An Anita Place Tent City resident barricaded himself inside his wooden shelter Sunday morning, refusing to allow entrance to the fire department, police or bylaws who are at the camp enforcing safety regulations imposed by a court order.
Dwayne Martin, one of the original camp residents, was adamant that nobody was going to enter his “house”.
“I am going to fight,” he said about keeping his one source of heat, a propane tank with a propane heater.
“I am fighting to stay in a rat-infested area. This is ridiculous. And they want to take my only source of heat,” he added as he waited for officials to reach his door.
A barricade was set up around the camp on Saturday and residents are being asked for identification to be put on a list for housing.
Electricity to the camp and heat to its warming tent were cut off Friday, when it snowed, and remained so on Saturday, while heat sources were removed.
On Friday, when the fire department arrived at the site, the electrical service panel for the camp was exposed to the elements and the electrical connections were tampered with, creating a significant life safety risk, according to the city.
In addition to the electrical panel tampering, the fire department noticed the smell of propane in the area.
“Today they are continuing what they started yesterday which is doing inspections tent to tent and taking away anything they say is violating the fire order,” said Ivan Drury with Alliance Against Displacement, that organizes the camp on 223rd Street in Maple Ridge.
“They’ve issued an additional inspection order saying that they are going return tomorrow again between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. and do another inspection of all of the tents. It’s feeling like a harassment of people’s personal spaces,” he said.
It’s very tense. An RCMP sargeant is trying to negotiate with Dwayne through the door and Dwayne said “I’m not leaving my home alive”— Against Displacement (@stopdisplacemnt) February 24, 2019
Yesterday there were four structures with locks on the doors that fire, police and city officials were unable to enter.
By 11 a.m. on Sunday officials were able to enter three of those structures, with Martin’s shelter being the last hold-out.
“Dwayne is saying he is not consenting to a search of his property, of his home, or for them to seize the only means he has to be warm inside this place,” said Drury.
“This is a person who has been living at the camp for two years where the only interactions he’s had with fire departments and police in those two years have been them telling him what he has to get rid of in order to meet their orders that feel completely arbitrary. And they offer him nothing in return in order to make himself warm and dry,” he added.
I swear to god I’m afraid of what’s going to happen. They are pushing Dwayne past his limit. He keeps saying “I’m so tired” and they won’t shift. They’re being stubborn and intransigent.— Against Displacement (@stopdisplacemnt) February 24, 2019
The incident lasted about three hours, resulting in the arrest of five members of the Alliance Against Displacement, including Drury, and Martin, the only camp resident to be taken into custody.
Listen Chen and two others who were arrested had chained themselves to a ladder outside of Martin’s door as fire officials and police attempted to take down the barricade.
The police are prying apart wood intertwined with the arms of the 3 blocking Dwayne’s door pic.twitter.com/kOOECzbMZl— Against Displacement (@stopdisplacemnt) February 24, 2019
Tweets from the organization said that the situation was tense and that they were afraid of what was going to happen.
Camp supporter Chris Bossley watched the events unfold on the outside of the police barricade.
“This has been an extremely disturbing day,” said Bossley.
“It’s surreal. I cannot believe that this sort of operation is taking place in the sleepy town of Maple Ridge. We have police from detachments all over the Lower Mainland for a bunch of homeless people. I mean, it’s ludicrous,” she added.
Lenee Son, organizer with Alliance Against Displacement, said the arrests were a show of force by the police.
“Instead of de-escalating the situation, the police used force to enter and break into the home of a resident. This was completely uncalled for and a show of militarization by the police,” she said, adding that it was without his consent and against the court order.
She said the Alliance is calling on B.C. Housing to purchase the new condo building that is under construction across the street from the camp in order to house Anita Place residents.
A city press release Sunday afternoon said that additional propane tanks, fuel cans, patio heaters and a gas powered generator were located during the inspections and that they were removed from the site and disposed of.
It also said that the Maple Ridge Fire Department was unable to gain entry to a wooden structure and reported a violation of the court order to the RCMP, who dealt with the situation.
“The city greatly appreciated the support of the RCMP today and professionalism that they demonstrated in the performance of their duties,” said Mayor Mike Morden.
Inspections of tents and structures on the site will continue on Monday. The work will include debris scattered around the site, the proximity of tents and structures to the fence, and to each other, in order to bring the site in compliance with the court order.