, the safer we'll be," added local organizer Ann Livingston, encouraging anyone interested in becoming involved with Vancouver Cop Watch to do so, even simply by learning to take and post photographs from a cell phone. VCW currently has an online presence with facebook and twitter accounts, although the group is mainly active in the streets.

Throughout the rally, VPD officers filmed and took photographs of those gathered, including Donovan, who then directed participants' gaze upwards: "Fifteen minutes ago, ontop of the Empress hotel building, there was a camera crew filming us. They are from the Beat TV show."

Demonstrators expressed their disgust at The Beat, a self-proclaimed "reality" documentary series focused on VPD Beat Enforcement Officers in the Downtown Eastside. The show is currently taping its second season.

The filming of people attending the rally didn't end with the action. After participants had dispersed and traffic flowed once again through the intersection, VPD agents were stationed with a video camera at a bus stop directly across East Hastings street from VANDU, and half a dozen agents on bicycles were just around the corner.

"It's time for us to start surveilling [the police]," said DNC activist Tami Starlight. "Enough is enough. Pay attention and take care of each other!"

 

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Comments

VCW

  • These comments are from the new Vancouver Copwatch group, taken from their facebook page. It appears to reveal their middle class, liberal, pacifist background and their opposition to anything different. In an article by them published in the georgia straight today, one of the main organizers, jennifer allen, quoted below about why they are in the DTES and not their own neighbourhoods, located in the west end.

    http://www.straight.com/article-634861/vancouver/cop-watch-patrols-streets

    There’s a reason why Vancouver Cop Watch concentrates on this poor neighbourhood.

    “I talk to people, you know, like in the West End and ask them, ‘You have any issues with your police? Like, are your police harassing you or do they do anything?’ ” Allan said. “And a lot of them are like, ‘No. They’re a part of the community.’ And I can feel that because I live in the West End. And I can really feel when I come to this area of Vancouver that the police are part of the community, unlike when you go into the Downtown Eastside.”

     

    Vancouver Cop Watch VCW was shaking hands with the police to introduce our self to the police who would be in charge of our rally. We are not anti-police,we want to hold the police who abuse the public accountable. We want people to see us as a professional organization,not a bunch of street punks. Unamed you also have to remember our safety too. At anytime the VPD could attack us,while we're out doing street patrols.
    2 hours ago · Like

  • Vancouver Cop Watch We kicked off the morning with the VPD calling us @ 7:30am about our rally,to make sure it was going to be peaceful. We had to go through every speaker with them and what they were going to be talking about. If at anytime the VPD felt threatened they would have sent in their provocateur agents to shut us down. That was our biggest fear. We were only acting professional when shaking the hands of the police,who were policing our rally. Hopefully they know VCW is only a threat to the VPD who are not doing their job.
    2 hours ago · Like
     

Another gross comment by VCW was this one, also taken from their facebook page, in regards to some of the speakers who attended the rally from the DTES.

 


    • Vancouver Cop Watch The worst that happened at ours,was some drunks showed up and wanted to talk the whole time.
       
      Comment on their facebook page linked below if so inclined or just check it out for yourself.

www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100003307664575

For Vancouver Cop Watch to

For Vancouver Cop Watch to pander to the police and then slander the very people they claim to be 'protecting' from police brutality (the 'drunks') is both hypocritical and an indication of their confusion.  So too are the contradictory postings on their facebook site.  This is what happens when 'do-gooder' liberals hijack radical projects.  If not for Vandu this rally would've been a total flop. Jennifer Allen should stay in the west end and do her 'cop watching' over their... FTP.

huh

thanks for the comments, good to know.

VCW facebook comments, etc

I arrived at the rally right after it started, so didn't see the hand-shaking. It didn't stop several people from speaking out and saying what they wanted to say, but there did seem to be some attempts to control the mic.

As to the VCW facebook comments, I'm guessing the page is being managed by one individual and not, say, DNC folks and others from the neighbourhood involved in the project. Hopefully that shit won't last.

