David Blackman rebuffs 'poster vigilante' accusations

After a number of artists alleged in recent weeks that promotional material in downtown Ottawa is being torn down by a "poster vigilante" too early and for no reason, the man who has been complaining about postering for decades admits he's taken some posters down, but not all of them.

Blackman says he takes some posters down in Ottawa, that he's 'not the only person' doing it

After a number of artists alleged in recent weeks that promotional material in downtown Ottawa is being torn down by a "poster vigilante" too early and for no reason, the man who has been complaining about postering for decades admits he's taken some posters down, but not all of them.

This poster was seen on April 2. Many others like it have been posted throughout downtown Ottawa. (Arturo Brisindi / Facebook )
David Blackman has spent 30 years advocating for stricter enforcement of bylaws governing temporary sign placement, leading to accusations online that he is responsible for hundreds of posters being taken down in recent months.

"I take things down, but I'm not the only person that's doing it," Blackman says from the lobby of his apartment building. "My candid opinion? I think there are people who are fed up with seeing our city being trashed all the time ... And I think there's a group that are saying, enough is enough. And the city won't do it. They won't do it."

Blackman has lived in downtown Ottawa since the 1970s and says he has written politicians at all levels of government, outlining his concerns over people breaking the bylaws.

The bylaws state that signs can only be placed in designated areas called poster collars. Utility poles can also be used but only if a poster collar isn't within 200 meters of the pole. One poster is allowed per collar or pole.

"I don't think there has been enough education as far as postering is concerned. I think overall, people don't know. Because I've gone up to people putting two and three [posters] on a pole and I said, excuse me, only one. ... The city bylaw says, only one per pole," Blackman says.

"The excessive postering creates clutter and it's an eyesore, especially when you've got umpteen of the same message. ... And to me it shows that the postering groups overall, from day one, have shown an appalling lack of respect, not only for the bylaw, but also for the community."

Postering one of the only forms of advertising artists have, musician says

This was posted on an Ottawa poster collar in response to posters being regularly torn down en masse. (Andrew Foote/CBC)
In designated areas, signs must be taken down after 15 days of being posted. But some local artists say signs complying with the bylaw are being ripped down too soon, sometimes just hours after being put up.

Rolf Klausener has been playing music in Ottawa for more than 10 years and he's also a local festival director. He says that in the last five years, he's noticed posters being taken down outside of the 1st and 15th of each month, when the city removes posters from poster collars.

"And I found it really confusing and frustrating because sometimes I'd spend an entire evening postering, or hire people to poster, and then literally they would be gone the next morning before the 9 to 5 walking traffic would see them," Klausener says.

He said that in 2012, when he was postering for the first Arboretum festival, he confronted a man tearing down posters with a knife. Klausener said the man came at him with his fist when Klausener tried to take a photo of him.

Klausenere rejects Blackman's claim that a lot of people posting material don't know the rules.

"As far as I know most of the people, the local, independent promoters that I know, are really respectful of each other's posters because with the lack of a local arts and culture weekly, postering is one of the only forms of advertising we have," Klausener says.

This week, posters have appeared downtown asking residents to call bylaw services if posters don't comply. In a statement the city says it's made no changes to how it polices the bylaws.

Klausener says people are now trying to identify the "poster vigilante" who is taking the posters down illegally, and to send photographs and videos to bylaw officers. "As it turns out, tearing down the posters is an offence and it is chargeable by bylaw," he says.