A truly strange protest that has drawn out for nearly 12 weeks in a North Surrey neighbourhood continues to drive residents there nuts.
Since Sept. 14 a group of protesters has laid siege to the Bonaccord home of a man whom they claim is a spy for the Chinese government. They wear these blue rectangular suit-tent-costumes and relentlessly haunt the 9700-block of 149th St., leaving the man’s neighbours feeling like they are trapped inside a never-ending episode of the Twilight zone.
“We’re in the middle of COVID to begin with, and people are stressed out at any rate,” says Bob Petersen, who lives two doors down from the action. “These guys are claiming to be protesters – we call them harassers. They’re after one neighbour and from the start said he was a CCP spy.
“This goes on seven days a week,” Petersen said. “If you’re going to protest, generally you’re protesting over an action, a policy, something like that. This is a person and this is in a residential neighbourhood.”
Video a Surrey resident made during the ongoing saga of one strange protest in her neighbourhood that's drawn on for 12 weeks now. pic.twitter.com/eyf1tRjXK1
— Tom Zytaruk (@tomzytaruk) December 1, 2020
Their target, Bingchen (Benson) Gao, does not speak English but in a translated letter told the Now-Leader he’s filed “multiple cases” of “repetitive trespassing on my and my neighbour’s properties.”
Gao’s wife, Alice Zheng, speaks English. She told the Now-Leader on Monday that the protesters’ claims that her husband is a spy are “very ridiculous.”
She said he’s a journalist who works for a Chinese language newspaper in Vancouver and also posts commentaries on YouTube.
Petersen said the protesters are on his street from morning to dusk, live-streaming the whole time to “I’m not sure what.”
“They mostly speak Mandarin. They have told us in English to f-off. It’s got more aggressive recently. A neighbour had one of them take down their mask and cough in her direction.”
“They turn their cameras on us and we don’t know that they’re saying,” Petersen said.
“The RCMP has been as helpful as they can be,” he said. “Apparently the Charter of Rights trumps all of our rights.”
The Surrey RCMP has been on the scene but nobody has been charged with a crime. Corporal Elenore Sturko said Monday that police are monitoring the situation to determine “whether or not anything has changed that would allow us to take more enforcement.
“So we’ll be continuing to seek legal advice and look at avenues to move forward with ensuring that the right to protest is respected and the people who live in that area feel safe,” she said. “I know that officers have been in the area, they’ve been speaking with area residents as a well as people who’ve been the subject of the ongoing protest. They’ve been in there actually taking statements from area residents to gather more information on things that have been going on there lately.
Sturko noted the RCMP is also investigating an assault in the cul-de-sac.
“I don’t believe that charges have been laid for the assault that took place last week but a report to Crown counsel is going forward for that,” she said Monday. “The people that were arrested were released from custody and they received an undertaking, and the undertaking did have no-goes and no-contacts associated with it.”
Petersen said the “beat-down just scared the crap out of everybody.”
The number of protesters varies, he noted. “After the attack they were all out in those little bubble suits, there must have been about 25 or 30 of them. They’re paid, I’m guaranteeing you.”
Sturko said Surrey Mounties are “looking at gathering all the information of course about what’s been going on, what type of activity protesters have been engaged in, and that’s all currently under review by the RCMP and a decision on whether or not further action will be taken should be coming in the next short while.
“I don’t have a time frame,” she said Monday, “but more work is being done, looking at the totality of the situation in the area.”
Sturko said police have also received a report of threats, “and those threats are under investigation as well” but there has been no arrest.
She acknowledged the situation “is a frustrating one for area residents, for sure, that they would like us to be taking more action. We’re looking to see what action can be taken to help residents feel safer. There are limitations to what people can do in a protest.”
The group chants and yells, and carries placards, Petersen said. One was making noise with a “squeaky toy,” he added.
“They congregate over in the park a lot, and kids are coming and going from the school. There’s a lot of trauma for the young people, and there’s a lot of trauma for the parents.”
“We’ve all written to the city but we’ve got zero reply,” Petersen said.