An anti-homelessness campaign which has seen a number of red tents erected in an empty parking lot in the Downtown Eastside, will be allowed to continue for now, according to Vancouver mayor Gregor Robertson. Asked about the protest Tuesday, the mayor confirmed the City "will not be taking action at this time".
The land the Red Tent protest is being held on is owned by Concord Pacific and has been leased to VANOC for the duration of the Games. More than 100 homeless Vancouver residents are determined to stay on site at 58 West Hastings Street. They are hoping to force government to implement a national affordable housing strategy through peaceful protest.
Pivot Legal Society is supplying the brilliant red tents, which bear the message "Housing is a Right." Although they ordered 500 tents from a manufacturer in the United States, the shipment was detained by customs and is expected to arrive by Wednesday. Organizer Harsha Walia said many residents were using their own gear for the time being.
Clyde Wright, an aboriginal man from Prince Rupert, who said he has been homeless in the DTES for nearly ten years, was happy to receive his tent today. However, Mr. Wright had mixed reviews on the quality of the product.
"You pull it out of the package and it just pops into shape, so the set up is easy," he explained. "But it's not waterproof, and I don't know if I'm going to be able to get a tarp for it."
Tristan Markle, a student activist and supporter of Red Tents 2010, said that despite the political promises that have been made to alleviate homelessness, no changes or improvements to the lives of the homeless had occurred.
"We don't need more athletes, we need more housing," he said. Mr. Markle stated that the timing for the rally during the Olympics would put greater pressure on the government to be held accountable for these issues.
Ricky, who did not offer his last name, is a disabled homeless person currently living in Tent City who says he was forcibly removed by the VPD from his residence in the old Woodward's building. He is planning to participate in a march this Sunday to rally against homelessness and police presence in the DTES.
"I'm here with the peaceful Tent City people, and we're not violent. We want to stand up with the Tent City people and fight against the Olympics," he said.
VPD spokesperson Constable Jana McGuinness said since the protest is taking place on private property the police would take direction from the owner.
"We're monitoring it and staying informed with the City. We're looking at it from a public safety standpoint, but as of yet nothing's happened," she said. "If the owner were to give direction for action, it would then become a police matter."
The Red Tent 2010 national campaign began Monday morning when protesters displayed a 45-foot banner on the Cambie Street Bridge with the consent of the Vancouver Police Department.