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Occupy camps remain despite fear of crackdowns

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Tension is mounting at some of the Occupy Canada campsites across the country after a series of crackdowns by municipal government officials and local police.

For the protesters living at the sites, many inspired by the Occupy Wall Street movement in New York, there are two looming concerns – police tactics in clearing the camps and the eventual drop in temperatures that will affect most regions this November.

In Halifax, police said 14 people were arrested when an Occupy campsite was shut down this past Friday. In London, Ont., police took down demonstrators’ tents in the middle of the night on Nov. 9. And Toronto Mayor Rob Ford has called on protesters to leave St. James Park, currently one of the largest Occupy campsites in the country, which has been home to around 100 tents since Oct. 15.

Ian Smart, 62, has been living at the Occupy Toronto campsite for over two weeks. Smart said he joined the movement to show that it’s not just youth who are protesting economic injustice.

He said he would not be surprised if the police moved in to clear the campsite, but he said he hopes the police will do so in a peaceful manner.

The Toronto camp appears to be quite serene at the moment, complete with tents for food and clothing, media relations and even a library. Occupy protests in other cities – from Windsor to Victoria – have also been relatively peaceful for the most part.

For municipalities, however, the Occupy campsites can be a burden. In Toronto, upset neighbours and residents have begun to voice their displeasure with camp occupiers, claiming the late night music is too loud and the movement is beginning to wane. An off site meeting was setup last Thursday at a local restaurant in an attempt to reduce face-to-face confrontations between residents and occupiers.

In Ottawa there is concern about what impact the occupation of Confederation Park will have on Winterlude, a major event planned by the National Capital Commission. In Halifax clashes seemed to have been sparked by a scheduling overlap with Remembrance Day events.

But inside every Occupy campsite there are motivated protesters like Toronto’s Asha Mohamed, a 35-year-old mother of a teenage daughter. Mohamed’s main concern is how she’ll pay for food during the economic downturn, something she says cuts to the city’s subsidized food and housing programs isn’t helping. While Mohamed’s goals are different from those in New York, she says like them, she’ll continue her protest for as long as it takes.