Pidgin protest quieting down

Daily protests outside a chic restaurant in the Downtown Eastside continue, albeit with a fading presence.

The protests started in January but only one protester, UBC student Benjamin Smith, was outside of Pidgin in the 300-block of Carrall Street on Monday. Smith says he opposes the restaurant because he fears its the beginning of gentrification in the neighbourhood that will drive out low-income residents.

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Once this takes hold it will change the whole block, Smith said. I honestly believe that stopping one high-end restaurant can stop the domino effect.

The protests most adamant opposition has perhaps come from Andy Patton, editor of the Gastown Gazette, an online neighbourhood newspaper. On May 2, Patton published an editorial entitled Mayor Robertson: Soon There Will Be Blood that received national attention on CBC TV.

I think [the headline] correctly characterizes the situation right now, Patton said. People are getting agitated, the summer is coming and the people of Gastown the silent majority have had enough.

Patton accused the Carnegie Community Centre Association (CCAP), a group that focuses on housing, income, and land issues according to their website, of organizing the protests. He also criticized Mayor Gregor Robertson for his response to the protests. On May 3, Robertson released a statement saying that aggressively targeting a restaurant is unacceptable, and a significant distraction from urgent issues such as homelessness, affordable housing and chronic poverty receiving full attention in the ongoing provincial election campaign.

The mayors statement was lukewarm at best, Patton said. He should be eating there every night, there needs to be some

leadership.

Smith denied the Carnegie association is solely responsible for the protests, but notes its involved.

Pidgin co-owner Brandon Grossutti said that business has slowed down because of the protests, but not enough to warrant closing down.

I think certain people have avoided [Pidgin], Grossutti said, because they just want to sit down and eat without having to make a political statement [Pidgin] will be fine though, [the protesters] can do this all day for as long as they want, were not going

anywhere.

Patton was confident that the protests would not cease until the citys funding for the CCAP dries up. He also feels the Vancouver Police Department is being timid with the protesters.

drew_mclachlan@hotmail.com

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