Homeless activists, counter protesters, community safety officers, and RCMP gathered in Haney-Nokai Park on a hot Tuesday afternoon in Maple Ridge.
Maple Ridge Resistance posted fliers around the city saying they would be setting up a model tent city in the park.
Organizers and volunteers spent Saturday making banners in the parking lot of the KFC on Lougheed Highway.
The mood was tense as the protest began, with insults being hurled back and forth between the activists, and the counter protesters.
After a speech by organizer Ivan Drury, which compared counter-protesters to the Ku-Klux Klan, and made derogatory references to community safety officers, the protest turned into a march.
A group of about 20 participants made their way east on Brown Avenue, north on 224 Street, and east on Dewdney Trunk Road.
Drury lead chants of: ‘Homes not jails, Homes not cops,’ as well as, ‘No more, drug war’, and ‘Power in unity, safety in numbers,’ as the group made their way to the Memorial Peace Park gazebo.
On route, some car drivers honked in support, while others jeered.
A group of about a dozen Community Safety Officers and bylaw officers made a barricade with pick-up trucks in front of city hall.
A short break was taken when the activists arrived at the gazebo, as volunteers brought in water and food, and others zip tied the banners to the railings.
A tent was placed on the flooring too, as protesters planned to spend the night at the site.
After setting up, the first in a series of people to speak was Scott Miller.
He talked about being with the air cadets growing up in Maple Ridge.
“I had my pilots licence at 15, and was the cream of the crop of Maple Ridge youth,” he said.
A crippling stroke lead to a downward spiral, which saw him become brain damaged, legally blind, and end up homeless.
“People that are addicted and homeless need support,” he said.
Drury said the model tent city will commemorate the power in unity and safety in numbers that low income people expressed at Anita Place Tent City.
“A model tent city will show that three years after opening some housing the conditions that made a tent city necessary have only gotten worse.
“A model tent city will call for immediate government action.”
Maple Ridge Resistance is calling for homes for all, no evictions, a stop to deaths from drug poisoning, health care discrimination, and mistreatment from law enforcement and bylaw officers.
“The model tent city will be a place to stay for one night; a place free of police violence; a place protected against vigilante attacks; a place to access health care and support against death by drug poisoning,” Drury said.
“In the model tent city we practice the principle of: safety in numbers, and power in unity.”
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