Prime Time Crime

(Prime Time Crime exclusive Oct. 31, 2011)

Camp Gregor

By Bob Cooper


If you’re a member of Vancouver’s loony left the world is your oyster and you can pretty much do as you please, particularly during the run-up to a City election.  Want to block major downtown intersections for hours at a time?  Storm into banks and terrorize staff and customers?  Spit on, assault, and intimidate people trying to get into a book-signing event because you don’t like the author?  Well you just go right ahead and help yourself because no one is going to stop you.  The cops are under orders to stand by and not lift a finger.  Blockade one of those vacant Bicycle Lanes or light a cigarette on a City golf course and the response would be different but for these people, the provisions of City By-Laws and the Criminal Code are suspended.

This is not the fault of working cops who are angry and increasingly demoralized.  Added to that is the Mayor’s shameless use of an image of him with a couple of VPD bicycle officers as a prop in his re-election campaign on Vision Vancouver’s website in order to create the subliminal impression that he’s a law & order candidate, which is as false as it is inappropriate but nothing new.  A couple of years ago he showed up at a fresh murder scene in South Vancouver to make a stump speech on regional policing.

In the wake of Robertson’s Riot a group known as the City Large Event Organizing Committee was struck in order to bring together all involved City Departments (VPD, VFD, Engineering, etc.) along with other stakeholders to coordinate planning and ensure that everyone is on the same page.  This committee is chaired by Deputy City Manager Sadhu Johnston who, as his title implies, reports to the City Manager Penny Ballem, who in turn reports to the Mayor.  I mention this to illustrate the very short chain of command (I was going to use the word ‘accountability’ but it’s in short supply with this lot) above Mr. Johnson, the significance of which will become apparent shortly.  Given all the expertise at one table one would think it prudent to take their advice, right?  Think again.

The great thing about the Internet is that the plain brown envelopes that used to be sent to people like me now arrive with a blip on the screen.  Not only is the process much faster, it also saves a lot of trees but I suspect that the Eco-friendly crowd at 12th & Cambie aren’t going to like this one much because it clearly demonstrates who is responsible for creating the mini Woodstock at the Art Gallery.   

The Committee met on Tuesday, October 12th to finalize plans for dealing with the Occupy Vancouver protest which was scheduled to get underway the following Saturday.  The following is an excerpt from an e-mail written by someone who was in attendance:

“In short, the City will not allow an encampment to set up on the north lawn of the Vancouver Art Gallery (VAG).  It will not allow cooking facilities to set up.  It will not allow porta potties to be installed.”

In other words, the entire Committee, including Mr. Johnston, recognized the obvious perils of allowing these people to set up camp and unanimously decided to prevent it from taking place.  Three days later things somehow changed and Camp Gregor was set to welcome its first campers.  Only two people could have overruled the Committee on this and a VPD source says the instructions came from Ballem.  Robertson appeared on the news shortly after, handing Occupy Vancouver the key to the City (not to mention free electric power) and saying they could stay as long as they wanted.   Oh, and those Porta Potties and cooking facilities?  Yeah, they got them as well. 

Between the filthy appearance of the site, traffic gridlock caused by the aimless marches and intersection blockades, and the takeover tactics at the banks, Occupy Vancouver quickly wore out its welcome with the Downtown Business community who were also furious at the betrayal by City Hall.  Suddenly Robertson was back in front of the cameras saying that the party was over and the City was negotiating with the protesters to end the camp-out.  A few days later the Mayor was forced to backtrack and admit that there were no negotiations then went on to say the city is powerless to act because the Art Gallery lawn is provincial land which was apparently no impediment when he allowed the tent city and lapped up credit for it like a cat with a milk saucer.  Rather than call him on his lies, the press functioned as obedient, unquestioning stenographers.  Pravda and the Xinhua News Agency show more independence and journalistic integrity.

Now he & Ballem have a tiger by the tail.  Send the cops in and offend their core-group on the Left or do nothing and alienate more mainstream voters.  Sending the cops in would (a) require a spine, or (b) be a decision taken in absolute desperation in the hope of saving a few votes and we can certainly rule out (a).  Either way, their dilemma is their own fault.   As with the riot, they ignored the advice of their own experts, made a stupid decision, and this time they can’t wipe their prints off it or blame anyone else.

NPA mayoral candidate Suzanne Anton showed up for a photo op at Howe & Georgia promising that if elected, the protesters would be getting the boot, tents and all, like the day before yesterday.  Asked how she’d do it, she displayed the ‘deer in the headlights’ look, finally babbling some nonsense about sending teams from Health, Engineering, VPD, etc. out to talk to the campers.  Just like Robertson.   A pathetic, sorry bunch, they all deserve each other.

Chief Chu would be well advised to steer clear of this and refuse to set foot on that lawn without a Supreme Court injunction then stand back and let Robertson and Ballem wear this mess, since they caused it in the first place.

Any of my readers with more ‘plain brown envelopes’, can now slip them under the door at  Strict confidence guaranteed at this end, just don’t send it from a work station, at least not your own.



Bob Cooper is a retired Vancouver policeman.  He walked a beat in Chinatown and later worked in the Asian Organized Crime Section and the Homicide Squad.



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Contributing 2011