A group of housing advocates who have occupied a Metrotown building slated for demolition since Saturday remained inside the apartment as of Friday afternoon.
Despite an injunction granted to property owner Amacon Developments on Thursday, some reported five protesters are still on the top floor of the 5025 Imperial St. apartment. The occupation is part of an ongoing battle between housing advocates and city hall over the issue of “demovictions.”
Police were on scene on Friday around 2 p.m. to secure the building and lock everything down. Water and electricity were turned off. Mounties tried to convince the protesters to come out, citing safety concerns.
RCMP left the scene Friday afternoon, with the injunction remaining. The police told protesters they were leaving and that when they returned, it would be not be with an olive branch extended, according to Ivan Drury, a member of the Alliance Against Displacement.
Drury, who was among the handful of protesters occupying the building, criticized the city's proposed Metrotown Development Plan, which he said would bring on the destruction of "every single low-rise apartment between Boundary and Royal Oak" and displace thousands of people.
“This demovictions crisis is going to tip the scales in the housing and homelessness crisis in the region as a whole. When I look at the numbers of what (Burnaby Mayor Derek) Corrigan and his council are proposing for the downtown Metrotown plan, it shocks me that there’s not outrage in the streets everywhere here," Drury said.
Drury hopes to give others a message of hope through the Imperial Street occupation.
"We want to send a message to these people in these low-rise apartments that they can have hope and they shouldn't need to feel powerless. There is something they can do to stop the destruction of their homes, and that’s that we can all get together and refuse to leave. When developers buy our buildings, we can say, the residents as a whole, in one voice, declare that we’re not leaving," Drury told the NOW. "Is Corrigan going to send cops to clear 50 people out of one building, one unit at time? The seniors and disabled and fixed-income people that have been longterm residents in these places, are they going to send in cops and throw those peope lin the street? Every one of them? We need to call their bluff.”
A small crowd of a dozen people, including media, gathered outside, where chants of “shame on Corrigan” could be heard.
Jean Swanson, a longtime housing advocate, told the NOW the protesters are planning to occupy the site until they meet with Mayor Derek Corrigan. She said the group is asking anyone interested in joining them to come on down.
Martin Fernandez used to live in the exact apartment suite now occupied by the activists, but the single dad was recently evicted with his two children, who attend Maywood Elementary. He came to show support for the occupation and called for the mayor to be arrested.
"They kicked everyone out - handicapped people, old people, they didn't care about it," he said. "What about Mr. Corrigan? He cares about the community? I don't think so. He's the one who should be arrested. ... Today it happened to us. Tomorrow, it's going to happen to one of his kids. We have to stop this as Canadians."
Earlier this week, Corrigan blamed provincial and federal governments for the current housing situation. He argued the city doesn’t have the authority to stop the demolition of buildings, and if the properties weren’t rezoned to a higher density, they would still be torn down and replaced under existing zoning.
-with files from Jeremy Deutsch