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'Hostile' crowds ignore COVID-19 rules in Vancouver: police

Officers called to Granville entertainment district Halloween night when a growing crowd of people weren't paying attention to physical distancing rules
Crowds pack the Granville Entertainment District in downtown Vancouver on Halloween night. photo Screenshot/Reddit

Vancouver police say a large and "hostile" crowd gathered downtown on Halloween night despite COVID-19 restrictions, but officers didn't issue tickets over safety concerns. 

Spokeswoman Const. Tania Visintin said officers were called to the Granville entertainment district Saturday night when a growing crowd of people weren't paying attention to physical distancing rules

Officers stopped a Range Rover for a traffic violation and those inside "swarmed" the police, she said at a news conference Monday. 

She said the officers called for help, with their main concerns being public and officer safety and preventing property damage. 

"We needed to be there to prevent fights, prevent damage to property and worse, prevent any riots that could have happened." 

Visintin said when the crowd grew to about 30 people, the officers called for backup and one man was arrested for jumping on the hood of a police vehicle. 

A rear passenger side window was smashed on another police vehicle and an arrest has not been made in that incident. 

"Our officers did describe the crowd as very alcohol-fuelled and irrational," she said. 

Attempting to disperse the crowd or issue tickets wasn't appropriate, she added.

She said police did not expect that many people out on the streets Halloween night.

"During a global pandemic, you would not expect to see a crowd this large congregating on the streets," Visintin said. "It's concerning and quite frankly, it's selfish. I feel like these people don't care about anything but themselves." 

In a news release, the Vancouver police described the Halloween weekend as "mayhem" as they responded to stabbings, assaults and a burned Porsche. 

Three stabbings were investigated on the weekend, including an altercation between two groups of people near the Pacific National Exhibition grounds and two in the Downtown Eastside.

Visintin said at the conference that additional officers were pulled from across the city to respond to the crowds downtown. 

"With a crowd that size, one could say that a city could blow up, so to speak," she said. 

Saanich police say they issued a $2,300 ticket to a person early Sunday morning for hosting a Halloween party with 30 people inside the house. Last week, the provincial health officer limited the size of gatherings in B.C. homes to those who live there plus six people. 

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 2, 2020.