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Fencing prevents 4/20 celebration at Vancouver’s Sunset Beach

Click to play video: 'Vancouver shuts down 4/20 celebration'
Vancouver shuts down 4/20 celebration
All week, Vancouver city and parks officials have been hinting that this year's 420 celebrations would be handled differently, but no one expected an approach that effectively shut down the annual pot protest that draws thousands of people to Sunset Beach each year. Alissa Thibault reports. – Apr 20, 2024

Thousands of people were expected to turn up at Vancouver’s Sunset Beach for the annual 4/20 protest and celebration.

However, the event never came to fruition as the entire Sunset Beach area was surrounded by fencing.

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The event is not sanctioned by the Vancouver Park Board, which closed the nearby Aquatic Centre, Sunset Beach washrooms and parking lots.

The Vancouver Park Board also said it fenced off “certain areas” to prevent damage to the ground.

Global News spoke with a man at Sunset Beach, who came to the area for the event.

“Last year there was an amazing event here … lots of people,” Tyler Dickson said. “The fencing clearly shows they don’t want people here. With (cannabis) being legalized, it’s pretty sad to see. I don’t like the precedent that this is going to set. It doesn’t make sense to me, this is a very solid community.”

Global News directly asked the park board if the fencing was intended to shut the event down.

A park board spokesperson would not answer the question and instead sent Friday’s press release.

“The Vancouver Board of Parks and Recreation is aware that an unpermitted, non-sanctioned cannabis protest event was planned for today at Sunset Beach Park,” the release said.

“While the City and Park Board respects the right to protest, staff worked in collaboration with the VPD to ensure public safety, and took the following measures on Saturday April 20 to mitigate impacts to the park and the adjacent neighbourhood: closure of the Vancouver Aquatic Centre, closure of the Sunset Beach washrooms, closure of parking lots at Sunset Beach, English Bay and the Vancouver Aquatic Centre and fencing off certain areas of Sunset Beach to prevent ground and turf damage.”

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Thousands of people were expected to attend the “protest” at Sunset Beach, along with hundreds of vendors and live music performances.

One vendor spoke with Global News at the empty site, Saturday afternoon.

He wished to remain nameless but did say when he arrived with his merchandise, he was approached by a park ranger who allegedly threatened to take his stuff if he set up shop in the park.

The Vancouver Police Service said it was expecting people to be at the beach and did have extra officers on site.

“We are going to deploy extra officers tomorrow around Sunset Beach to ensure any gathering that does take place remains peaceful,” Const. Tania Visintin told Global News on Friday.

Some people and vendors did pivot to the Vancouver Art Gallery but it was closer to hundreds of people rather than thousands.

One vendor said he was handed hundreds of dollars worth of fines and has his product seized by Vancouver police officers.

“This year, the police came in like a house on fire. Eight uniformed police officers surrounded my booth and gave me $800 in fines and confiscated all my product,” Travis Watters said. “These cops … it’s unbelievable. They really rained on the parade this year, I cant believe in 2024 we are going through this.”

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Watters said he, along with other vendors, showed up to Sunset Beach earlier in the day to set up but decided to head to the art gallery after seeing the fencing.

Vancouver police officers were handing out “information notices” at both the beach and the art gallery, saying officers will be enforcing the Cannabis Control and Licensing Act.

The letter says, “If you are considering selling cannabis at this event, we encourage you to communicate with police officers present to ensure that you are in compliance with the law.”

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