While no vandalism was reported from a weekend deer cull protest in Oak Bay, the fact the group changed course and chose to protest at Mayor Nils Jensen’s home reminded us of two other instances of people taking their fight to political leaders’ homes.
Three years ago, vandals invaded Victoria Mayor Dean Fortin’s yard and spray painted his home and car, in retaliation for the city’s crackdown on camping on Harris Green along Pandora Avenue. More recently, demonstrators opposing the province’s liquid natural gas plans set up a mock three-metre fracking rig on Premier Christy Clark’s front lawn in Vancouver.
Jensen wasn’t home when the marching protesters gathered at his residence, but what if he had been? Would be have been accosted at his front door?
In a community the size of Oak Bay, it’s not unusual for people to know where the mayor lives. In some areas, people know their mayor well enough to visit them at home with questions, suggestions or criticisms.
In general, however, most mayors serve as such when presiding over council or representing their municipality in an official or semi-official capacity. They, like any publicly elected official, have an expectation that their privacy will be respected in the relatively few hours they spend at home with their families.
People who choose to voice strong opposition on issues they are passionate about must be free to do so. But making issues personal and seemingly ignoring the fact regulatory and other decisions are made by groups of people, not individuals, crosses the line of appropriateness for public protest.
In 2011, residents upset with a development in Oak Bay made a show of confronting then mayor Christopher Causton at the municipal hall. Causton promised a town hall meeting and delivered on his promise to further air out residents’ grievances.
That scenario illustrated that when protesters make a point in the right forum, they can be more clearly heard. Not doing so reduces their credibility and only works to cheapen their message.