‘Compassion needed’: Tensions flare on Hastings Street over tent city clearing

Click to play video: 'Tensions flare during DTES tent city removal'
Tensions flare during DTES tent city removal
WATCH: The City of Vancouver has started to remove tents from the sidewalks of the downtown eastside, but some people are refusing to go. Global News Morning speaks with Sarah Blyth of the Overdose Prevention Society about clearing the homeless camp, and alternatives to housing the homeless. – Aug 10, 2022

Chaos erupted on the Downtown Eastside Tuesday afternoon as City of Vancouver staff started the process of clearing tents and structures from the sidewalk on Hastings Street.

Sarah Blyth with the Overdose Prevention Society told Global News that the morning started off calm with city workers and firefighters working together to try and decrease the clutter.

Community members were also there, talking to the residents about housing and clearing out garbage.

However, Blyth said bringing in Vancouver police can cause a lot of hostility as residents of the Downtown Eastside do not trust the police.

Vancouver police said several officers were assaulted during the arrest of a man causing a disturbance at the Carnegie Centre.

The officers were already nearby due to the clearing of the tents on Hastings Street between Gore Avenue and Abbott Street.

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Officers were called by Carnegie Centre staff just before 3 p.m., who reported a man throwing computers and behaving erratically. As officers were taking him into custody, police said, the man resisted arrest and fought with the police. A large crowd gathered and became hostile and combative with the officers, police added.

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Several police officers were assaulted and multiple arrests were made, police said.

Click to play video: 'Chaos as City of Vancouver staff move in on East Hastings tent and structures'
Chaos as City of Vancouver staff move in on East Hastings tent and structures

Global News cameras captured a large crowd facing off with Vancouver police near the corner of Hastings Street and Main Street.

Some punches were thrown and projectiles were aimed at officers.

Blyth said more needs to be done to deal with this situation in a compassionate way.

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“We just need to make sure it’s safe for them and safe for the neighbourhood,” she added.

“I think we can do that without involving the police. The police just create chaos, unfortunately.”

Blyth said community members talking to people on the Downtown Eastside is the best way forward as there is more compassion between those groups.

The original fire order to remove the tents came from Vancouver Fire Rescue Chief Karen Fry on July 25.

However, BC Housing said in a statement that they “have been clear with the City of Vancouver and Vancouver Fire Rescue Services that, on short notice, we do not have access to large numbers of new spaces in Vancouver to accommodate the timing of the emergency order.”

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Work to continue clearing the tents and structures is expected to continue Wednesday.

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