Friday, February 26, 2010

Downtown Eastsider who Threatened President Obama and Sarah Palin Arrested Again and Released Again

Photo: George C. asked an acquaintance to take this photo of him in front of the UBC Learning Exchange on the Downtown Eastside

It’s the second time George C. has been arrested for issuing threats and it’s the second time his legal aid lawyer has gotten him released onto the street.

Over the past year, George, a homeless man, has been making threatening phone calls and sending threatening letters to President Barack Obama, Sarah Palin, an FBI agent with a fictitious name, the U.S. Consulate in Vancouver, and the Canadian Security and Intelligence Services (CSIS). George claims to be an FBI agent, and often wears a t-shirt with FBI written in gigantic white letters on the front, and handcuffs on the back of his pants.

George was first arrested by Vancouver Police for threats in the summer of 2009. He spent a couple of months in Colony Farms. "What’s Colony Farms?", I asked, when I bumped into him on Main St. in September, just after he had been released. "Colony Farms for the Criminally Insane," he responded, without a hint of embarrassment. He said he had actually been in the institution to observe the staff. "You should have seen it," he said. "It was like One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest." He liked his psychiatrist though, "I had a nice doctor. He was Jewish; he looked like Dustin Hoffman."

"Did they drug you?", I asked, noticing that his eyes were bright and alert, not like those of a person on medication. "They tried that", he said, "but my lawyer wouldn’t let them".
In the months before his first arrest, George had pulled a handwritten letter from the shopping cart — "my carriage", he calls it — in which he pushed his belongings, a letter with a Kinko’s fax receipt stapled to it, that he had sent to President Obama at the White House. He pointed to a scrawled sentence, "You’re dead." Like others he showed the letters to, I told him that he couldn’t threaten people, that he could go to jail for this. He assured me he was immune from prosecution. "I’m George Washington incarnate."

Another homeless man pointed out that George actually signed the letters with his own name.

When George wasn’t sending letters, he was making threatening phone calls from public phones, like one at the University of British Columbia Learning Exchange storefront on the Downtown Eastside. He would phone CSIS and threaten to bomb them. He said CSIS phoned back once and talked to the staff who told him to stop.

Last summer when I ran into George at Burger King where he regularly had coffee, I asked why he had been threatening Sarah Palin. "I thought you liked her", I said, recalling that he had showed me the "Sarah Palin glasses" he had purchased. "I do," he said, but had nonetheless called her office – she was governor at the time — and threatened that she would be shot if she didn’t put all of the prisoners in Alaska in diapers.

After being released from Colony Farms in September, George continued his practice of making threatening phone calls. He had a phone card which allowed him to make long distance phone calls.

Recently, George went beyond phone calls and letters and sent a package to Obama at the White House, according to a friend who was with him when he was arrested for the second time in January 2010. "What was in the package?", I asked. "Oh, I don’t know, soda or something," his friend said, shaking his head. This friend, like other friends and acquaintances of George on the Downtown Eastside, constantly told him not to make threats, that it’s illegal, that he could end up back in the mental hospital. "You could end up like Francis Farmer," one woman acquaintance told him. "Who's Francis Farmer," he asked.

In addition to politicians, George also recently made threatening phone calls to the office of the U.S. prosecutor in the case of the "Prince of Pot", Marc Emery. Emery will serve a 5 yr. prison sentence in the U.S. for operating a mail order business selling marijuana seeds across the border. After being threatened once, the office secretary turned on the voice mail tape and after the beep, George left his message.

The friend who was with George on or about Wednesday, Jan. 27, 2010 when he was arrested for the second time, says he noticed something strange that day. "We came out of the Army & Navy [Department store] and I saw police cars everywhere, ghost cars and marked cars" (although there had been an increased police presence on the Downtown Eastside in the lead up to the Olympics.) George stopped at the TD–Canada Trust bank nearby to ask the manager if he could use the phone. He had previously used the TD Bank phone to make threatening phone calls. The friend watched as the manager refused the request, but George continued to try to persuade him. "They talked for about 15 minutes." At one point, the manager excused himself for a moment. George’s friend then went outside to wait; he noticed several police cars going by. "I saw a ghost car pull up with four cops in it; I thought that was strange, four in one car."

