Rally condemning DULF arrests, raids takes place in Vancouver

More than a hundred people rallied in Vancouver on Friday in support of the Drug User Liberation Front, condemning police raids of their office last week, and the arrest of DULF’s founders. Monika Gul reports.

A rally that took place in Vancouver Friday called out the recent arrests of the founders of the Drug User Liberation Front (DULF) and associated raids.

The rally began with a march at 12:30 p.m. in the area of Main and Hastings streets, with the crowd making its way to Victory Square.

“The drug war has got to end,” one speaker said from Victory Square Friday.

Organizers say drug users, Downtown Eastside residents, and allies took part in the event.

Garth Mullins, an advocate and host of the Crackdown Podcast, was among those speaking at Victory Square during the rally. He called out what he says is a “moral panic” around drug use and safe supply.

“All the governments and all the politicians seem to be coming after harm reduction, and so we have to stand up and say, ‘Harm reduction saves lives. Safe supply saves lives. Decriminalization is good for us.’ And now all these things are getting reversed or taken apart,” he explained.

Former Vancouver city councillor Jean Swanson also spoke at the rally, saying a recent death review panel from the BC Coroners Service has explicitly called for programs like those offered by DULF.

“A bunch of medical health officers, a representative from Children and Youth, a rep from the First Nations Health Authority, and even a cop from Abbotsford recommends that the government do what Jeremy (Kalicum) and Eris (Nyx) face life in prison for doing,” she said. “Every bit of ammo that any politician would need to justify the compassion model of safer supply is in this report. 225,000 British Columbians who use drugs risk death at any time if no action is taken.”

DJ Larkin, executive director of the Canadian Drug Policy Coalition, called the findings of the report “robust and scathing.”

“That was a panel that came together or medial experts, even a policing member, who are really deep in the evidence,” Larkin said.

The demonstration came after Vancouver police officers announced on Oct. 26 that they had raided the DULF offices, and that the department “executed multiple search warrants as part of an ongoing investigation” into the organization’s operations.

The VPD added two people were also arrested after two East Vancouver homes were searched a day prior, and that DULF had “publicly admitted to trafficking controlled substances.”

The two people arrested were Eris Nyx and Jeremy Kalicum, who both co-founded DULF, a community-based advocacy group.

“Their crime? Saving lives abandoned by the government in a toxic drug poisoning crisis,” organizers of the Friday rally said.

“We don’t think that our friends should be arrested and charged just for trying to saves lives,” Mullins added.

The raids were conducted after DULF was questioned about how it had been paying to buy and test drugs for its members as part of its compassion club program.

DULF has refuted claims that it had been using funds from the BC Centre on Substance Use (BCCSU) to pay for the program, which “allows people who use drugs to enroll as members, granting them the ability to procure up to fourteen grams of each substance (cocaine, heroin, methamphetamine) per week.”

B.C. declared a public health emergency over the toxic drug crisis in 2016. Since then, the BC Coroners Service says more than 13,000 people have died from unregulated toxic drugs.

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-With files from Monika Gul, Liza Yuzda, and Kier Junos

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