According to some participants, the event was coordinated with a callout from Greek anarchists for a month-long “Squat The World” campaign. This direct action is the latest manifestation of a long tradition in what is now considered the most unaffordable city in Canada.

“There’s so many unoccupied houses in Vancouver, it makes no sense to me that people aren’t living there when we have so many people living on the streets and not able to find affordable housing,” local resident Naomi Johnson told Ricochet.

On the opening day of the Vancouver housing squat, Friday, May 13, a community meal was held outside on the front yard. This was organized by local activists, who seemed to have received truckloads of donations from Discovery Organics, a local company. Following the meal, a documentary film of the 1990 Frances Street squat was screened.

The VPD responded to the Frances Street occupation with squads armed with assault rifles, blocking off surrounding neighbourhoods and giving the impression the people involved were armed and dangerous. Frances Street lasted between the months of February and November of 1990, and was barricaded for a few weeks until the VPD raided the half dozen “Vancouver Special” houses that had been occupied, one of which was an established women’s-only squat.

On William Street, the youth and families involved decided on a retreat because they did not wish to face a similar weeks-long battle of attrition with the overmilitarized police force and riot squad. The residents must be out by June 1.

Johnson, a master’s student at the University of British Columbia, told Ricochet she believes squats and people who seek refuge in empty buildings do not warrant such a response from police. “The whole idea you are going to treat someone like a criminal because they’re living in a house is not my idea of justice and I don’t think treating people like criminals for living in an unoccupied building is necessary or founded.”
As a harm reduction worker, Johnson explained that last year she had an interaction with a police officer who told her the police don’t believe in harm reduction. She hopes officers will get the proper training necessary to keep all communities.

Johnson contrasted the VPD’s behaviour with authorities in Belgium at a squat she witness several years ago. “If people are living in an unoccupied house, then the city keeps the light and water on for them as a courtesy.” She believes that people who require housing in this crisis here in Vancouver should not be treated as criminals.

As the squat began, neighbours and residents of the building approached the squatters in hopes of discussion. One of the Simon Fraser University undergraduate students involved described to Ricochet how someone questioned their presence quite bluntly by asking, “Are you squatting here?” The person then said that she was supportive of the attempt to fight off the renovictions taking place.

Later that day, a middle-aged woman asked the people involved if they were the ones renovicting the residents. The activists informed her that they were not the landowners or developers, and in response the neighbour stated, “Good, because fuck them [developers].”

Although this attempt at a squat was short-lived, the activists appear to be resolved to continue attempts to create autonomous spaces in so-called Vancouver.