“Pigs are not our friends”

How Anita Place survived the first police attack on the camp: An interview with Joe Bauman

Joe was one of the first people to move into Anita Place. He is a builder. Joe’s tent is lifted up on a platform that he dug out, and is neatly and cleanly contained under a tarp and awning. He also collects things and keeps a small tent beside his with tools and supplies organized inside it. Joe’s tent is a secondary community space. He is someone who people in camp go to for things they need, for help setting up a tarp, or for advice. He is a quiet, backroom leader who is always watching and listening to what is going on, and thinking about what should be done.

Joe’s anniversary story is about the first attempt of the City of Maple Ridge to smash the camp. One week after the camp was opened, people were starting to come and set up tents. Mayor Nicole Read, who had come under fire from anti-poor bigots for not opposing the presence of homeless people forcefully enough, had taken a leave because of threats against her family, and a vicious anti-poor councillor named Tyler Shimkw took the Deputy Mayor seat. Under his watch, and without going through a Council motion, the head of Maple Ridge’s bylaw department Robin McNair organized an early morning siege on camp. It was the first night that I had not stayed at camp, and I was woken up at home with a phone call that the camp was under attack. I rushed to camp, calling the media and supporters on the drive in, and arrived to see a team of bylaw officers protected by RCMP dragging a tent full of someone’s belongings out to a garbage truck. I jumped into the garbage truck to stop them from loading anything more in, and started throwing out the tents and belongings that I could lift, yelling that the police were violating people’s Charter rights. The police retreated.

In the days following, Alliance Against Displacement retrieved peoples belongings from the City yard and housed Maple Ridge residents who support homeless people took action for the first time. Chris Bossley and Steven Milner organized a protest against the raid. We rallied at City Hall and marched to camp, where supporters hosted a dinner. The City tried two more times to break up the camp, using court injunction applications. All together, campers, AAD, supporters, and lawyers with Pivot Legal, fought and won against these attempts too. But the story of the first police attack on the camp remains singularly important because it shows that we can stand and fight back with direct force, and that the City and police are not all-powerful – we can resist and survive them. Joe had a unique view on this police attack because he was there when it began.

Joe taking a break from cleaning out his neighbour’s abandoned tent

Joe: I’ve been here off and on since day 2 of camp. I was working on my own thing up until then. I wanted to take over an apartment building. As soon as this camp opened, I was like – oh what am I doing on my own – and I came down and joined in. I still think we should take over an apartment building. The one I wanted to take was a demoviction; it’s been torn down and rebuilt – it would be great to move in and take it.

Volcano: What is your biggest lesson from the last year?

Joe: We already knew it but I re-learned that pigs are not our friends. That day that they tried to come and take down the camp was a very impactful day. We showed them and ourselves that we can fight back. We had tools we could use that could hold them at bay – to take their feet out from underneath them. For anybody that doubted it, it showed your [AAD’s] resolve. It showed that when shit goes down, the camp leadership will step up. We are prepared and we can do what it takes. We have solutions and we can resist.

It was first thing in the morning when bylaw rolled up with trucks and lots of cops, the City, and I think there was even an ambulance there. There was one poor lonely guy from the fence company lifting fence panels all on his own. I saw that and felt sorry for that guy.

When the guy took off the first panel, the RCMP came in. I was the only one there. I was standing in the common area in the middle of the camp. I don’t remember if I called for help. There were like 10 or 12 cops who came through the gate and pushed past me. They said get out of the way. I asked if it was a scheduled visit. One cop said “it’s eviction day” and another said “it’s time to go.” I held the gate with my hands, but they brute forced it out of my hands. They poured in and I couldn’t stop them. It was a little defeating but I’d faced a dozed cops before and lost so I know how to deal with it.

Then in came the supervisor of the bylaw officers, Robin McNair. She turned her head away from me and ignored me. She was so cold. I followed her and Michael from the Fire Department and listened to them as they walked through camp and argued with them. I told them that we’re here because we have no alternative, this is where we are and we have nowhere else to go. He passed me off to Robin McNair. She told me that the Parks bylaw is that we can set up in parks between 7pm and 9am. I asked her for the list of the parks where I can camp and she told me to look it up on the website. I explained that staying in parks means being chased everyday by bylaw – who wants to pack up and move everything you own everyday?

Then I looked back and the city workers were storming in and sacking tents. Two workers at a time grabbed tents, broke them, bear hugged them, and threw them out all together into the garbage truck. They were doing that one after another. I asked them what they were doing and they said they were going to drag out every tent that was empty and clear out.

I called Tracy and you and told people who were two in a tent to get out of their tents and get into empty tents, to defend people who weren’t there. I ran to the back of camp and packed up my neighbour’s tents and stuffed them into my tent. I fit 4 tents into mine.

Then you showed up; you climbed into the dump truck and started throwing tents back out into the camp. Then they stopped and left.

We survived that day. It totally didn’t go the way they expected.

Then that afternoon there was a downpour that lasted like half an hour that was so heavy. It blew the manhole cover up and flooded the camp. It was over our knees at the back of camp.

They tried to weaken us, to break our resolve. They tried to have the upper hand. They acted like they were calling the shots, and that they could decide to break the camp. But they were playing checkers and we were playing chess. We beat them because we were playing a different game.

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