“Now, more than ever, we need unity and solidarity.” DTES hunger strike campaign wraps up and looks ahead: By Jean Swanson
Over 125 Downtown Eastside residents packed into the Carnegie Theatre on May 26th for a celebration and feast in honour of (formerly) Homeless Dave’s hunger strike. Homeless Dave ended his 36-day hunger strike on April 28th. His three demands included getting the city to designate the old Main Street police station for social housing and a healing centre, getting the city to buy the Pantages site for 100% social housing, and creating a Social Justice Zone in the DTES. The purpose of the celebration was also to plan the next steps in the fight to save low-income people in the DTES from displacement and homelessness.
Grand Chief Stewart Phillip of the Union of BC Indian Chiefs attended the celebration to bring his support. “Now more than ever we need unity and solidarity,” he told the cheering crowd.
Homeless Dave said that the Pigdin Picket “put the important issue of gentrification and displacement on the map.” He noted that all the major community groups endorsed his three demands and pointed out that “over the next 3 months the fate of the DTES will be decided” by City Council.
Ivan Drury presented 5 demands of the low-income caucus of the Local Area Planning Committee and said petitioners would be going door to door to get support for them. As he read out each demand, people cheered and applauded. (See the 5 demands, right)
Closing the meeting, Stella August of the DTES Power of Women group thanked Homeless Dave for his Hunger Strike. The DTES is “the only place I know that I can be happy in,” she said, urging everyone in the room to “fight together and succeed.”
Another meeting will take place at the Carnegie Theatre on Sunday June 2 at 5 pm to plan next steps in the fight to save the DTES from gentrification.