Vancouver, Canada’s Gastown neighborhood has a reputation as the wild child of the lower mainland. For decades, it has been the site of numerous civil protests and riots that have captivated the city.
Back in the ’70s, this are was a hub for “counterculture” and was the mecca for British Columbia’s hippie population. After a crackdown on drug use in Vancouver, locals congregated for a Saturday night sit-in protest called the Grasstown Smoke-In. Eyewitness accounts report grand tales of a 10-foot long blunt, and the event attracted a massive crowd to Maple Tree Square in the heart of Gastown.
Despite the peaceful intentions of the protest, a fully armed RCMP riot squad arrived to counter the protest, and it quickly dissolved into violence. The result was 12 civilians hospitalized and 38 criminally charged. The legacy of the Grasstown Smoke-In remains a prominent part of Gastown’s memory, both as part of the city’s history of marijuana and substance-based activism, and as a rare example of police violence.
“Abbott & Cordova, 7 August 1971” was first installed in the former Woodward’s department store building in 2009, 38 years after the protest occurred. Artist Stan Douglas depicts a moment of chaos: protestors running from mounted police, while others are shoved into police vans. The mural, which watches over the inner courtyard of the gutted department store, stands as a reminder of Gastown’s infamous history.
Know Before You Go
Viewing the mural is free.