“Save the Waldorf”? A letter to Change.org: By Gena Thompson

This letter was sent to change.org, an online website that hosts petitions and posted a petition to “Save the Waldorf.”

Hi Change.org,

I think some research might have been in order before posting a petition to Save the Waldorf.

Inside view of The Waldorf
Inside view of The Waldorf

The petition starter, “Tim”, calls the Waldorf a “cultural hub” and states that its loss will impact the Downtown Eastside neighbourhood. This is a co-optation of the anti-gentrification, anti-racist movements that have been in the neighbourhood for 50 years.

“Tim” also refers to the hotel’s location in the “middle of nowhere” (quotes his); what he means by that is that it is located amidst several Native housing projects. The clientele does not originate there.

The Downtown Eastside is a neighbourhood largely made up of poor, working class and First Nations people. Widespread drug use and violence against women are some of its more famous attributes. Some invisible attributes include close-knit, supportive community ties, passionate activism and an old-fashioned small town intimacy among low-income community members.

A quick Google search of “Downtown Eastside” a few weeks ago would have turned up stories of Native people protesting the Missing Women inquiry, which whitewashed the 15-year failure of the police to investigate hundreds of murders and disappearances of Native women. It would also turn up mention of the first legal safe drug injection facility in North America, which has saved the lives of hundreds of addicted people, while being fought every step of the way by government and business.

The Waldorf, on the other hand, is a playground for white hipsters. It was one of the first “cultural hubs” to open the door to development of myriad hip new restaurants and clubs that have swept through the hood in the past two years, reassuring white hipsters that the DTES is now safe for them to drop in, have a $30 meal, a $12 cocktail and a $3 doughnut, while outside, homeless people freeze on the sidewalk. Sometimes they take pictures.

It’s unfortunate that Change.org has unwittingly become a tool of this gentrification which endangers the most vulnerable residents of Vancouver in favour of entertainment of the most privileged.

I hope you will look into this and verify if “Save the Waldorf” is the kind of movement Change.org wants its name linked to.

Some reading material:

http://ccapvancouver.wordpress.com/

http://www.vandu.org/

http://rabble.ca/news/2012/02/moving-gentrification-vancouvers-downtown-eastside

In solidarity,

Gena Thompson

DTES resident

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