Homeless and underhoused people occupied Strathcona Elementary School demanding more housing amid the COVID-19 pandemic on Saturday, April 18. (Red Braid Alliance/Facebook)

Police arrest 14 people occupying empty Vancouver elementary school amid pandemic

Protesters were asking for housing during the COVID-19 crisis

Fourteen people have been arrested after they broke in and occupied a Vancouver elementary school Saturday (April 18), according to Vancouver police.

Protesters occupied Strathcona Elementary School demanding better housing amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Red Braid Alliance, a homeless advocacy group organizing the protest, dubbed the occupation the #StewartSquat and said it was part of the #Squat2Survive movement.

In a statement, the group said people took over a “vacant and shuttered building on the city-owned grounds of Lord Strathcona Elementary School.”

Police evicted the occupiers, a move Pivot Legal Society called “unconstitutional” amid a pandemic. The novel coronavirus has led to 81 deaths and 1,647 test positive cases in B.C., nearly half in Vancouver Coastal Health.

When asked about the occupation Sunday, Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth said “breaking into schools or occupying a school is, in my view, not a legitimate form of protest.”

In a news released issued Sunday, Vancouver police said they were met with “hostile and combative suspects” when they arrive at the scene after 6 p.m. Saturday. Sgt. Aaron Roed, said “at one point, threw wooden pallets and other large pieces of wood at officers.”

Police said they arrested 12 people just after 1 a.m. Sunday and arrested two more who fled to the roof at about 8:30 a.m.

The Vancouver police said they will pursue charges against the 14 arrestees.


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