VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) — Coun. Melissa DeGenova is coming under fire from her colleagues for social media posts comparing Wednesday’s siege of the U.S. Capitol to a protest in which roughly two dozen activists occupied Vancouver’s council chamber.
The first to bring up the 2017 protest by housing advocates — including Jean Swanson who is now an elected member of council — was former NPA councillor George Affleck who tweeted out a story about that demonstration in the wake of the violent storming of the Capitol by thousands of Trump supporters, many of whom were earned. Five people have died as a result of what President-elect Joe Biden called a riot, an insurrection, and an act of domestic terrorism. A Capitol police officer is among the dead.
DeGenova replied saying the photo of Swanson sitting in the mayor’s seat “looks a lot like the protestor who took Pelosi’s chair yesterday” evidently referring to a man who has since been arrested for breaking into the speaker’s office where he was photographed with his feet up on her desk.
That day in 2017 when @CityofVancouver City Hall Chamber was taken by protestors and democratic process was halted. Among those who took our seats was Order of Canada recipient and now #Vancouver City Councillor Jean Swanson. #vanpoli #cdnpoli https://t.co/TsIGbVC6nw
— George Affleck (@george_affleck) January 7, 2021
Later she tweeted another apparent comparison saying, “In a #democracy, storming in and shutting down a Congress, Legislature or even a City Council is never the right thing to do — in Washington or Vancouver.”
— Melissa De Genova (@MelissaDeGenova) January 8, 2021
Coun. Rebecca Bligh is among those questioning the evident comparison between what happened in Washington and what happened three years ago in Vancouver.
“I have commented publicly that I have some concerns with the comparison between what happened in, in the U.S. this week with armed right-wing extremists and the insurrection on Capitol Hill to a peaceful protest in Vancouver from housing activists, it felt like a real stretch,” she says.
“I think that it’s a false equivalency and it’s not helpful. I have a real problem with it, to be honest.”
Binary positions, like the one in the below tweet, are generally toxic and harmful to marginalized people in society.
Society’s challenges are complicated which require nuanced perspectives and solutions. This take is both polarizing and immature; lacking wisdom or understanding https://t.co/MJQdEdKkeh
— Rebecca Bligh (@rebeccaleebligh) January 8, 2021
Bligh says the homelessness and housing crises are real concerns in the city and demand the attention of council.
“I think that we just have to keep our eye on the ball here in terms of what we’re here to do as local government, and really not polarize a debate around the needs for housing in our city with what we’re seeing and what happened in the United States. People were armed people have died so to compare that directly with a protest at City Hall, three years ago, just seemed unnecessary,” she says.
Noting that she thinks DeGenova is a good councillor, Bligh says her comments were disappointing.
Coun. Pete Fry weighed in calling De Genova and Affleck’s remarks “monumentally bad takes.”
These are monumentallly bad takes by a former and sitting councillor, deeply offensive in the literal and figurative white-washing of what happened this week at the US Capitol.
At risk of stating the obvious, not opinions held by a majority of former or sitting councillors https://t.co/17hhohfGyC
— Pete Fry (@PtFry) January 8, 2021
Mayor Kennedy Stewart also weighed in, although more obliquely than Bligh and Fry.
“White supremacy isn’t a joke. It’s not something you downplay, it’s something you condemn. And it’s certainly not something you shamefully compare to legitimate, unarmed, protest,” he wrote on Twitter.
One more thing: White supremacy isn’t a joke. It’s not something you downplay, it’s something you condemn.
And it’s certainly not something you shamefully compare to legitimate, unarmed, protest.
— Kennedy Stewart (@kennedystewart) January 8, 2021
NEWS 1130 has reached out to Coun. De Genova for comment but has not received a reply.