Surrey Mounties arrested 23 protesters early Wednesday morning who barricaded themselves inside the 46-unit Nickerson Place modular housing building in Whalley to protest its closure to make way for a highrise condominium project by Bosa Properties.
“Surrey RCMP responded to a call for service at Nickerson Place for a protest that was taking place,” Corporal Joanie Sidhu told the Now-Leader. “Officers initially attended to keep the peace and to ensure the protest was lawful and safe. Officers intervened when the protest became unlawful when protesters entered the compound and building. Once inside the compound they set fires and barricaded doors, including fire doors, causing significant damage to the property. This put the residents of the building and the staff at risk. Twenty three individuals including one youth were arrested for break and enter and mischief.”
Members of Red Braid Alliance have accused city hall of waging war on the poor in Whalley.
Protesters dubbed this week’s six-hour occupation the “TD Takeover,” as the low-income housing is known as “TD mods” to Whalley’s street community.
Isabel Krupp, a spokeswoman for the group, said 250 income housing units the provincial government and the city are building “doesn’t by any stretch of the imagination excuse shutting down 46 units, especially during a COVID-19 crisis and an impending eviction crisis.”
“We have to keep organizing,” she told the Now-Leader on Wednesday. “One of the intentions behind the action was to expose the broken promises.”
She said she was arrested, with the others, for alleged mischief, trespassing and break-and enter at about 2:30 a.m.
“I was shocked, all of us, actually.”
She said protesters did not damage anything, but barricaded three doors. “The wing that we occupied at Nickerson Place, it was empty. There weren’t any residents or staff inside,” she said. “When the police stormed the building, they broke down every single door. They said that was part of their police strategy to ensure that there was nobody hiding, right.
“There was no risk or danger to any residents or staff,” Krupp said. “The wing that we occupied was empty.”
She said the only fire was a “sacred” fire out in the lot started by an Indigenous woman “from the neighbourhood” as part of a “peaceful ceremony.
“There was smudging as well.”
Submitted photo: Listen Chen
In June a public hearing on Bosa Properties’ proposal to build 1,200 luxury condominiums in Whalley at the site became a lightning rod for commentary on a class struggle between haves and have-nots in Surrey’s city centre.
The proposal, for 13584-104 Avenue and 13550-105 Avenue, includes three high‐rise buildings and two low‐rise buildings, with the first phase consisting of a 40‐storey residential tower with commercial space on the ground floor. The developer wants to build on a lot where low-income tenants of Nickerson Place modular housing were living.
Nikerson Place, run by Lookout Housing and Health Society, provided tenants with rent set at $375 per month for two years.
Krupp said more than a dozen people were evicted and the place has been boarded up.
Also in June a tent city sprung up in downtown Whalley following a rally against “gentrification” there. It was dubbed “Whalley World Resort, Tent City 2,” and was pitched at 10716 135A St. in a city-owned lot beside a bottle depot.
Rob Costanzo, Surrey’s general manager of corporate services, told the Now-Leader by email at the time that the City of Surrey was “dealing with an illegal encampment” and was “concerned with the lack of physical distancing taking place on this site and the inherent risk it poses to public health during the COVID19 pandemic.
“Of the roughly 14 tents at this site, staff estimate that approximately one third of the individuals are homeless,” he said. “The City is working with BC Housing and our social services partners to find housing and shelter for these individuals.”
The encampment was dismantled after several days.