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Hogan’s Alley Society says Vancouver’s viaducts ‘a symbol of oppression of the Black community’

Construction of Georgia viaduct led to erasure of Hogan’s Alley
WATCH: Dr. June Francis from the Hogan's Alley Society says the Georgia and Dunsmuir viaducts led to the destruction of Vancouver's vibrant Black community in the early 1970s. Peaceful demonstrations on the viaducts over the weekend brought attention to the city's promise to restore a block of land to be stewarded by the Black community.

Vancouver’s Georgia and Dusmuir viaducts have been a fixture of the Vancouver skyline for years.

But a peaceful protest last weekend has shone a new light on the roadways and their history.

An area known as Hogan’s Alley, a historically Black neighbourhood in Vancouver, was demolished to make way for the construction of the viaducts in the the early 1970s.

Dr. June Francis from the Hogan’s Alley Society told Global News the viaducts led to the destruction of Vancouver’s vibrant Black community.

“It’s a monument to the displacement and the oppression of the Black community,” Francis said.

She described the area as a thriving community with a church congregation of almost 800 people.

“It was erased by the actions of the city.”

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Community organizer expresses disappointment with VPD, city response to Vancouver viaduct demonstration
Community organizer expresses disappointment with VPD, city response to Vancouver viaduct demonstration

With the announcement of the removal of the viaducts, the City of Vancouver has committed to build a Black Cultural Centre on the former site of Hogan’s Alley.

But Francis said they have been stalling now for two years.

“I expect the city, actually, to come out with a definitive statement to these young people to say ‘we believe in your future and here is our response to you’,” she said.

READ MORE: 7 arrested as Vancouver police clear Black Lives Matter protesters off viaducts

Vancouver police moved in Monday morning to clear about 90 protesters off the viaducts.

Police confirmed they arrested seven who refused to leave.

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“For the most part, protesters were cooperative with VPD officers this morning and cleared the roadway when asked,” Sgt. Aaron Roed, with the VPD said in a statement Monday.

“The arrests were made after protesters ignored multiple requests and warnings from police.”

Francis said she was shocked the city’s first response to the protest was to send in the police.

“I am completely shocked, actually, that these young people who were protesting all weekend, quite peacefully, exercising their civil rights to protest and to be heard, that their first response was from the police,” she said.

“They made the demands that I thought the police would respond to and that the city would respond to. Instead they used force, they sent in the police and criminalized it by telling these young people blocking a highway is a criminal offence and then they found occasion to arrest seven of them.”

Vancouver viaduct anti-racism demonstrators arrested for refusing to leave
Vancouver viaduct anti-racism demonstrators arrested for refusing to leave

The protesters also want the city to stop police checks, but Francis said Vancouver Mayor Kennedy Stewart didn’t do enough when he called on the province to conduct a comprehensive review of policing.

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“Just stopping police checks is a demand that could have happened right away to show good faith [and] commitment to the future,” Francis said.

READ MORE: Vancouver mayor calls on province for comprehensive review on policing

She is now calling on all Vancouverites to contact the city to make good on their promise of returning Hogan’s Alley to the community.

“You can support us and call on the police to stop police checks today.”

Uncovering the history of Black Vancouverites in Hogan’s Alley
Uncovering the history of Black Vancouverites in Hogan’s Alley

— with files from Sarah MacDonald