Written by David Malmo-Levine for Cannabis Culture.
The Gastown Riot – or Grasstown Riot – of August 7, 1971, was the first major battle for drug peace in Canada. There were earlier “smoke-ins”, to be sure, but this was the first confrontation between protesters and police. Despite the brutality of the police, they lost this battle.
Today, we as a society are failing to remember the important things about what happened that day and in the days before and after.
For example, there’s a massive photo montage of police and protesters on display in the atrium of the new Woodwards building that was meant to accurately re-create the events of that evening. But the photo recreation leaves the viewer unsure as to where the aggression originated. Who started the riot in the first place?
Actual photos from that night – posted to the Vancouver Sun’s website – leave no doubt in the viewer’s mind that it was the police – charging into a peaceful rally on horseback or clips from the CBC archives showing police attacking with batons – that would lead one to believe that it was the police that were the aggressor. I wonder why those who decided to create the new photo-montage for the Woodwards building atrium decided to create ambiguity where none had existed before?