Organizers are calling it a street party, but it's also a protest.
Photograph by: Wayne Leidenfrost , PNG
Police, young families and revellers lounged in equal measure in East Vancouver's Grandview Park by the time a street party-cum-protest kicked off Friday night.
The anonymous group behind the "Commercial Drive Street Party 2" at did not secure a permit to host the event, but to be fair, that was kind of the point.
The organizers "take issue with the fact that the Vancouver Police Department and the City of Vancouver don’t allow people to host public events without granted permission,” according to their open invite to the party on Facebook.
By Friday evening, more than 5,500 people responded to the invite, saying they planned to attend the unsanctioned bash.
“Although the streets are supposedly ‘public’ spaces, accessible to all, the city continues to insist that we must pay to use it,” the Facebook post reads.
“We do not want to live somewhere where we can’t use public space. We do not need a license to dance, to listen to music, to gather freely.”
By the time the party's delayed start rolled around, the partiers numbered in the dozens. A single mobile stereo pumped out music for scattered groups eating dinner on blankets.
Vancouver Police Department officers rode through the park on bicycles chatting with some and asking others to pour out their alcoholic beverages.
In the lead-up to the party, police sent letters to local residents warning them in advance of the planned party.
“We have reached out to the organizers on numerous occasions, but they have refused to make contact with us,” read the letter.
“The Vancouver Police Department is currently developing plans to safely manage this event."
The department's concern stemmed from an unsanctioned block party May 1 that started quietly, then shut down several blocks of Commercial Drive until the early morning hours. One person was stabbed during the party, say police, while some attendees damaged property, peed on lawns and left behind garbage after the party.
In the hours before the party, many shopkeepers and area residents felt mixed about Friday's looming bash.
Estrella Lucero, a picture framer who works directly across the street from the park, said she was not too worried.
"I'm for people being able to go out there freely," she said, adding that she was not in favour of a lengthy bureaucratic process that involved paperwork and fees just to have a party.
"But at the same time, it is so many people and police and the city should be notified ... so they can act and do whatever they need to do to keep things in check."
Dwight Rhodes, a longtime resident in the area, was sitting at the end of the bar at Biercraft about two hours before the party was set to kick off. He said he understood peoples' concerns that the party could get out of hand, but he was "not overly concerned.
"There's probably too much regulation and kind of smarmy over-concern about these things," he said.
"People want to be safe, but people also want their freedom," Rhodes said.
"Maybe we need to loosen up a little bit and learn how to have a little more fun."
Maria Hindmarch said she recalled receiving the police notice before the party.
"I think they should inform the police and get a damn permit," Hindmarch said. "I really do think that if you're going to advertise a party ... you've got to get a permit."
While party organizers deemed the May 1 event a success, saying it had a “joyful, communal atmosphere,” VPD Sgt. Randy Fincham said the gathering contained a “fairly large contingent of an anarchist group” that were hostile to police.
The VPD warned the public to stay away from Commercial Drive Friday.
By sundown, it appeared as though they had.
With files from John Mackie and Scott Brown.