Vancouver police are looking for those involved in a disturbing video shot in the Granville Mall on Sunday evening that appears to show two panhandlers allowing a young man to kick them in the groin in return for money.
In the video, which was posted on YouTube briefly before being taken down, a younger, heavy-set man throws some money on the sidewalk outside the Roxy pub, and an older man can be seen struggling to pick it up.
"You want the money or what? You want the f------ money or what?" shouts the younger man.
"I do," the man replies, and the younger man kicks him.
Someone then shouts, "Do it again," and as a crowd watches, the heavy-set man tries repeatedly to kick the man in the groin.
Then another man steps in and apparently volunteers to be kicked in the groin for some money.
The heavy-set man hands him money, and then runs at him, and kicks him in the groin while the crowd continues to cheer.
He then chases the man he kicked across Granville Street, pushes him to the ground and appears to take something from him.
'Food money for the next week'
One of the men who was kicked, seen in the video wearing a red toque, spoke to CBC News about the incident — though he did not want to give his name.
He said he's not homeless and is not a panhandler, but he needed money and the heavy-set man was offering people money to kick them in the groin.
"I had no money and there was $50 on the ground and he was offering. And I knew that he was intoxicated, so I thought perhaps there's a chance he would miss," said the man.
"I was thinking food money for the next week. So I let the guy do it to me."
The heavy-set man did miss, despite trying several times, and the homeless man says he was not hurt.
After he took the money and started to walk away, however, the heavy-set man chased him trying to get the cash back. The heavy-set man instead stole an expired transit ticket from him, he said.
"What he did after was definitely wrong. A deal's a deal. And we made a deal, and he wants his money back after? Come on. That's disgraceful."
Even so, the man said he takes partial responsibility for what happened.
"I can't believe I wanted to do that. I was actually shocked at myself for allowing this to happen to me."
'Cruel and ignorant,' says witness
A local busker known by the nickname Spoons witnessed the incident on Sunday. He said he's seen street people go to extremes to make money before, and passersby who are happy to watch.
"There was a guy that used to light his hair on fire — people would pay him to light his beard on fire, climb poles," said Spoons.
"They tried to get me to do push ups and stuff. I just tell them I'm not a puppet. I play my spoons for my money. I say, 'You do the push ups. Let me kick you in the nuts.'"
Spoons says it's degrading to make people of lesser means perform for entertainment.
"They're all standing there laughing at it — trying to make a guy light his beard on fire or do push ups, kick a guy in the nuts," he said.
"They think they're being smart and, you know, it's just making them look cruel and ignorant."
Homeless 'victimized all the time'
Skye Ruddle, a social worker in the Downtown Eastside, said he was disgusted when he saw the video and wonders where the police were.
"There were no police obviously around. There were people shouting, running across the street. It was obviously a big scene."
Ruddle acknowledges police cannot be everywhere at once, but notes no one called police or stepped in to help either.
"Each of those clubs, which presumably all those people came out of, had bouncers in front of them. If there was another altercation or another kind of fight going on, they may have been there right away," said Ruddle.
"By doing nothing, they're tacitly consenting to what's going on."
Vancouver police investigating
Riley Speers filmed the incident, which he called "surreal" and "inhumane," but did not intervene because he says he was intimidated.
"He was a pretty big guy. That's why most people didn't want to say anything at all or try to stop him," said Speers, referring to the heavy-set kicker.
He posted the video to YouTube and Reddit, but took it down after he started receiving negative responses from the public.
The Vancouver Police Department said it was tipped off to the incident when someone tweeted them a link to the video. It is now investigating the actions leading up to and following the kick as a criminal offence.
"Taking advantage of another person with the promise of money to compensate them for injury is distasteful and extremely concerning," said Sgt. Randy Fincham.
Officers have spoken to the two homeless men, and the heavy-set man who kicked them, but are still asking witnesses to come forward.