Turning walls into banners

Stop Demovictions Burnaby’s paint-in against the loss of 3 more Metrotown apartment buildings

Pauline peers off a balcony at the evicted Sussex Ave building during the July 1st paint-in (pic. Mary)

Editors’ note: A statement by Stop Demovictions Burnaby was distributed at the July 1st paint-in in order to frame the anti-eviction action within a broader context of struggles against property – and the ideological and political systems that serve it, capitalism and colonialism. This statement, from Stop Demovictions Burnaby, argues that Metrotown residents facing demoviction are not victims, but situated to be leaders in a social movement that includes the interests of working class and Indigenous people like them everywhere. Read the statement on the Alliance Against Displacement website.

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My name is Pauline Morris I’m Nuuh-Chah-Nulth, Gitxsan, and Irish. Six years ago I had to flee violence with my mom. We moved to the Metrotown neighbourhood where I went to school, made friends and made this my home. I’m nineteen, I live with my mom who has multiple disabilities which makes it hard for her to get around. That is why this neighbourhood is perfect, it is close to all the resources that we need and the train station makes it easier for her to get to where she needs to go. When we moved here I thought we’d live here forever. I want to be able to live here forever.

A Metrotown paint-in is when a group of people get together and paint out our feelings about evictions on buildings that are going to be torn down and redeveloped as a condo tower. On Sunday July 1st, Stop Demovictions Burnaby held a paint-in at a building on Sussex and Beresford that was evicted for the highest condo tower in Metrotown. What we did is not just graffiti a building, we made a statement and refused to let the demovictions happen quietly.

A lot of people with the common struggle of being demovicted were at the paint-in. Stop Demovictions Burnaby is a campaign organized by the tenants who are being affected by the City of Burnaby’s year-old development plan to demolish all our homes and make Metrotown the “downtown” of Burnaby. Hearing their unjust stories makes me feel sad; and also makes me realize that I’m not the only one who is being affected. In this neighborhood there are 6,000 people that are being demovicted. Whenever I go to an event like a paint-in I see new people and I feel the solidarity between us grow.

When I go to a paint-in I feel like it is an opportunity to express my feelings about the demovictions in Metrotown. I don’t get this kind of unique opportunity all the time and I prefer to use it to its full capacity. I look at a wall and it turns into a banner. This political action helps me release my anger and stress. Paint-ins are also a way to resist and make a stand against the demovictions. Not only is it a political action and a statement to the public about what is happening, but it also is a fun event.

I’m an young Indigenous person being affected by the demovictions in Burnaby. Demovictions anger me because I have nowhere else to go. When I paint words like “this is my home” and “stop demovictions” on the walls I feel like I’m being heard. I also feel like this decompresses my anger and it is in a more politically constructive outlet. This is why what I do is not just “graffitiing a building,” I am painting how I feel, and so are the people around me. I don’t want my story and experiences to go unheard, and painting is a way to share them.

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