Two of the plain clothed officers got out of the car and walked into the bank. They posed as customers, standing in front of the tellers. One of them was listening to George talking to the manager, and then nudged the other. The manager rapped his fingers on the desk, looking at the officers, nodding his head in George’s direction.

When George left the bank, the two officers followed him. They told his friend to stay back and they arrested George. "They took his handcuffs from his back and handcuffed him," said his friend. They handcuffed him with his own handcuffs?, I asked in disbelief. "Yes." Are you sure they used his own handcuffs?, I asked again. "Yes," the friend insisted, "I was standing there watching; they took them from his back." But the police wouldn’t have the key for that set of handcuffs, I pointed out. "George would have it", his friend retorted.

One of the cops, the lead one, appeared particularly "eager", according to George’s friend, "like he wanted to move up in the ranks." The other one acted more "distracted", the way a person would act when "it’s almost time to get off work." When the friend moved closer to get a badge number, one of the officer’s scolded, "I told you to stand back. Don’t you understand good English?"

George asked his friend to take his shopping cart, telling him where to hide it. One of the police officers said, "Yeah, take it." [The friend pushed the shopping cart up Main St. in the direction of the spot George had instructed him to leave it, but had to detour because he saw a massive swarm of police officers coming in his direction, apparently engaged in an Olympic security training exercise. "I thought they would make me part of their exercise and go through the cart," he said. The shopping cart with George’s belongings later disappeared from the place he had left it.]

George’s friend recalled hearing the officers repeatedly use the term, "terrorist" during the arrest. He heard one of them use it twice; the other one once. "George, a terrorist? Give me a break", his friend had called out to the cops, feigning laughter. But he was worried about his friend, saying later that once you’re considered a terrorist, you don’t get out, and the Americans may want him extradited. "He’ll never get out."

George is out.

An acquaintance of George saw him at Pender and Main St. in the Chinatown district of the Downtown Eastside on Monday. George told him that he had been arrested for issuing threats, that he had spent 9 days in the North Fraser jail in Coquitlam. George maintained that he had to threaten politicians as they had put microchips in his brain. He was released on $3,000 bail on his own recognizance and is scheduled to appear in court. He had the same legal aid lawyer as he had after the first arrest.

The acquaintance asked George if what he’d heard was true, if the police had cuffed him with his own handcuffs. George wouldn’t answer, the acquaintance said. "I guess he was embarrassed."

George was scheduled to appear in the new "Community Court" in the Downtown Eastside, an alternative court modeled on one in New York state. The Community Court was set up last year to intervene in the lives of people who chronically cycle from the street to jail and back to the street, allowing them to opt for treatment or training rather than doing a jail sentence. If they fail to follow through on an agreed upon plan of treatment or training, they go to jail.

Things must have gone well for George at Community Court as an acquaintance saw him the other day on the Downtown Eastside.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Homeground Festival provides Downtown Eastsiders with "No Media Zone" during Winter Olympics

A Downtown Eastsider took this photo of a woman on stilts standing in the crosswalk next to Oppenheimer Park today. The entertainer was at the Homeground Festival, an event to provide Downtown Eastsiders with "sanctuary" from the media during the Winter Olympics. There was a man at the festival taking video with a sign on his back saying, "Official Photographer", but there was also a sign up announcing, 'No Media Zone'.

I only stayed for a few minutes but I heard a woman singing, "Summer time and the livin's easy", and had a coffee. The singer was good and so was the coffee.

Chinese New Year

Saw these Chinese New Years decorations on a rooftop in Chinatown Saturday.

Tinseltown mall was crowded with Olympic tourists Saturday afternoon, the busiest I have ever seen it. Usually that mall looks on the verge of bankruptcy.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

BC Civil Liberties Assoc. on Hot Seat over taking Orders from Olympic Protester

Questions are being raised about the neutrality of the BC Civil Liberties Association and its director David Eby in the wake of Saturday's violent protest by anti-Olympics anarchists in downtown Vancouver.

Eby told CKNW that the BCCLA had not sent "Legal Observers" to the event. He said the organizers of the protest had asked the BCCLA not to send Legal Observers because they were concerned that they had been infiltrated by the police and that any photos they took could be used against them (an indication that they planned to break the law.)

