'Anti-gentrification' vandals targeting more Vancouver restaurants

Save On Meats sign stolen

Downtown Eastside entrepreneur Mark Brand is the latest victim of anonymous activists claiming to represent an anti-gentrification movement in Vancouver.

The Save On Meats owner, who recently launched a program where people can purchase tokens to give to homeless people that can be redeemed for sandwiches, had the sandwich-board sign outside his Hastings Street restaurant stolen last week.

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On Wednesday, Brand posted a photo of a masked individual flashing the peace sign while posing with the missing sign.

"This sign is a real heart felt piece for the people who work with us," Brand wrote on his Instagram account at @eastvanbrand. "It makes them really sad that people would steal it and disrespect their living."

Self-described "merry mischief making anarchists" have claimed responsibility for the theft and claim it was meant as an act of class warfare in a post on anarchistnews.org.

"Entrepreneur voyeur, Mark Brand of Save On Meats, continues his crusade against the poor; masquerading as a savior with his paternalistic, segregating token program, and his multiple gentrifying businesses in the DTES-area," the post reads in part.

They also criticized Brand's charity meal program for being inadequately nutritious and failing to support good mental health.

Earlier this month, someone claiming to represent a group calling itself the Anti-Gentrification Front boasted on the same website about breaking the windows of Famoso Neapolitan Pizzeria. It is the third time in the last seven months the Commercial Drive restaurant's windows have been broken, costing roughly $17,000 in repair bills.

The people claiming responsibility for the vandalism say they are inspired by the protests outside Pidgin, a new upscale restaurant in the Downtown Eastside regularly picketed by anti-gentrification activists.

"They have been giving yuppies a taste of the class war for weeks now," they wrote, while also claiming to have broken the windows of a tractor and two City of Vancouver trucks. "We will not stop until we are free from class, the state and all others who oppress us."

The Famoso outlet is part of a restaurant franchise with five locations in B.C. and 13 more across Canada. Adrian Archambault, the spokesperson for the Grandview-Woodland Community Policing Centre, suggested this could be a possible reason it is being targeted over other local pizza restaurants.

"It seems like misguided activism," said Archambault, who had to install unbreakable windows at the non-profit organization's office after being repeatedly targeted a few years ago. "Starbucks had a similar thing when they first opened on the Drive although they've been left alone for a while now."

Archambault noted that the restaurant's more remote side windows on Kitchener Street were vandalized rather the front ones.

"It is sort of cowardly because they're doing it from the side or from the back and not on the street where people might witness it.'"

The identity of the owner of anarchistnews.org is hidden by domain privacy protection. Email requests for an interview were not returned by the Courier's print deadline. The blog postings are now being investigated by the Vancouver Police Department's Technology Crimes Unit.

afleming@vancourier.com

twitter.com/flematic

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