According to police, the march began at 1:15 p.m. in the Gastown neighbourhood, with activists quickly tying ropes around the statue and dragging it down before smearing it in red paint.
Following days of complaints about Freedom Convoy protesters allegedly disrespecting statues and memorials in Ottawa and failing to adhere to the rule of law, left-wing activists ripped down a controversial statue of 19th-century bar owner John Deighton, alias “Gassy Jack,” in a vigilante action on Monday.
According to the CBC, the statue, which is located in Vancouver’s downtown Gastown neighbourhood, was toppled during the 31st annual Women’s Memorial March.
According to police, the march began at 1:15 p.m., with activists quickly tying ropes around the statue and dragging it down before covering it with red paint.
Deighton, known as Gassy Jack, was a British-born bar owner who owned a popular saloon in the late 1860s.
The statue was erected some time in the early 1970s and given to the city as a Valentine’s Day gift.
Despite his prominence, Deighton’s storey frequently leaves out the fact that he was married to a young Squamish woman and afterwards her 12-year-old niece.
When Deighton’s first wife, whose name has been lost to history, died, he married her niece Wha-halia, also known as Madeline. Deighton married his child bride when he was 40 years old. When she was 15, the girl, who was 28 years his junior, escaped from Deighton.
While many support the effort to demolish the statue, Vancouver Mayor Kennedy Stewart said the city has been discussing with the Squamish Nation on how to remove the statue while acknowledging its subject’s harmful legacy.
A spokesperson from the Squamish Nation said on social media that the discussions had arrived at the conclusion that the statue would be removed with both sides in agreement.
“The discussions were ongoing, focused on a culturally safe and respectful process that would bring dignity and healing to all involved,” said nation spokesperson Wilson Williams (Sxwíxwtn).
“The Nation was in consultation with our community and the descendants of our respected ancestor Madeline — Gassy Jack’s former wife. She was a courageous woman our Nation looks up to, and today has many descendants alive in our community.”
Journalist Chantelle Bellrichard published video of the monument toppling on social media, showing an elderly woman coming dangerously close to being struck by the statue as it crashes to the ground.
In a statement to the press, the mayor was not supportive of the actions taken by demonstrators to pull down the statue.
“While the statue was clearly a symbol of pain, violence and trauma associated with colonialism and violence against Indigenous women and girls, today’s actions that removed it in a dangerous way undermines the ongoing work with the Squamish Nation to guide the steps towards reconciliation,” the mayor stated.