Did Allen Garr run to Vision's defense against Downtown Eastside community activists?
In recent weeks eyebrows were raised around the offices at City Caucus Tower by the rightward editorial shift of long time left wing columnist Allen Garr. A few weeks ago he labeled those who propagate the idea that our home prices are being inflated by mainland Chinese buyers as "racist". Admittedly, this is less of a left/right viewpoint than an over-simplification of the reality of Vancouver's real estate market, but it was likely the first time that Garr and his arch-nemesis Sam Sullivan were singing off the same song sheet.
Then in a pair of recent columns Garr came out swinging – hard – on Downtown Eastside activists who descended on City Hall to interrupt meetings and voice their objections to a new development in their community. The columns in question were Pantages' foes need to check their heads (April 26), and Neighbourhood bully harms Downtown Eastside planning process (May 3rd). In them, Garr labels the group's leader Ivan Drury as a "thug" and a "notorious Downtown Eastside bully".
Setting aside for a moment the fact that Garr based both columns upon third party accounts – always risky when you're damning someone as a thug – why is he suddenly running to the defense of city council in the face of such attacks? When NPA councillor Kim Capri was hung in effigy on the front lawn of City Hall back in 2006 – a far more egregious and hateful act by poverty activists – we didn't hear a peep out of Garr.
Now, when his friends in Vision Vancouver are being criticized by those on the far left, Garr has chosen to go on the attack.
Our readers may recall a video clip we posted in December 2010 showing Vision councillors Jang and Reimer in a meeting with Jean Swanson and other DTES housing activists. During the meeting they spoke candidly about using the activists to "push" on the Provincial government, and to "pull back" at Vision's direction.
Contrast the way Vision were openly manipulating the people involved in DTES community planning, to the way they appear to be condeming them now through Garr. If it doesn't demonstrate the governing party's astonishing hubris, at least it proves that if you criticize Vision, they'll banish you.
Two weeks in a row, Allen Garr has written articles attacking Downtown Eastside community members who oppose the Pantages condo project slated for their neighbourhood. Harold Lavender, a board member of the Downtown Eastside Neighbourhood Council (DNC), has called Garr’s recent writings “libelous and horrible articles” filled with “scurrilous attacks.” One would imagine that before publishing something so inflammatory, the veteran columnist would make sure he was on solid ground. Let us examine whether Garr did any investigating, or whether his words are indeed “scurrilous.”
Markle shreds Garr's account of the meetings, claiming they were based upon questionable testimony.
Allen Garr has penned three scurrilous articles against poor people’s movements in the DTES. His interest has been, unfortunately for a professional journalist, to bolster Vision Vancouver and its corporate developer backers. Garr created a counter-factual narrative around the Development Permit Board hearing for the Pantages condo project, despite not being present at the hearing.
Markle's counterpoint to Garr's columns makes for good reading, regardless of where you come down on the developments in question. My early impressions of Marc Williams’ development of 138 East Hastings, former home of the Pantages Theatre, is that it's an inventive project and compatible with the community's goals. But bringing change to a community which has fought it so long is going to be a painstaking process.
After Garr's attacks, what might be even more painstaking is healing the growing rift between Vision Vancouver and DTES activists.
- post by Mike