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OccupyVancouver and Grandview-Woodlands

Occupy Vancouver, having been evicted from the Vancouver Art Gallery and the BC Provincial Courthouse by Mayor Gregor Robertson and Premier Christy Clark respectively decided that they needed to regroup in East Vancouver. They went to Grandview Park to set up camp, and the wealthy neighbours who own houses there heard of this, went to the GA and asked that they don’t do it. There it was revealed that many of the people who were part of OccupyVancouver were actually residents of the neighbourhood as well, and things became super local super fast.

Commercial Drive has for years been the battleground of social conflict, much of it over Grandview Park and the Community Policing Centre. Grandview Park itself was a park where people in that neighbourhood went to, including the homeless. The park has been a central feature of Commercial Drive for years, however after the Olympics it was decided that it needed to be upgraded. The reasoning for that was justified by a group calling themselves the “Friends of Grandview Park” that pushed forward the renovations because Grandview Park was (according to Defend Grandview</a>):

  1. “Chronically overrun by illegal inhabitants.” - This is code for "We don't like homeless people living in our park".</li>
  2. "Used for drug dealing and hard drugs" - I'd like to see some hard statistics on this.</li>
  3. "The chosen location for illegal protests" - Protests in Grandview Park are relatively rare. They aren't totally rare, but they aren't illegal. The case they cite was when we stopped the Olympic Torch from going down Commercial Drive. I don't believe that there is such a thing as illegal protest. There are definitely illegal actions, but people have the fundamental right to protest, and anyone who says that a protest is illegal can go fuck themselves.</li>
  4. “The design of the playground encourages loitering of non-families.” - What the hell is a "non-family" and why aren't they allowed to use a public park? Am I a non-family? What if I bring my kid, are we still a non-family?</li> </ol> At any rate, the class tension between the residents of Commercial Drive was enough for someone to write an article about it in the Globe and Mail where they quote various people who actually live here for better or worse. Eventually after all the protests, and disruptions as well as Black Bloc attacks on the Parole Office and the Grandview Park fence, the park renovations happened and the new park is now open. The new design of the park is clearly meant to assist in the gentrification, and the larger playground area is designed so that it takes up a large part of the park, as opposed to the small big toy that was mostly insignificant. While I can appreciate the fact that children need to play in the park, I do think that the renovations were social cleansing and really show the intolerance that those who have influence in Grandview-Woodlands have to the poor in the neighbourhood. Of course, I don't live in Grandview-Woodlands, I live in Kensington-Cedar Cottage, home to those of us who got priced out of Grandview-Woodlands when we started having children. Therefore, I have no real stake in what happens at Grandview Park anymore. At any rate, I consider the Grandview-Woodlands battle over, and unfortunately the rich people won. At the very least, Commercial Drive is a good enough neighbourhood that people were able to work things out and Occupy was able to move on to the Centre for Socialist Education. I think this is a good thing, and I'm actually glad that Occupy is now on the Drive, and here's why. Despite the history of it, Occupy has the ability to talk to the residents of the neighbourhood and engage them. Since many of the participants are part of Occupy Vancouver, they can get the residents engaged in change at a local level outside the ballot box. If there was a good starting point with receptive people, it's going to be there. Frankly, I don't think that a full-on occupation of Grandview Park is going to happen, but I do think that the dialog can be healthy, and if Occupy moves somewhere else, it could at least gain some allies in East Vancouver, something that it really needs right now.