On an unrelated note, confirmation that the pair ontop the Empress were from the TV show: http://www.beatcopdiary.vpd.ca/2012/03/16/main-and-hastings/ The camera focused on the VANDU entrance was VPD itself, not the Beat filming crew.

 

History of Vancouver Copwatch

Folks may be interested to know that there was a Vancouver Copwatch group that conducted regular patrols in the DTES between 2002-2006 (a rough estimate as I'm not good with dates).  Initially started as a joint project between the PIVOT Legal Society and the now-defunct Collective Opposed to Police Brutality (COPB), it became an autonomous project.

COPB's politics were broadly anarchist and militant, as anyone familiar with their kick-ass newsletter "Obstruction of Injustice" would know.  And I'm sure they would be appalled to learn that the good name of Copwatch is being used by this group of "liberal, middle-class pacifists" whose very practices are at odds with basic Copwatch philosophy. 

For example, Copwatch trainings always stessed that while it was important to be polite and respectful to everybody they encountered during a patrol, including the cops, it was important to adopt a firm "no engagement" policy regarding the police as this would tend to undermine their credibility with the local community.  If DTES residents see you filming somebody getting arrested one minute, while having a casual conversation with the cops that arrested them the next, it tends to undermine your credibility in the community.  In other words, shaking hands with the cops is a definite "no-no"!

In fact, it was part of Copwatch philosophy and practice to encourage and assist community residents to solve problems without the involvement of the cops.  Often this was nothing more than taking the time to talk to somebody who had a problem and needed a sympathetic ear, if only for a few minutes.

While Copwatch has never been an explicitly anarchist project, there is good reason why you often read about it on anarchist websites like infoshop.org.  Copwatch is about using the tools available to us to hold the cops accountable for their violent and abusive behaviour, in particular towards poor and marginalized communities, while at the same time having no illusions about the role they play as enforcers for the 1 per cent.

Frankly, I've never heard of a Copwatch group asking the cops for permission to hold a rally (and on International Day Against Police Brutality no less!), much less allowing them to micro-manage an action right down to who the speakers are and what they are going to say.

I would advise Copwatch groups elsewhere in North America to be wary of the Vancouver "Copwatch" group and their pro-police message.

I heard that another group organized an IDAPB rally outside the copshop yesterday; it would be interesting to learn about them and their politics.

 

 

 

An even more disturbing comment by Vancouver Cop watch

First let me clarify copwatchvancouver.wordpress.com is a blog that was set up before, and is in NO way connected with the current pro-cop group thats invaded the DTES.

The link listed below is the beat cop diary of cont. steve adams, a beat cop in the downtown eastside. He blogs his daily experiences as a beat cop and is a particularly disgusting individual, flaunting his power and opinions and actions against people of the DTES and tries to come off as compassionate.

In this particular blog he goes through his expperience of getting a call about a man with a knife who had been in a fight with another man. He shows up on the scene, pulls his gun, yells orders at the man to comply, drop the weapon and get on the ground. He details how he was so close to shooting this man, and at the last minute the guy, drops whats in his hands and gets on the ground. He was holding a crackpipe and a small nail file. He was not involved in any fight with anyone.

 

Vancouver cop watch posted this comment:

  1. Vancouver Cop Watch says:

    Well Steve even VCW will applaud you at how well this situation was handled.

    VCW

    Here is the link below, the comment is after a looong response by someone speaking against the cops behavoir.

http://www.beatcopdiary.vpd.ca/2012/01/30/lost-in-transition/#comments

 

A conversation between myself and cop watch.

Please read this solid example of how Copwatch Vancouver responds to criticism.  So dissapointing.

 

    • Unfortunately, after watching the organizers of today's event shaking hands with police at an anti police brutality event, I am forced to unfriend Vancouver Cop Watch on facebook. I'll also be extremely apprehensive of attending any events organized by VCW in the future.


