Around two dozen protesters marched along Gladys Avenue Thursday afternoon on the two-year anniversary of the spreading of chicken manure on an Abbotsford homeless camp.
Members of the B.C./Yukon Drug Wars Survivors advocacy group carried signs and blocked traffic in both directions during the demonstration, which was held to mark the anniversary and to protest the ongoing homeless situation in Abbotsford. Those in the marched called for more housing, housing first and a plan for addressing homeless in Abbotsford.
On June 4, 2013, Abbotsford city staff spread chicken manure on a Gladys Avenue homeless camp near the Salvation Army. The incident prompted outrage and a human rights complaint against the city.
Barry Shantz, founder of the Abbotsford chapter of the Drug War Survivors, said they were out to bring attention to the ongoing issue.
The Drug War Survivors are currently involved in a legal challenge of City of Abbotsford bylaws that prevent people from camping in parks. With the help of the Vancouver non-profit Pivot Legal Society, they are arguing that the bylaws are unconstitutional and criminalize homelessness.
He said they are getting ready for a “grueling six-week trial,” scheduled for the end of the month and said they will be there to “hold the city accountable for their actions.”
One person yelled at the protesters from the side of the street, asking why they weren’t protesting at city hall.
Shantz told The News that they have already protested at city hall in the past, and were starting the protest at the site where the chicken manure was dumped.
Neighbouring residents, who didn’t want to be identified, expressed their concerns about the ongoing issue of homelessness in the area. While they empathized with the need for support services for those experiencing homelessness, they worried about the ongoing negative impacts on their own properties, such as property values and thefts.
The protesters marched down Gladys at about 1:30 p.m., prompting the closure of the road. Police drove on either sides of the demonstration and aided with traffic. The protesters entered the lobby of the MCC building on Gladys Avenue, filling the area, and hanging signs over a banister on the stairs with slogans such as “housing is a right” and “windows not bars.”