Join local writer and historian Aaron Chapman and former Clark Park gang members Bradley Bennett and Danny “Mouse” Williamson on a walking tour of Clark Park. They’ll take you back in time to East Vancouver of the 1970s and share the remarkable tale of how one of the VPD’s most feared undercover units tackled one of the city’s most legendary street gangs.
Long before the illegal drug trade put Vancouver in the grip of organized crime syndicates, the city’s East Side was menaced by a number of rival street gangs. The most notorious was the Clark Park gang, a rag-tag bunch of local youths who banded together in the late 1960s and went on to inflict mayhem on the city throughout the early 1970s.
Rocks and bottles thrown at a riot outside a Rolling Stones concert at the Pacific Coliseum in Vancouver on June 4, 1972 file photo. (Photo: Dan Scott/Vancouver Sun) [PNG Merlin Archive]
After some infamous clashes with police, including a violent street brawl outside the Rolling Stones concert at the Pacific Coliseum in 1972, the gang was targeted by an undercover police operation, led by the VPD’s top-secret “H-Squad.” With tension mounting between some of the city’s toughest street cops and its toughest street gang, the situation boiled over later that year leading to the accidental fatal shooting of a gang member by the Vancouver Police.
The Vancouver Police Department’s “H Squad,” early 1970s. Courtesy Vancouver Police Museum PO2892.
Today the Clark Park gang is a distant memory for those who still make the Clark Park area home after almost 50 years. Many former gang members ended up dead or in jail. The neighbourhood’s gentrification has eradicated almost any sign of the havoc the gang once inflicted. So bring the East Side of the 1970s back to life as you join Aaron, Bradley, and Mouse on a walking tour through Clark Park and discover the epic story of the last gang in town.
Author and musician Aaron Chapman. Photograph by Rebecca Blissett.
Aaron Chapman is a writer, musician, and historian born and raised in Vancouver. He’s contributed to CBC Radio, Georgia Straight and the Vancouver Courier. As well as writing the Last Gang in Town — published by Arsenal Pulp Press — Aaron has also written several best-selling books on Vancouver’s nightlife history:
The Last Gang in Town is a product of several years of research, and interviews with both retired Vancouver police and retired gang members, many of whom spoke for the first time. The book has become the definitive history on this chapter of 1970s street gang culture in Vancouver. As a BC Bestseller, it was shortlisted for a BC Book Prize, and won the Canadian Historical Association’s Clio Prize for British Columbia. The book is even on the reading list for the modern VPD Gang Squad! Chapman brings added context to the tour, and details the narrative of how a series of events led to one of the wildest — and most secret — chapters in city history.
Of course, Aaron is well known to fans of Forbidden Vancouver Walking Tours as one of the guest speakers at our popular Secrets of the Penthouse special event!
Danny “Mouse” Williamson
One of the real legendary people of old East Vancouver, Danny “Mouse” Williamson joined the Clark Park gang from a rival gang in 1968. After years of street violence, crime, arrests, battles with police, and several stints in jail, Mouse has left his gang life well behind him and now makes the Fraser Valley home, with several of his children and grandchildren nearby. In recent years Williamson has helped organize a restorative justice program in cooperation with the city of Grand Forks, BC. There’s not many people who can tell it like it was like Williamson—because he was there for it all, in one of the most of fascinating chapters of our city’s history.
Growing up in East Vancouver, Bradley Bennett joined the Clark Park Gang as a youth in the late 1960s, where he bonded with so many youth like him from similar backgrounds. His early life of crime took him from Juvenile Detention to Oakalla Prison, and as he got older his criminal activity became more serious. But Bennett always had a strength of character and street-smarts that perhaps saved him from going to a point of no-return, and eventually he made a break from his old ways. Bradley shares his experiences and stories with a rare insight you simply don’t come across every day. Today, his work brings him around the world, and he now lives in the BC interior. We’re happy Bradley can fire up his Harley and make the trip back to where it all began in East Van, and give his insights on the tour.
Copies of the Last Gang in Town will be on sale at the event for $25 [cash only]. Aaron, Bradley, and Mouse will be on hand to sign your copy for you. If you already have a copy, feel free to bring it along and your hosts would be happy to sign it for you.
In light of Covid 19 we are limiting audience size to 25 people. We encourage guests to physically distance from each other and to wear masks if they’re comfortable doing so. If you have been feeling ill or have been in contact with anyone feeling ill in the previous two weeks, please do not attend the tour. Contact us for a credit and you can come the next time we stage the event.