    • I am sorry you feel that way. 

      Jen Allan

 

This one takes the doughnut.

This comment was made by jen, a main organizer or VCW, on The Beat Cop Diaries posted by const steve addison on his blog about VCW`s Anti-brutality (pro cop) rally on the 15th of march 2012.

Jen says:
March 17, 2012 at 8:41 pm

Steve

You forgot to mention that out of all the rallies,protests,and marches on March 15th,Vancouver had the most peaceful out of them all.

Unlike in Montreal,where over 100 were arrested and turned into a riot.

Vancouver showed the country this is how you protest injustices through non-violent means.

Jen

http://www.beatcopdiary.vpd.ca/2012/03/16/main-and-hastings/#comments

Absolutely Disgusting

It is absolutely disgusting that the good name of Copwatch has been appropriated by a bunch of pro-cop liberals.  Thanks so much to the good folks at copwatch.wordpress.com for their clarification (I just checked out your site and it's great!).  You may want to add a disclaimer, though, that you have nothing to do with this sorry bunch.

Shaking hands with the cops, praising VPD mouthpiece Steve Adams for almost shooting a guy and denouncing the IDAPB rally in Montreal (btw, Jen, almost everybody arrested - only about 4 are actually facing charges - were not engaging in "violence" but were mass arrested by Montreal pigs after they declared the rally "illegal") are indicative of an approach that is far from the intent of those historically involved in Copwatch (see last paragraph below).

Vancouver "Copwatch" (sic) also promotes the dangerous view that police brutality is caused by a few "bad apples" as opposed to being a systemic part of "normal" policing ("We're not anti-police, we're anti-police brutality").  While not all cops engage in brutality, those that don't cover-up for those that do (the "blue wall of silence").  This is why it's quite rare for a cop to denounce the violence and abuse of his or her fellow cops.

In order to avoid confusion, might I suggest that so-called "Vancouver Copwatch" change their name to something more appropriate like "Vancouver Cop-Helpers" as that's clearly their intent: to help the "good cops" change the behaviour of the "bad cops" by pointing out the error of their ways.  

Police violence is not an aberration; it is (and always has been) a fundamental aspect of policing.  A great book on the subject is "Our Enemies in Blue" by Kristian Williams (Kristian himself is/was a member of Copwatch in Portland, Oregon).

Backing up Elis coment on how VCW handles questions and criticim

VCW also deleted over ten comments made by various people who were asking questions, providing details on alternatives, and speaking from experience with well thought out suggestions or criticism. By censoring people in such a way they expose themselves as being a closed minded and clique-ish group who will bend to the will of the police(exmp. them providing names of speakers, members and timetable for their action on the 15th of march to VPD) when lightly pressured, but will not accept feedback or vital concerns from the community.

They need to be accountable to the community by, at the very least, posting in multiple places on their page, a statement saying that they are:

  • pro-cop,
  • work with the police, and
  • will be sharing information with them-

-which they have all confirmed are true. This is to protect people and provide them with the information for them to make informed decisions on whether or not they feel safe working or suporting this group. Otherwise they are misleading people to gain more support from those who would otherwise want or have nothing to do with them.

In response to GBLK

First, thanks for your support and encouraging words GBLK.

Second, the address is copwatchvancouver.wordpress.com

Third, in the about section is a statement from the blog that we are in NO way connected with VCW and some reasons why.

We noticed the irritating similarity and will maybe add something more to try and seperate the distance from the group, althought they SHOULD change their name to vancouver cop-helpers, haha, Or alternatively, vancouver cop collaberators-as seen as a comment on VCW FB page suggesting a more sincere name change . Haha.

FTP-ACAB

fuckin clueless yups ...

"we were peaceful unlike those uppity quebecois"

 

Bridges to Understanding....

