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City officials ask street party organizers to reconsider holding their event despite more than 10,000 wanting to attend

by kiva.bottero


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Wanting to recreate the euphoria of Canada’s Olympic hockey gold, more than 10,000 revelers plan to converge on Granville Street this Saturday night to celebrate. But, Vancouver city officials, living up to their No-fun city label, asked event organizers to reconsider hosting the event or else risk financial and criminal liability, stating safety, sanitation and cost as their primary concerns.

The Mayor is proud of Vancouver’s Olympic street festivities. "I think we completely obliterated the 'No-fun city' image during the Olympics, with hundreds of thousands of people celebrating on our streets," he told The Province last month when asked about the city’s Olympic anniversary plans.

Yet his staff seem intent on bringing that image back. Writing to Lachance and Kuzma about their upcoming event, an official warned them that they could face criminal charges if they don’t have a permit or insurance. They asked for one, but didn’t get approved as of yet.

Vancouver-based Kuzma and Lachance don’t understand what the fuss is all about. “You would think if there were 2000 people getting together to party and go wild, there would be problems, there would be fights.” Lachance says. But, they’ve found after hosting 18 of their portable boombox-powered street soirees, called Decentralized Dance Parties, across the country that there hasn’t been a single problem—unless you consider the arrest of a streaker in Regina to be a problem. The organizers wrote a “Party Manifesto” that attributes the peacefulness of their social experiment to factors such as wearing costumes, using props and being in the freedom of public space.

A primary concern for the city is the cost Vancouver citizens will have to bear to support the party, namely police and emergency services personnel, and sanitation services.

Whether the financial burden is worth spending depends on who you ask. Mayor Robertson told DGTV recently that “Partying in the streets was my fondest memory.” Many Vancouverites share that sentiment, considering the Olympic gold medal hockey celebration to be one of their most memorable moments in the city. But many, including the large Olympic protest contingent, feel that anything Olympic related is a waste of money.

An event named “Celebrate Canada—Olympic Glory Relived” was originally planned for Granville Street on the evening of Feb. 26 via Facebook by four people just looking to recreate the magic of the Olympics. The city advised them of the costs and liabilities associated with holding the event without a permit so they changed the date to Feb. 12 to coincide with the official city sponsored Olympic anniversary celebration.

When Lachance and Kuzma first heard of “Celebrate Canada,” they offered to collaborate on the event, which would also mark the anniversary of their own Olympic street party that attracted an estimated 20,000 people last year. Once the event got moved, they decided to stick with the Feb. 26 date. Lachance recalls many attendees on the “Celebrate Canada” Facebook invite page being upset at having booked time off to attend the party and that they would show up that night anyways. Since other events were springing up on Facebook to take its place, they believed Vancouver citizens wanted more than the city’s Feb. 12 Olympic anniversary party to commemorate this historic occasion.

So with more than 10,000 already signed up to attend this Saturday night’s street party, Lachance and Kuzma have been trying to work with the city to mitigate their concerns. So far, the city has not been receptive, stating that the two will be held financially and criminally liable for any problems that may arise and that they may also be fined or prosecuted for initiating the event.

The two see this as a threat to their civil liberties since the right to assembly is guaranteed under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms while the city claims their actions to be illegal under the Street and Traffic By-laws. They find it strange that Vancouver talks about ridding itself of its No-fun city image, yet is clearly holding its citizens back from having fun. As evidence, Lachance points to the more than 200 testimonials on their website from partiers such as Brandon Bracko who states that the Decentralized Dance Party was the “Best night of my life.”

In this era of social networking anyone can spontaneously coordinate a flash mob of thousands, so Lachance and Kuzma believe that gatherings such as their Decentralized Dance Parties are an inevitability that the city might as well accept. As firm believers in the power of public space to provide a unique and memorable party experience, the pair are risking financial and criminal liability to go through with the event. After all, as proud Vancouverites they want to assist their city in its recent mandate to become a “More fun city."

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