Advocacy, education and outreach in support of Vancouver's public spaces

Democratic space is multi-use, publicly accessible space that can be used to organize large scale public gatherings such as protests, rallies and even festivals aimed at creating change.

Vancouver has a long and sordid history with democratic space and democratic action. During the 1930s and until the 1960s, most large gatherings were organized by labour organizations and were met with extreme police action. The mood in the city was so antithetical to democratic space that the fountain at the Vancouver Art Gallery was placed, or so the legend goes, to break up the continuity of the site to prevent large scale public gatherings.

In 1971, after an extremely violent police crackdown on the peaceful “Grasstown” sit-in was featured on the front page of the Vancouver Sun, city attitudes toward democratic gatherings began to change. Vancouver Police changed their operating procedures and events became something to “manage” rather than prevent.

Today, Vancouver is home to some of the largest protests and democratic gatherings in North America. From the Pride Parade with upwards of 600,000 participants, to the annual “4/20″ festival which takes over several blocks of downtown to protest marijuana laws, Vancouver is seen as a leader on democratic spaces.

Still, there is much to do. There is simply no suitable gathering space for large crowds, leading every large event to occupy street space. The Vancouver Public Space Network advocates for the creation and maintenance of multi-use public gathers spaces in order enable increased democratic gatherings to further our cities position as a leader on democratic action.

Grasstown Riot Vancouver Sun Photo