I see a lot of animosity toward Vancouver Copwatch here, and to be honest, I believe it misses the point.  As a writer with a lot of familiarity with the DTES, who lived in the DTES, and experienced quite a lot of the DTES including experiences with constables who abuse their power and expect to get away with it in the DTES, I also understand that there are major gaps in understanding which need to be bridged on both sides.  I will say, much of that understanding is missing on the side of the VPD, as evidenced by their long-standing ignorance of the benefits to the neighbourhood provided by Insite, as well as their blind opposition to Insite.  There are many, many reasons why the relationship between police and this community is so tarnished.

What the DTES needs more than anything is a workable relationship with an unbiased and non-judgemental police force so that tragedies such as the missing women aren't allowed to happen, so that people being victimized aren't further victimized to the point of obscene violence and/or death.

There is no textbook on how to go about doing this, but it definitely involves recognizing that people are individuals and systems are made up of people.  There are a fair number of bad cops in Vancouver, and we all know about it.  I've met some of them, and I've heard stories about many others.  I've also heard stories about cops who struggle against the system they work in, who try to make a difference in the DTES and who are thwarted even daily by the attitudes toward the system being transposed onto every individual regardless of what they stand for, merely because someone else wearing the same uniform abused the power granted to them.  Somehow these gaps in understanding must be bridged in order for police violence to be addressed.  Somehow we need to deprive the bad cops of the cover they hide behind, cover made up primarily of our automatic distrust of anyone in that profession.  We need to break down the barriers in that system which keeps the good cops from being able to point out the abuses and crimes of the bad ones, and if a simple handshake lays out just one brick in the foundation of that bridge, then those hands are doing far more to end police violence than the hands that would instead hurl that brick through the air.

Some criticism may be warranted.  After all, this is our community.  But if the goal truly is to end police violence and make the people of the DTES safe from victimization, then that criticism should be constructive, and should be made to progress our understanding of this very convoluted issue.  Let's open dialogue, not close doors.

-Jason Morden

Hi Jason

Unfortunately the dialogue you want to have is framed in the same way that creates the animosity you've noticed. You make several leaps of good faith on behalf of the VPD and it's potential to "serve the community" as some kind of theoretically benevolent institution that is ruined by a "few bad apples." 

I can certainly see the worth of a larger copwatch coop by the DTES community. I've been involved in a few of the incarnations over the years and safe to say that an organization of volunteers needs dozens and dozens of members to sustainably surveil the VPD operations in the neighborhood.

You can't just wander around with a camera looking for police misconduct once or twice a week. Much better to have a few hundred people ready to whip out a cellphone camera when the moment comes.

I think we can all agree on that idea. But I can't stress enough how dangerous it is to think you can do a serious copwatch program WHILE you collaborate and dialogue with the VPD. It's painfully naive at best.

This is based on political analysis of the role of police in our society as well as countless direct experiences with them. The fine folks at the VPD will sing that same tune all day about how misunderstood and demonized they are. It's predictable and those of us that have been around for awhile find it disgusting and laughable at the same time.

To finish up, the potential positive effect of a larger copwatch program in the DTES will be greatly dimished by collaborating and dialoguing with the VPD. You'll be feeding them useful intel about your activities and they'll pretend to be your friend while they collect that information and use it to suit their purposes.

difference between criticism & poisoning the solidarity well

Hey Copwatch Vancouver and others on this thread,

In my opinion you're offbase accusing Jenn and others in Van Copwatch of being "middle-class do-gooders". Those active with Copwatch are established DTES low-income community members and very far from either middle-class or liberal. They both understand police brutality and harassment from a personal and intimate perspective, not from an outside or "helper" point of view.

I also disagree with this Copwatch's analysis of how policing functions and how much weight to give to importance of "bad apples" versus the institutional function of police in Vancouver, particularly during an intense gentrification drive. But, in my experience, their ideas about good and bad cops are shared by a lot of multiply oppressed (and police-targeted) people in the DTES. For example, VANDU has long met and dialogued with cops and currently there are regular Aboriginal policing discussions going on in Carnegie that include the VPD (at arms-length). And there's Sister Watch.

