A homeless man allegedly shouted racial slurs, exposed himself, spit on, and tried to urinate on a woman before her partner was captured on video spraying the man with a hose, according to the CEO of a Downtown Eastside non-profit who knows the woman.
Janice Abbott, CEO of Atira Women’s Resource Society, told Daily Hive in a phone interview that the video didn’t show the aggressive encounter that occurred beforehand.
“You don’t get a pass on racism and misogyny because you’re homeless,” Abbott said.
Abbott knows the woman because she’s an Atira employee, and heard the story from her directly. The woman did not want to speak herself, and Daily Hive as agreed not to identify her.
On Saturday morning, the woman asked the homeless man to leave the vestibule of the Railtown condo building because it’s her job on weekends to clean it.
Homeless people frequently sleep there because it’s sheltered and the unit beside it is vacant, Abbott said. The woman usually asks them to leave, and then cleans up the urine, feces, and needles they sometimes leave behind.
She’s a “tiny” black woman, about 5’1″, Abbott said, and the homeless residents are often abusive towards her before they get up and leave.
On Saturday, she asked the homeless man in the video to move, but he “basically told her to fuck off,” Abbott said. The woman cleaned other areas of the building for about an hour before going back to ask him to leave once again.
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At that point, the man called her the N-word, exposed himself, and tried to urinate on her, but ended up urinating on his possessions, Abbott said.
Before she left, the man also allegedly spit on her.
That’s when the woman’s partner brought out a hose and sprayed the man, as captured on video by neighbour Mike Chatwin.
This is how the building manager of The Edge in Railtown is dealing with the homeless issue. Unacceptable. Excuse my language in the video, I was in shock. @CBCVancouver @CTVVancouver @GlobalBC #pandemic #coronavirus #COVID19 pic.twitter.com/edIW5usH5w
— Mike Chatwin (@mike_chatwin) March 28, 2020
“It’s an awful situation,” Abbott said. “We should have enough homes for people so they don’t urinate and defecate in vestibules. That’s not okay.”
But, she continued, there also needs to be a discussion about anti-black racism and the degrading behaviour the woman has to endure on a weekly basis.
Activist Stephanie Allen weighed in on Twitter about what the incident means, saying, “Black people should accept being spit/peed on … and if they act in self defence, people cry for them to be arrested.”
It’s a good thing for Black people in Van/🇨🇦 to get a reality check on the extent to which anti-Black racism is alive & well here. Black people should accept being spit/peed on, sexually assaulted, & if they act in self defence, ppl cry for them to be arrested, fired & whipped.
— stephanie allen (@BuiltJustice) March 29, 2020
In a phone interview with Daily Hive, Allen said she didn’t like the “lynch mob” that formed online calling for the woman’s partner to be fired or arrested.
“There was really no empathy for the black woman trying to do her job,” Allen said, adding the incident is “very consistent with the historical record of how black people are treated” in Canada.
Some people have asked online why the woman’s partner didn’t call police first before using the hose, and Allen explained that police presence can be a “recipe for disaster” for both black people and homeless people.
Toward’s the end of Chatwin’s video, he can be heard yelling at the woman’s partner to stop. After that, he called police.
Four officers arrived and talked to both men separately, according to Chatwin. Officers told him the homeless man was uncooperative and eventually left the area.
Cpl. Tania Visintin, media relations officer for the Vancouver Police Department, told Daily Hive Saturday that the investigation is ongoing.
Daily Hive has reached out to the property management company that looks after the condo building where the incident took place, but has not yet heard back.