With just a few months until the event, city officials are still trying to decide who needs to respond to the annual Apr. 20 cannabis event organizers’ plans to move the protest from the Vancouver Art Gallery to Sunset Beach.
A letter from mayor Gregor Robertson to Vancouver Park Board chair Sarah Kirby-Yung said that her publicly announced problems with the unsanctioned event’s move to the beach (where smoking is banned) would have to be taken up with organizers and not his office.
Robertson’s letter said event organizers were encouraged to find a new location for 2016’s protest to minimize disruption to downtown, and, while 4/20 made their intentions clear to the city that they planned to move to Sunset Beach, the event is still unsanctioned.
“If the park board has further concerns about the protest, I would encourage you to meet with the organizers directly,” Robertson wrote.
Kirby-Yung responded to the letter, saying that Robertson and the city are passing the buck.
“The city has allowed this event to grow into what it is and being an organized festival, it is a lot more than just a protest,” said Kirby-Yung. “To say, you know, ‘hey park board, you talk to the organizers and you deal with it,’ I don’t think is showing a great amount of leadership.”
Robertson also said in his letter that the change in venue would require fewer city resources, but Kirby-Yung, in a series of tweets, called the mayor’s statement into question.
“What about 4/20 organizers expecting double attendance?” She wrote, saying she was disappointed with the mayor’s response.
There were around 20,000 attendees at last year’s event.
Vancouver police chief Adam Palmer said he wasn’t sure the size of the police presence at this year’s event, but said the protest needed to move, and that it was too disruptive to traffic at the art gallery.
“I understand why the park board’s concerned. I understand why people don’t want these things in their backyard,” said Palmer. “But quite frankly, I think that the location down at the Vancouver Art Galley was not the best location for it.”
Kirby-Yung said she’s primarily concerned with public safety and that the mayor’s office should be included in these discussions.
“I’m a bit confused about why the mayor is saying we should just talk to the organizers when the city clearly has a role to play here,” she said.