Open letter: Displacing Hastings Street vendors is social cleansing

published on December 2, 2015 by Guest in The Georgia Straight

Beginning on November 13, an increased police presence around the unit block of East Hastings Street has deterred people from street vending in the area. The following is an open letter written in response to that action taken by the city.

We, the undersigned, call on the City of Vancouver and the Vancouver Police Department to immediately stop the displacement, criminalization, and harassment of survival street vendors and all low-income people in the Downtown Eastside (DTES).

On November 16, 2015, the City of Vancouver launched a crackdown on street vendors and homeless people in the Downtown Eastside, effectively criminalizing and displacing all low-income survival street vendors along East Hastings. The City is justifying the measure by referring to the City-designated vending sites on 62 East Hastings Street, 501 Powell Street, and Pigeon Park. However, these sites are inadequate in size, have restricted hours, and are ultimately a way for the City to remove poor and homeless people disproportionately Indigenous and of colour from public spaces and contain street vending in hidden away sites.

Councillor Andrea Reimer has referred to a rise in arrests as evidence of growing safety concerns on the 300 block of East Hastings Street to justify the displacement of the survival street market. However, in the DTES more arrests are evidence only of more policing, and banning street vending doesn’t improve the safety of the low-income people who live in the community. Clearing sidewalk vendors only deepens the insecurity of those who are losing a vital source of income, who are pushed into the back alleys and now have to turn to other more dangerous types of survival work.

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