07/11/2013 03:17 EDT | Updated 09/10/2013 05:12 EDT

Anti-gentrification 'bullying' must stop, group says

Residents and business owners in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside say they are being bullied by anti-gentrification protesters who have regularly parked outside new restaurants.

"We are here today to say unequivocally that using personal intimidation and bullying tactics to raise issues and promote positions is unacceptable and has gained public attention for far too long," said Fern Jeffries, co-chair of the Crosstown Residents Association.

Jeffries made her statements today, alongside representatives from 15 community groups who said business owners have been harassed and threatened, while others have had their property vandalized or stolen.

Protesters argue new restaurants and shops are too expensive for residents of the low-income neighbourhood, and many would prefer to see the location used for housing.

But business owners say new residents and businesses are working to help improve the area, with some offering employment to neighbourhood residents and donating proceeds to local charities.

"Those of us standing here today live, work, or own businesses in the Downtown Eastside. We want housing for the homeless, better social and affordable housing for those in need," said Wes Regan, executive director of the Hastings Crossing Business Improvement Association.

"We believe that community energy is best spent on creating solutions, not resorting to intimidation, vandalism or personal attacks against businesses or individuals."

Last weekend, a small group of protesters picketed outside Cuchillo, a newly opened Latin American restaurant on Powell Street. Pidgin restaurant on Carrall Street has also been the target of ongoing protests.