An estimated crowd of 25,000 people gathered in downtown Vancouver Wednesday for 4/20, an annual event that organizers describe as a celebration of cannabis culture.
The rally, which took place at Sunset Beach, comes on the heels of the Liberal government announcing plans to introduce legislation legalizing marijuana in the spring of next year.
The event was moved from the Vancouver Art Gallery this year, but protesters still gathered outside the old location, saying that’s where they will get maximum exposure.
The City issued a statement saying the protest is unsanctioned and unlicensed, but it recognizes the public’s right to peaceful assembly and lawful protest.
“This is an act of civil disobedience,” organizer Jodie Emery said. “This is 50,000 people coming together and breaking the law and saying we shouldn’t be criminals, and we have the right to do that.”
WATCH: Vancouver’s 4/20 rally
Last year, about 64 people were treated at the hospital following last year’s 4/20 rally. About 25 were treated at this year’s event, with 10 people transported to hospital.
Police also dealt with about 20 people with suspected gang affiliations.
Vancouver Park Board Chair Sarah Kirby-Yung said the board does not believe Sunset Beach is a suitable place for such an event.
“Our parks are for everybody and we have a non-smoking bylaw in parks,” she said. “It just really started right there. We don’t think it’s a great location from a safety perspective and we wouldn’t encourage this event on any level because of the non-smoking bylaw.”
She said there has been some confusion around how much the organizers of the 4/20 protest are paying for the event.
“The organizers would say, for example, they’re covering costs, they’re not,” said Kirby-Yung. “They’re paying only a fraction of those event costs.”
She said they are not paying the costs of first responders on site and are only paying for 40 of the 120 porta-potties on site.
The city spent more than $92,000 last year on safety and cleanup, including $52,000 on additional police officers.
“Somebody needs to call a spade a spade and say what this event is,” said Kirby-Yung. “This is not a protest, this is now a commercial venture and a festival.”
Park Board staff will be out to clean up Sunset Beach starting at 5:30 a.m. Thursday.
“We do not want to see this here again at Sunset Beach,” Kirby-Yung said.
-With files from The Canadian Press