what are these shenanigans all about?
The Downtown Victoria Business Association (DVBA) has launched it’s fourth annual Kiss In The City photo contest, encouraging folks to submit pictures of themselves and their partner smooching in the city and upload them to their website. Sounds sweet, and if you win the contest, you’ll get a bunch of ritzy prizes. The spaces they are promoting these pictures to be taken in, as well as prizes they will be giving out, are exclusive and part of the gentrifying process of urban spaces.
And the disruption collective’s got a problem with that! see, there’s a whole ‘nother side to downtown that the DVBA would like to push under the rug – i mean, criminalize.
Gentrification is the social, economic, and cultural transformation of a predominantly low-income neighbourhood through the deliberate influx of upscale residential and commercial development. Encouraged by municipal development policies, economic incentives for investors, and the mythical pull of the creative city, urban land is purchased and developed at low cost for middle-class buyers.
Criminalize is the process by which behaviors and individuals are transformed into crime and criminals
why disrupt a kissing contest?
We want all people regardless of how much money they have in their pockets to be able to love and live and kiss anywhere they want in the city. Not just the privileged few with stacked chequing accounts and property. We believe that the kissing contest shows only a very exclusive side of the folks who inhabit our city and that it renders invisible the folks the DVBA wants to make disappear through criminalization of poverty (by laws against sitting, setting your things down, pan handling which are enforced through social profiling).
Social Profiling– Two professionals meet at a street corner in downtown Victoria. They set their laptop cases down and begin to talk to each other. One of them leans against the wall of a building. Suddenly two police officers arrive and start yelling obscenities at them. They point out a no loitering sign in the window of a nearby restaurant and while one officer demands identification and issues trespassing tickets, the other confiscates their laptops as abandoned property and throws them in the trunk of a police cruiser.
Does that sound familiar? Of course not. This type of thing would never happen to people who look like consumers or property owners. If you read that paragraph again, replace “‘professionals”‘ with “‘homeless people.”‘ It makes much more sense now. –Gordon O’connor
And what are you proposing we do?
Allow Disruption to take a photo of you smooching either your partner(s), or another special someone, (or you can smooch one of us, this is ok too!) in front of your least favorite red circle private property sign. (Or not smooching, maybe doing something else creative – you decide!) We’ll supply the camera and a chalk board where you can write witty slogans like “WHO CAN KISS WHERE?” or “WHO IS ALLOWED TO LOVE HERE?”. Then, we’ll upload the photo’s to the contest website, and hopefully overwhelm the entries with photo’s disrupting their process!
so, DVBA, why are we targeting you?
You may have noticed the awful signs around the city telling people they cannot camp, trespass, loiter, or solicit. Distributed and promoted by the DVBA, this is a directed attack on a particular sector of the people who live in this city, allowing police to harass the street involved community. Led by chief of police, Jamie Graham, who has been found guilty of ‘discreditable misconduct’ as Vancouver’s Police Chief for his obstruction of RCMP investigations into police brutality and illegal confinement of Down Town East Side (DTES) residents, the VICPD are certainly unsavory characters. These thugs, in a report released in March 2011 by the Vancouver Island Public Interest Research Group (VIPIRG), have been shown to be involved in the incessant ticketing, harassment and treatment of people who are street-involved in Victoria. As a result, this community find themselves represented in the court system at a disproportionately high rate, sort of “clogging” the state’s nice punitive system. … yeah we know, kinda wants to make you puke a little in your mouth, but there’s more…
How does the DVBA fit into this, beyond the private property signs? Well, they are highly implicated (read: organizing with the City and VICPD) in the experience that poor folks, oops… we mean… “repeat offenders” have in the court system. The DVBA worked for years to establish a court outside of the regular court, which is now working as the Integrated Court.
This court serves to make available to the DVBA the manual labor of “criminal offenders” (poor folks) pushed through the Integrated court… communities at risk of disproportionately high ticketing from the violent VICPD because of the signs distributed by the DVBA. (The signs are what gives the VICPD the legal ‘right’ to harass folks outside businesses with the sign).
See a pattern, here?
Yep. The DVBA works with the police to criminalize poverty through signs, bylaws and a special court for folks living on the streets, which creates for themselves a pool of street-involved people who are forced to work for them– because folks who go through this court cannot PAY THE FINES and so they are forced into community service (indentured servitude?) for the DVBA.
Yeah, we know… this is fucked. This is so fucked.
So, DVBA, we really, really, REALLY want to fuck with your ritzy, gentrifying, photo contest that promotes and normalizes a class-stratified use of downtown space. You are the vehicle for a capitalist-centered use of downtown public space. This sucks. You dictate through your organizing who can use spaces when, and actively work to keep away folks who don’t have money to spend, but call the downtown space home nonetheless. This sucks.
Disruption’s comin’ at ya.
Check out a couple of these links for more info.: