Despite multiple pleas from health officials this week to keep Halloween gatherings small, huge crowds of people packed Vancouver’s Granville strip on Saturday night.
Multiple videos posted to social media showed people dancing and celebrating on the street, many of them not wearing masks.
Around 1 a.m., one Vancouver police officer posted to Twitter that he had been “swarmed by an angry crowd” after a “street party broke out,” adding he had to call a “Code 3 for cover.”
In an email, Const. Jason Doucette said Vancouver police had extra officers deployed in the Granville Entertainment District, and that large crowds formed along Granville Street between Robson and Nelson streets.
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“The number of partiers along the GED grew larger than expected during a pandemic, so additional resources were brought in from around the city to assist in creating a safer environment for the public and our officers,” Doucette said.
“Our response has to be reasonable and proportionate to what we’re faced with at the time. Due to a number of factors on Halloween night, physically attempting to disperse the alcohol-fueled crowd or issue tickets weren’t appropriate.”
Doucette added that there were ” a number” of occasions where police were met with hostility from the crowd.
Vancouver Police Chief Adam Palmer later took to Twitter to applaud his officers for their work on an “extremely busy” Halloween, during which they responded to 800 calls.
“Not possible to be the #MaskPolice also,” wrote Palmer.
The crowds came as B.C. faces steadily rising numbers of new COVID-19 cases.
They also follow recent public health orders requiring bars and restaurants to cease liquor service at 10 p.m., and limiting gatherings in private homes to six visitors.
It’s not the first time the Granville strip has been the subject of controversy during the pandemic.
During the summer, the area drew attention as young revellers packed the area in the wake of provincial measures seeking to limit large groups in indoor settings.