A CTV reporter who had attended the protest, contradicted Eby. Lisa (I didn't get her surname) told CKNW that she had seen Legal Observers there. I too saw them in photos that a blog photographer had taken at the protest. In fact, as the photographer showed me photos and asked me to help decide which to post and which to delete, I pointed out a couple of Legal Observers in their trademark orange t-shirts in one of the photos. I have since asked the photographer about that photo but it was deleted along with most of the others not selected for posting.

When the CTV reporter contradicted Eby, CKNW gave him an opportunity to respond. In a voice that was a tad stuttering, Eby said that after the violence began, "we received instructions" to send Legal Observers. But by the time the Legal Observers arrived, he explained, the violence was over and they got no photos of the violence or of the arrests.

A woman identified as Lauren Gill interviewed on a video shot by Independent Media at the protest, appeared to contradict Eby's claim that Legal Observers arrived after the violence and arrests were over. In the video posted on Youtube, Gill stood on the street in the midst of violence and criticized police aggressively arresting protesters. "They won't talk to our Legal Observers", she said.

The blog photographer recalls speaking to two female Legal Observers on Georgia St. around Nicola or possibly a short time before they got to Nicola, after the window of a bank on Seymour St and a bank window on Howe St. had been broken but well before the protest ended on Robson St. The blog photographer told the Legal Observers that one of the protesters had hit somebody with a hammer, "Well, these things happen," said a Legal Observer who said she was a law student. "No, these things don't just happen," the blog photographer told her. To hit someone with hammer involves lifting it.

Eby's claim that the BCCLA "received instructions" from protesters, raises concerns that the BCCLA is not neutral, that they are taking orders from a group of anarchists known for violence.

The BCCLA, under Eby, has been vigilante in relation to police abuses of power -- I think Eby has been doing an excellent job of attempting to ensure police accountability -- but, it was pointed out on CKNW, the BCCLA doesn't seem as interested in the illegal conduct of protesters. They seem to be taking sides. Is this how the Legal Society funding the BCCLA intends for Eby to act?

Before becoming Director of the BCCLA, Eby was head of Pivot Legal Society, which works to ensure that the civil liberties of the poor are respected on the Downtown Eastside (although they have always appeared to exempt abuses by unionized workers on the Downtown Eastside such as security guards at Carnegie Centre, while advertising for people to come forward with accounts of abuse by private security guards.) These protesters are people they would defend. Eby may not be adequately distinguishing between his old role at Pivot and his new role at the BCCLA.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Riot Promised for 2010 Olympics Happened Saturday

Photo: Demonstrators gather at Thornton Park on Saturday, the morning after the opening of the 2010 Olympics.

Anarchists in Vancouver, Canada have been promising "Riot 2010" for a few years now, and it happened Saturday. A crowd of roughly 200 people, mostly in their 20s, many dressed in full black regalia with their faces covered by cloth masks, assembled this morning at 8:30 at Thornton Park outside the city's main train station in preparation for some post-corn flakes and orange juice state smashing.

Black flags fluttered in the wind and misty rain, and yellow jacketed cops on bicycles circled nervously as the crowd of demonstrators began a confused march within the park trying to find a way onto Main St., a major artery in the city leading to Hastings St., the main route to the central business district, past which the march was to end, at Denman St. in the city's West End.

The marchers found their way to Main St. and onto the road itself, leaving behind at least three people in wheel-chairs, one of whom complained, "These young people move so fast." The youths were in a hurry, indeed, at least to make their presence felt on opening day of Vancouver's 2010 Winter Olympics. Blocking traffic with their bodies, the marchers also added orange pylons and trash to the scene as they passed, throwing anything they could find onto the street. The crowd surged toward Hastings St.

At the intersection of Main and Hastings, the rotten core of the old city business district, the marchers made their way through the worst of the city's skid road. Seeing them come, the area's street people, ranging from old alcoholics to young crack heads and professoinal povertarians drew back from the black-clad protestors, a few street people hurling insults, one particularly gnarled old drunk yelling, "Get a job." The protest leaders, failing to make the turn, found themselves on a minor street and had to back themselves up to continue down Hastings toward the City centre.

Turning left on Hastings they marched through the guts of skid road, angering those street people who scavenge from dumpsters to find goods enough to sell on the sidewalk by the bottle and can return depot, forcing the street people to gather their goods and huddle over them as the marchers swarmed through and brought a small army of police in tow. Crack-heads too shouted abuse at the anarchists, sputtering and inarticulate cries of anger and outrage at the sight of well-off kids wrecking a morning's commerce.

