WATCH: A new video showing a man allegedly threatening a group of teenagers with a machete and a butchers knife has many saying there’s growing tension around Nanaimo’s tent city. The incident is now prompting both sides to call on the city and the police, to do more. Kori Sidaway reports.
It’s a moment that Shawn Mawer says he couldn’t see coming.
“My heart was pounding, I’ve never been in a situation like that where I thought my life was in danger like that,” said Mawer.
A group of teenagers were on the roof of Thrifty Food’s Friday night, looking out on tent city. They were shining a laser into the camp’s residents but never expected what would happen next.
Three men, one wielding a butchers knife and another holding what appeared to be two machetes reportedly crossed over from Nanaimo’s tent city across the street, blockaded the parking lot, and surrounded their car.
Mawer says the laser wasn’t a smart idea, but the huge escalation of violence shocked him.
“They have cell phones, if it’s that big of an issue they can call the cops, they don’t need to come up there and literally try and kill us,” said Mawer.
Those representing discontent city say this specific vantage point from the mall parking lot has become an artery of violence against residents of the camp.
“Day in, day out at night time there are people on the roof of the mall throwing rocks, shooting paintballs, throwing glass bottles at the residents of tent city that are looking to incite violence in the camps,” said discontent city organizer Kevin Donaghy.
Donaghy says although the recent protest at Nanaimo’s tent city ended peacefully, tensions under the surface have been bubbling.
He says an overall lack of RCMP intervention in conflicts between the community and the camp has lead to a dramatic escalation of violence.
“I think the RCMP need to start taking the incidents that are being reported far more seriously,” said Donaghy.
“I think that if people thought their safety was being prioritized or was being taken seriously, they wouldn’t be as prone to, for lack of a better word, taking things into their own hands.”
Mawer, still shaken by the incident, also echoes that more needs to be done by Nanaimo RCMP.
“Yesterday we told the cops that the guys responsible were out walking in the protest and they basically said it wasn’t the time and place. I looked at them said ‘while it was happening it wasn’t the time and place either?'”
Both Donaghy and Mawer agree that until the city and police intervene further, an escalation in violence may continue.
(We also reached out to Nanaimo RCMP for their response. They say they have an active file on the incident but were not available for an interview today.)