Save Small Business BC 

April 2nd 2021

 

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Photography & Text by George Douklias

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     On Good Friday, April 2nd of 2021 there was a peaceful protest and march that started at Vancouver BC’s City Hall at 2:00pm. It was an opportunity for many small businesses owners to express their concerns regarding the new Covid19 safety protocols that the province of BC had recently implemented on many business. These new protocols included, but weren't limited too; no more indoor dining at restaurants, bars or cafes as well as, no more indoor training at fitness centres. For many small business owners these new protocols represented the possible permanent closure of their businesses. I’d heard about the new rules earlier in the week and grew concerned. A short time later a friend on social media notified me about this upcoming protest and march. Though I’m not a business owner, and still fairly new to Vancouver, I decided to show my support the only way I knew how. I take pictures. I went to the event with the intent of making a visual record of whatever happened. And I’m so glad I did.

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At City Hall

 

     I arrived a few minutes early to take in the scene. I witnessed friendly interactions and saw many creative signs that protesters had made. Some of the protesters held their signs in view of  near by 12th Ave so that the passing motorists could show their support by honking their horns. There was people of all ages there. And together represented many cultures, genres, and lifestyles. As 2:00 pm grew closer it got closer I looked around and estimated that there was roughly nine hundred protesters attending the event. When the first round of speeches started all the attendees gathered in closely as the guest speakers took turns with the megaphone. They spoke of the costs incurred on them as they complied with rules over the last 12 months, lowering their capacity of patrons, setting up plexiglass and some even having to close their businesses for good as a result of it all. They spoke of having to lay off employees and not being able to hire them back due to the former employee's new addiction’s to the CERB (Canadian Employment Recovery Benefit). They also spoke of the need for unity and encouraged us to not let politics divide us and cautioned us to be considerate when using social media apps. They also expressed the fears that many other small businesses owners (who were not present) currently have; the fear of speaking up about their concerns, the fear of being judged & shamed for expressing opinions, and above all the fear of their businesses going under. As they took turns speaking the crowd grew closer and tighter, and hung on every word. They cheered & shouted their support. And at times the crowd would chant “ENOUGH IS ENOUGH! ENOUGH IS ENOUGH!”. The first round of speakers at City Hall clearly had their fingers on the pulse of this time were living through, and appeared to successfully represent the built up frustrations that the protest attendees had been harbouring.

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The March

 

     The march began by heading north on Cambie street. I stayed towards the front so that I could continue photographing. I saw people screaming into megaphones, others shouting with their fists in the air, and some were banging on pots and pans as a way of expressing their solidarity with the struggling restaurant industry. Then after crossing the Cambie Street Bridge we hung a left in Granville street and it was there that I noticed the unity that had been formed within the group of marchers. They, or perhaps I should say ‘we’ were not individuals walking in the same direction anymore, but rather one body marching towards a unified goal, to save small businesses. It was there on Granville street where I heard the true volume of the procession as our marching sounds echoed off the towering buildings around us. And it was there on Granville street where I saw people taking turns leading the march and sharing the use of the megaphone. And it was there while marching on Granville street when I (for the first time after a year and a half  of living in Vancouver) experienced the unique and powerful spirit of this city.  And it was there on Granville street that afternoon, during that march that I finally became a proud citizen of Vancouver.

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End of the March

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Second Round of Speakers

     

     The march ended in Yaletown, at the north shore of False Creek, where Davie street & Marinaside Crescent meet at a roundabout. We all gathered there and listened to another group of guest speakers. Only this time their stories were personal.

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    There was a young man who spoke of his childhood illness, and how his mother cared for him in the hospital while he was on the brink of death. She did that while struggling to build her dream of owning and operating a dance studio. And she succeeded. He then told us that after 18 years of operating the Covid 19 restrictions placed on the studio meant that it was on the verge of closing. He continued on to express that he owed it to his mother to keep the studio running no matter the cost.

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    Another guest speaker was a lovely woman named Rebecca. A mother of four. She told us of her grandparents in an old age home that she hasn’t seen in over a year, that she lost her mother in law to cancer in August of 2020, that she has a son who’s labeled as high risk due to cystic fibrosis, that several of her family members are currently suffering with mental health issues, and how she’d just learned her restaurant in Kitsilano is being forced to close due to the new provincial protocols. All the while over the last twelve months she’s had to pay full price for her permits and licenses while her restaurant’s capacity and hours have been cut in half. She then proceeded to point out the news media’s shameful promotion of death and fear while none of them were promoting nutrition & exercise or ways to build a healthy immune system. She then expressed her decision to be defiant and invited us all to her restaurant because it will remaining open despite the provincial protocols. She finished her speech by encouraging other business owners to do the same. She drew a lot of applause and shouts of support from the crowd. 

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     The other guest speakers spoke in a similar manner. They told us about having complied with many costs and constraints over the last 12 months. Always accepting the contradictory regulations placed on their businesses. Regulations that aren't supported by any data. We also heard of the severity of their financial situations and how a forced province wide closure will most likely mean the end of their businesses.

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    End of the Protest

     

     When it was all over and people started to disperse I was left with many mixed feelings. Over the previous winter I'd been hoping to experience a great summer in Vancouver, the best summer I’ve had in a long time, but I’m afraid it’ll be a summer of uncertainty and struggle. On one hand, I felt so proud to be a new resident of this amazing city, but as I walked away from the roundabout I carried with me a feeling of concern. Concern for the well being of all these inspiring people. I’m so glad that I attended this protest. I’ve was inspired beyond my expectation. And I truly hope that my photos can help in some way. But I know that I didn’t need to hear all these people talking about their dyer situations just to be inspired by them. I'm sure that if I’d met them in any other situation, like at the jazz clubs that Vancouver is know for, or at one of those amazing Vancouver street parties that I’ve only ever heard about, or as a simple patron in one of their business, I’m certain that I would’ve been just as inspired by them there as I was on that Good Friday of 2021. These people carry within them the spirit of the city. And though I’m very glad to have witnessed the spirit come alive that day, I would have much rather experienced it during any other circumstance.  Stay strong Vancouver.

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The End