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Street Meet

Community group launches street vendors’ market


In response to police crackdowns on vending along East Hastings Street, a new weekend market allows the neighbourhood’s hucksters to legally sell their wares. Every Sunday between noon and 5 pm, Downtown Eastside vendors are now able to lay out blankets of reclaimed clothes, electronics, toys and trinkets, without fear of hefty fines.

Although the unit block of Hastings and Carrall is known for it’s buzzing second-hand marketplace, Megaphone reported earlier this year that Vancouver police have been ticketing all unlicensed street vendors in an effort to reduce drug dealing and shoplifting in the area. For vending without a permit, the fine can range from $170 to $550.

Sadie Rivett is a seamstress and one of many street vendors who regularly displays a collection of found goods outside the United We Can. Last year, she was slapped with a $170 ticket for selling CDs and homemade clothing on the sidewalk.

“I don’t understand, it’s not like I’m hurting anybody,” she says. For a few hours a week, the new market offers some much-needed legitimacy to a practice that many area residents use as a source of income.

Rivett still vends most days, but has grown wary of police. “I put less things out, and I’m constantly looking for cops,” Rivett says. “They don’t want you on the sidewalk and they don’t want you making money.”

“Targeting goes on here more than anywhere in the Lower Mainland,” explains Tami Starlight, representative of the Downtown Eastside Neighbourhood Council (DNC), the group that organizes the street market events in Pigeon Park. “Anywhere else you can have a sidewalk sale or a yard sale and you don’t have the cops showing up and saying, ‘Hey, you don’t have a vendor’s license’,” she adds.

Starlight says that even though there is an occasional “hot item” on the block, the majority of vendors like Rivett want to recycle used items found in alleys and dumpsters. “They’re just trying to eke out some type of financial existence within this capitalist freakshow we live in,” Starlight says.

The DNC launched its first weekly market on June 21 with the support of the city.

“The city has been pursuing a long-term site,” says Dana Walker, a social policy planner wiht hte city and project coordinator for the new Carrall St. markets. “We will continue to explore that option, but right now we just want to get something going for the summer.”

Presently limited to Pigeon Park, Walker says the Sunday market will soon be allowed to stretch down the street. “We’ll actually be taking over Carrall from Hastings to Cordova every Sunday.”

In the past, the major holdup has been to secure a sponsor to cover insurance and other fees. “We now have the support of the right departments,” Walker explains. “It looks like that’s not going to be a holdup anymore.”

Walker says the markets have been a success so far, and that the community is self-policing. “We’ve been really pleased,” he adds.

Since it launched, Rivett has attended the street market every week and says she appreciates the safe and festive atmosphere it creates. “It’s a good way for people in the community to meet each other and recycle,” Rivett says. “We love it. People can barely afford to eat and pay rent in this city, so it’s good to see people are making their own things.”

Although the Sunday street markets have been deemed a success thus far, Starlight says more can be done to protect vendors from ticketing. “Our goal is to not just have [the market] for five hours on a Sunday, but a whole weekend or all of Sunday,” Starlight says. “Perhaps even a permanent location eventually.”

Published July 2010.

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