COLUMN: Kiss campaign missed mark

Protest group fails to disrupt business association's contest

The rules are pretty simple.

Snap a kissy kissy photo in downtown Victoria, upload it to the Downtown Victoria Business Association Facebook page and you can win swag.

It’s the DVBA’s fourth annual Valentine-themed warm ‘n’ fuzzy promotion aimed at making us feel like visiting downtown and hopefully make those cash registers ring.

The DVBA aims, through championing local business, to keep the core of Victoria vibrant and welcoming so that it remains an economically vital place. If downtown is a dire wasteland where nobody wants to visit, everyone loses.

Members of The Disruption Collective figured they’d live up to their name and mess with the contest a bit. The group wants to draw attention to signs posted around town that outline the rules: No camping, trespassing, loitering or soliciting.

“Distributed and promoted by the DVBA, this is a directed attack on a particular sector of the people who live in this city, allowing police to harass the street involved community,” says the website

The website does impart some interesting opinions, but is unfortunately peppered with language best not repeated in a community newspaper.

To protest private property signs posted throughout the core, the coalition submitted photos of kissing couples with the signs prominent. There are some pretty neat ones too. I really like the young woman smoochin’ her pooch. Too bad the image is photographed specifically so the eye is not drawn to the puppy love, but the sign.

The DVBA removed the photos from contest contention. They also responded to the Disruption campaign in a civil manner. DVBA general manager Ken Kelly explained to Black Press that the photos were removed because one contained offensive content, and they didn’t suit a contest meant to “bring out the fun and excitement on Valentine’s Day.”

The coalition emailed a press release to media outlets citing “censorship.”

“This action was designed to draw attention to the business association for its involvement in the ongoing criminalization of poverty in the city,” they said.

“The DVBA has a long history of working with the police and the court system to privatize space and criminalize poverty in its district.”

Again, the rules are pretty simple. Trespassing is illegal. It’s a shame the DVBA feels they need to help their member businesses with little reminder signs for the folks who don’t understand the concept of private property. Camp on my front lawn and I might post a sign, too.

The title, The Disruptive Collective, does little to instill faith that they want to make productive change implying instead a willingness to stir the muck for the sake of it. The coalition’s own website describes the campaign as “shenanigans.”

“The point we are trying to make is that it’s fine for some to stand in those spaces, but if you don’t look like ‘the right kind of person,’ you aren’t welcome here,” Serina Zapf told Monday Magazine.

“We thought this would be a playful way to disrupt a fun contest and challenge people to think about who is being represented here – who is allowed, and welcome, to show affection.”

None of the folks in any of the photos struck me as the “wrong” kind of person, and that’s just one place they mixed the message.

Whether it’s the press release blasting the business group for “censorship” or aggressively cursing them out on the website, the kiss disruption campaign missed the “playful” target.

Christine van Reeuwyk is the interim editor of the Goldstream News Gazette.

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