Occupy Vancouver Protesters Want To Stay Despite Death, Safety Issues; Occupy Victoria Given Boot
VANCOUVER - Officials at the cities of Vancouver and Victoria have reached the end of their patience with Occupy protesters, but each city is trying a dramatically different tact to clear the Occupy sites.
Victoria issued official notice to protesters Sunday telling them they had until noon Monday to clear out, and that the occupation conflicts with other planned events.
"The city appreciates you vacating the lawn around the Sequoia tree to permit preparation for the traditional tree lighting," the notice states.
"Holding demonstrations and other events without a permit and erecting tents and other structures in Centennial Square contravenes the city's Parks Regulation Bylaw," the notice said.
In Vancouver, city officials are hoping to negotiate an end to the occupation.
The camping can't continue, Vancouver City manager Penny Ballem told reporters in front of City Hall.
"Given the situation that we have had a death, a very tragic death ... which I think really shook everybody up, we need to move in an expediting way to remove the part of this protest that is presenting a life-safety risk."
The body of 23-year-old Ashlie Gough of Victoria was found in one of the tents on Saturday afternoon.
The BC Coroners Service said it won't speculate on a cause of death, although there is no suggestion that the death is suspicious.
Ballem said Thursday's near death of a young man from a drug overdose and Saturday's death is what set Mayor Gregor Robertson towards finding a peaceful end to the encampment.
"We think there will be co-operation," she said.
But that wasn't as clear back at the anti-capitalism protest site in Vancouver, where the group's spokesman Eric Hamilton-Smith was hoping a judge would refuse to issue a court injunction to remove protesters.
"It's not enough to overrule our Charter rights of political expression and peaceful assembly, it is not enough just to have one person who died," Hamilton-Smith said.
"It is not enough to have one person who died," he said. "People die everyday in the (Vancouver's) Downtown Eastside and nobody cares."
He wanted a judge to instead look at the safety changes they had made and refuse the city's request to shut down the Occupy site.
Ballem said any changes, including erecting new tents, would violate an agreement the city already had with protesters.
Hamilton-Smith said they planned on putting up new geodesic tents, with fire-resistant tarps, that would comply with fire-safety standards issued by the city's fire department.
At one entrance to the Vancouver Occupy site was a growing shrine to the young woman who died. A hastily-made wooden cross reading "RIP Ashlie" was surrounded by flowers, stuffed animals and lighted candles.
One man yelled at reporters and camera people to get away and stop taking video.
"We've just lost our sister," he said. "Leave us alone."
If negotiations fail with the Vancouver protesters, Ballem said the city could ask a court for an injunction under several legal frameworks including the fire or land use bylaws or the Trespass and Public Health Act.
"We would like to find a situation where we can actually continue to support this protest, but not support an encampment," she said, noting the City of Vancouver has long supported the right to protest and for people to gather peacefully.
She said they could ask for the injunction as early as this week.
Several other occupy protests around the world have ended in violence including in the United States, Australia and Italy.