At the War Memorial at Cambie St. the marchers turned left again up three blocks south and moved right into the first section of the central business district, at which point the newspaper boxes on the sidewalks began to land with regularity on the street, pushed by two young men, neither of them being in shape to push it himself, one metal box going under the front wheels of a city bus. Added to the noise of chanting, drumming, shouting young people and the grating noise of metal scraping across the pavement, the nauseating smell of spray paint permeated the air as anarchist logos appeared on building fronts.

As the demonstrators penetrated further into the central business district there were some arrests for violence, someone reportedly using bear spray on a civilian, some windows being smashed by a man who had earlier found and stolen an aluminum chair. Having lost a few members, the march continued down Georgia St. to Granville, another major intersection in the city and then past Granville into the heart of the business district. Anarchist rioters and police together marched down the sloping street till they came to a halt short of the Denman destination. A confrontation broke out between police and some demonstrators, the police moving along after those who turned south onto Robson St., Vancouver's high-end shopping street. At Robson the march came to an end, the police pinning the demonstrators against the wall of a pizza place, and at the opposite side of the street, police kept order as one irate bystander stripped off his leather jacket and sweatshirt and prepared to pound on a grinning and terrified protestor separated from his fellows, saved by a bicycle cop who jumped the curb and landed between the two men. Seven people were arrested, Vancouver Police Chief Jim Chu announced later.


Though some buildings were vandalized, the Tax Department building somehow escaped damage, though nearby there was a scrum of policemen tackling and cuffing a demonstrator in the middle of the street, attracting reporters like... reporters. Others were held back, the police saying that some had been assaulted, one with a hammer.

At that point, police sectioned off three groups of protestors, pinning two groups against walls, a third group moving down an alley to Denman St. as the police, unarmed because, "things could get out of hand and we don't want anyone getting shot," reconfigured their plans.

Regular police in their bright yellow jackets form human barricades to channel the crowd, and behind the regular police, though clearly visible, stood the body-armored and shotgun toting riot squad, sausage-sized rubber bullets in their belts.

Across the street the anarchists chanted about captialism, and as drums banged and flags waved about saving the seals in Newfoundland, victory was declared; capitalism, if not actually destroyed, then at least given a damn good scare by anarchists on the march. The crowd dispersed.

In all, most people, other than those hit by hammers or those maced or whose property was vandalized, most people, and that includes numerous civilians who stood clapping while watching the police acting reasonably under duress, had a good time. Captitalism and world evil still exists, giving the anarchists a reason to continue living so they can continue fighting for ... whatever.

    Photo: a newspaper box has been thrown through a window in downtown Vancouver

Monday, February 8, 2010

Man on Stilts at Poverty Olympics Sunday at Japanese Hall

Better Dead than in the Red

Last week, a longtime Carnegie Centre volunteer was eating a meal at the Carnegie cafeteria and began to choke on his food. The volunteer, who is paralyzed on one side, made his way to the counter where staff sell food, and collapsed.

A young metrosexual with long blond hair who operates the cash register, always with an undercurrent of resentment, acted quickly. He left his cash register and performed the Heimlich manoveur, putting his arms around the choking man and thrusting his rib cage upwards, twice. Then he went back to working the cash registrar. He didn't miss beat: the cash, the Heimlich manoveur, the cash. But the choking man wasn't improving, so a volunteer working alongside the cashier dishing up food, a huskier, physically stronger man, performed the Heimlich manoveur one more time, more forcefully. The food in the choking man's throat came gushing out onto the floor.

Life saved.

Roughly five minutes after the choking began, Skip Everall, head of Carnegie Security strides into the cafeteria, putting on his rubber gloves. Everall reprimanded the volunteer and the metrosexual multi-tasker. “You shouldn't have done that,” he scolded. “You're not qualified to do that.” Not qualified? To get hired at a City Community Centre cafeteria, an applicant has to have Basic First Aid.

“They don't want to get sued”, said a witness.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Margaret Prevost Passes Away

Margaret Prevost, a longtime Downtown Eastside activist, passed away on February 6th. She was born in 1956.

There will be a memorial for her at Carnegie on March 4, 2010 at 1 p.m.