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Anti-street sweep protest escalates at city hall after council votes not to hear speakers

One person was arrested and a window was broken.
Protesters entered the lobby of city hall and disrupted a meeting in-progress on Wednesday, June 22.

A protest outside a Vancouver city council meeting turned volatile Wednesday (June 22), resulting in the arrest of someone who allegedly broke a window.

Between 1 p.m. and 4 p.m., protesters gathered outside of City Hall while a meeting about the Broadway plan was taking place.

According to tweets from members of the #StopTheSweeps Coalition, they were gathered in response to Council's decision not to hear speakers on Motion B3-'Street Care, Not Street Sweeps: Ending Daily Displacement' and instead referred the matter to an upcoming Council report.

Street sweeps refer to the practice in which Vancouver City workers along with police constables clear the street of debris but advocates say that they are throwing away survival items and personal belongings. Their movement, which is conducted in partnership with Vancouver and Area Network of Drug Users (VANDU), Coalition of Peers Dismantling the Drug War (CPDDW), Defund 604 Network, and Pivot Legal Society, calls for a community-led sidewalk cleaning project without police presence and the repeal of bylaws that criminalize public sheltering and vending.

Over 30 people were signed up to speak at Wednesday's council meeting before it was announced on Tuesday via a tweet that the issue would not be going to a standing committee.

According to a statement from Vancouver Police Department Media Relations Officer Sgt. Steve Addison, a small group of protesters attempted to disrupt the meeting at City Hall and briefly occupied the building’s lobby. They were escorted out of the building by VPD and were dispersed by 4:30 p.m.

"One person was arrested for mischief after breaking a window," Addison told V.I.A. by email.

The conflict between councillors and protesters continued on Twitter however as people reacted to statements made by members Melissa De Genova and Sarah Kirby-Yung who were both present at the meeting.

The motion was brought forward by Councillor Jean Swanson. The City has apologized for the trauma caused by street sweeps, stating that City Workers are trained to only take items that appear to be garbage or abandoned and not clearly personal items.