Occupy London Ontario: Police Swoop Down On Victoria Park In Canada's First Occupy Eviction (VIDEO)
Tents that had been erected in a London, Ont., park as part of the city’s Occupy protest were removed by police and bylaw officers early Wednesday.
Mayor Joe Fontana had issued a 6 p.m. Tuesday deadline for protesters to remove the tents, but the tents remained in Victoria Park long past the deadline.
Police and city bylaw officers entered the park at about 1 a.m. to dismantle tents and other structures. The process took about an hour.
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Fontana also said Tuesday that protesters could continue to demonstrate in the park, but nobody would be allowed on the grounds between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. He said if they didn't leave, they would be evicted.
However, the 10 p.m. deadline passed without incident and by early Wednesday, Insp. Kelly O'Callaghan said there were still "about 40 occupiers in the park." He did not indicate if police would try to remove them.
Earlier Tuesday, about 1,000 people were in the park to hear a speech by Ontario Federation of Labour president Sid Ryan.
In Vancouver, the city's police chief warned Occupy protesters to disperse after saying black-masked people pushed around firefighters, kicked and punched police and sent two officers to hospital with bite wounds.
Chief Jim Chu said the melee unfolded at the encampment in a downtown square around midnight Monday.
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"If you wish to avoid arrest and avoid whatever violence will be initiated by those among you, we urge the legitimate protesters to leave now," Chu told reporters Tuesday, only hours before city lawyers began a process in B.C. Supreme Court to obtain an injunction to legally force the camp's removal.
Chu was joined by the city's Fire Chief John McKearney as he said the tone of the camp has transformed from an initial "non-violent spirit of co-operation" to one with an "increasing number of problem people."
A scuffle broke out when firefighters moved in to extinguish a fire in a barrel.
Police stepped in when people in black masks and others "who are intent on violence" formed a human chain to prevent the firefighters from doing their job and began to push them around, Chu said.
Officers were then punched, kicked and bitten, while one had his ammunition clip stolen. No arrests were made.
Chu wouldn't give any timeline or say when his force might move in to clear the site, noting the force is waiting on the court's ruling before making any decisions.
But he stressed police still have a goal of ending the encampment peacefully. (CFPL)
"It has often been said by those in the Occupy movement that they represent the 99 per cent of us," Chu said. "If that is true then we ask you to remember that 99 per cent of the population obeys the law and respects the rights of others."
The fracas came just two days after the group's general assembly voted by consensus to formally adopt a policy of non-violence.
Only between 15 and 25 people are currently sleeping in tents at night, McKearney said, while many more people join throughout the day.
A video posted on YouTube, called "First Nations sacred fire gets put out by VFD," shows the late-night scene unfold.
Only a handful among the group of dozens appear to wear coverings over their faces. People yelled as the firefighters slowly move in with police behind them.
"That is my right to have this fire. I am First Nations," yelled one woman as the group jostles.
"No respect," the crowd chanted as smoke blew in the wind. The group yelled at the officers as they slowly backed out of the site and some people hugged each other before beginning to sing.
The escalation of tensions in Vancouver comes as one of the various Occupy camps across the country voluntarily cleared out.
The public square in front of Halifax city hall was unoccupied Tuesday for the first time in nearly a month as the anti-capitalist protesters relocated ahead of Remembrance Day ceremonies.
Brian Crouse, one of the demonstrators, said the cleanup and subsequent move to a nearby park went smoothly.
"There's a sense of real community and a sense that we leave this space in the best condition possible," Crouse said as he helped load a moving van.
Corey Samoila said he spent the night tearing down tents and helped provide security because tension grew.
"Because of the move, some people got a little hostile. It got interesting but we managed to calm everything down," said Samoila.
"I think common sense kicked in — and the fact that the food and the medical tents weren't going to be here."
The protesters later began pitching tents at Victoria Park a few blocks away.
Mayor Peter Kelly said he was appreciative the protesters followed through on their commitment to vacate Grand Parade to allow city officials to prepare the city square for Remembrance Day events on Friday.
"We'll be trying to repair the grass and spraying down the cenotaph," said Kelly as he surveyed the vacant square.
He was less enthusiastic about the possibility that the protesters will return this weekend once Remembrance Day ceremonies conclude, as they have promised.
"They have to understand that this is a public square and it's not just for one group but for everybody," he said. "They had their time here."
Kelly said several events have already been scheduled at the site, including the annual Christmas tree and menorah lighting, as well as New Year's Eve celebrations.
He said police and fire officials would evaluate the situation at Victoria Park on a daily basis to ensure everyone is safe there.
The mayor said the occupation outside city hall presented some challenges with incidents involving weapons, arguments, drugs and alcohol.
"We've had these challenges as they've had all across the country," he said. "For the most part, they have been respectful and they have been responsive."
In Vancouver, the battle to move the protesters from their encampment in front of the city art gallery was being waged in the courts Tuesday.
City lawyer Ben Parkin asked a B.C. Supreme Court judge for an interim order for Occupy protesters to fully comply with fire regulations set out by the fire chief last week, or face arrest. The matter was put over until Wednesday.
Court documents filed on Monday show the city is seeking a permanent injunction forcing the group to remove the encampment.
It also seeks authority for Vancouver police to "arrest and remove" anyone who is interfering or obstructing city employees or protesters who are packing up gear.
Parkin argued the city's case in court by referencing a variety of safety concerns, including fire hazards, pests, injection drug use, a near-fatal overdose and the death of a 23-year-old in a tent on Saturday. He contends protesters are breaking the city land-use and fire bylaws.
"It's very clear that the situation at the site — while it may have been very peaceful at the outset — has deteriorated," Parkin told the judge. "There is now both a significant life safety issue there ... and also a civil disobedience or lawlessness."
The request has also been delayed until the group secures better representation and has time to develop a response.
"I'm very pleased, personally speaking, that we have a judge here who wants to hear us and I couldn't have asked for a better hearing, someone who cares," said Michael Hejazi, one of dozens of the contingent who packed into the courtroom. "So we're thrilled."
Several members of the group have said even if the injunction is granted, they don't plan to vacate.
The City of Victoria also announced Tuesday it has been granted a hearing on Nov. 15 to apply for a similar injunction.
The city says the Occupy camp contravenes a bylaw and is blocking upcoming holiday events, including the installation of a public skating rink and a Christmas tree lighting in Centennial Square.
Calgary city council voted unanimously Monday night to start moving protesters out of Olympic Plaza.
Mayor Naheed Nenshi said it will start with warnings, then tickets, and could involve the removal of unmanned tents. He didn't give any timeline, but said the city council would like it to happen quickly.
The Occupy demonstrations in Canada are among dozens of protests around the world that grew out of the Occupy Wall Street movement that targets corporate greed and massive economic inequity.
By Tamsyn Burgmann and John Lewandowski, The Canadian Press