April 14, 2019
By Jeff Shantz
Anita Place tent city in Maple Ridge has stood as a site of housing by and for homeless people, mutual aid, health care, and emergency response in the context of multiple crises (housing, health care, overdose, social violence). As a space of solidarity among homeless people it has been subjected to various forms of attack from economic and political leaders as well as more privileged residents of Maple Ridge.
Only this week, the mayor of Maple Ridge, Mike Morden, released a 34-minute video produced by a public relations firm in which, in a fake interview format he accused homeless people of “raping and pillaging all of our community and our businesses.” Morden has already turned Anita Place into something of a prison camp with constant surveillance and harassment, and regular acts of invasive violence by police and bylaw enforcement officers. Homeless people and advocates have long noted threats against them by anti-homeless vigilantes (Ridgelantes) in Maple Ridge.
On Sunday April 14, 2019, anti-homeless NIMBY advocates and Ridgelantes of Maple Ridge, apparently stoked by their mayor’s offensive and outrageous claims, held a rally against poor and homeless people living in Maple Ridge. Current and former residents of Anita Place tent city and their allies organized a counter rally to fight for homes now and to stand against the hate coming from politicians, property owners, and businesses.
The Homes Not Hate rally blocked the intersection at Lougheed Highway and 223 Street in downtown Maple Ridge. This elicited some honks of support but seemingly many more aggressive horn peels from angry motorists. Someone attempted to drive through a line of protesters. There were also surprising numbers of people in vehicles shouting bigoted poor bashing slurs at people and giving people the finger. Disappointingly this included some children who were clearly learning to be good neighbors from their loving parents (who no doubt view themselves as paragons of civic responsibility).
The rally then moved to a nearby empty lot where there were several speeches from homeless people and allies. These included solidarity greetings from Vancouver Area Network of Drug Users (VANDU) and Bread and Roses and Hormones (self-organized trans defense workers).
During the speeches, a violently angry woman got out of a high end SUV to run across the street and physically confront and verbally berate several people in the rally. Not only did she spew typical poor bashing vitriol (“Get a job,” “Pay taxes,” etc.) but at a few points she struck people, including punching a woman, a VANDU member, in the face. This is a small example of the sort of poor bashing hatred and threats that Anita Place residents face in Maple Ridge by privileged residents, homeowners, and business people who are so concerned about the reputation of their city that they willingly put thuggish bigotry and violence against homeless people on display for all to see. And show that their model of self righteous, violent, proprietarian anomie is much less desirable than the community and mutual aid that Anita Place residents and supports have tried to build and sustain.
This was an important event showing the resilience and determination of homeless people in Maple Ridge in the face of Ridgelante aggression. It sent a strong message against police and bylaw violence and for housing and social care—"homes not jails,” as several speakers put it. Politicians at all levels as well as residents in Maple Ridge and beyond need to see where the real social threats are coming from and who is projecting them.