I think we should take on this problem with care and openness and patience to work with and support our communities as we fight police harassment and brutality rather than rejecting and denouncing the active struggles of oppressed people because they're not correct in all ways.

Criticism is important but these comments have a pretty denunciating tone and that's not going to be helpful when these Copwatchers are in trouble with the cops... which I know is a common occurance. I followed a "The Beat" camera crew and BET cops for three blocks tonight with a camera and they were on edge and threatening me because Copwatch is regularly harassing them. If Jenn (or others with Copwatch) get arrested not only will they have a tough time with solidarity from activists who do not live in the DTES but they won't even know they can reach out for the support they need.

In solidarity,

Ivan

At-arms-length is right ...

Maybe too much importance is given to the opinions of a select few members of this cop-watch who recently got a lot of media attention?

Obviously I support any copwatch initiative. I'm still going to support anyone who's getting arrested for trying to do cop-watch. The number of arms weilding cameras is more important for this than the theory the arm subscribes to. 

When they're released after such an arrest, maybe we can have a chat about why you don't collaborate while that experience is still fresh in their minds. Or maybe they don't want my advice.

It doesn't really matter does it?

All that matters is the cops thinking twice and looking over their shoulders more often.

Any work to that end has my full support.

Clarify

Its sounds denouncing because it is. When you ignore, censor and reject peoples criticism or suggestions because they arent like yours thats how you get denounced. When you lie and mislead people, thats another good way to get denounced.

Unless they can work with other people, in a way that doesnt offend so many people or put them at an unessesary & stupid risk, why should they have a blanket of support when they get themselves into trouble? Why should people go out and support them, then have VCW giving information on you, potentially, to the police, lets say, if they thought you were a person of interest / recognized you as a person of interest and leaned on the organizers who have admitted to being open with information to the police with and without consent? Does that sound safe to you?

They need to post that information so people know what kind of a group this is, that it is way different from the copwatches they are familiar with. That they are collaberators with the police, whether you agree with it or not that is indeed something people need to know. Why should they hide this information?

The way they have handled questions or criticism, their censorship & hypocritical nature, their religious beliefs being integrated into the group, their naive reformist pipe dream that police are employed to protect the weak, their denouncing of the montreal actions, their self righteous & insulting comments about DTES folks, praising a pig who almost killed a man- on the exploitive, (beat tv series companion) pig-circle-jerk blog, The Beat Cop Diaries- & sucking up to him in another comment....are just some of the reasons we would never support a goup like this.

They have essentially hijacked a radical, worldwide project of community action and done the exact opposite, they are empowering the police while disempowering the people, by again, being led to be dependant on the same individuals who repress and assault us on many different fronts every day, and trusting them to change their whole fascist institution from the bottom up.

Solidarity runs both ways and we wouldnt run anywhere with the main organizers of this group.

 

Against certainty of assumptions and self-righteousness

It is almost shocking how this project's work was disregarded so quickly, commenters called the group yuppies, liberal hi-jackers, and middle class people who don't belong. No one knows the organizers' experiences and how that lead them to formulate the group that they did. Criticism is good, and building understanding, like others in defence of the group have commented above. But denouncing them outright as "hijackers" is self-righteous and dogmatic.

No one alone speaks for the needs and experiences of the DTES and their experiences wih police.

Jennifer Allan and the other organizers may have had experiences different than yours that guided their formation of Jen's Kitchen and Cop Watch. I think that because we don't know what they are, we should not denounce so quickly.

I may disagree with some of cop watch's statements and approaches. But that doesn't mean that organizers are do-gooder middle-class types (whatever that stereotype means), and yuppies who have no idea to how to conduct an effective copwatch, or that they have no role to play in the community. They may have had experiences of oppression that have influenced their approach and views that I cannot yet understand.

By assuming that they have no idea what they're talking about, and are simply not radical enough, we, in fact, hijack the project.

 

 

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