POLITICS

All-winter Occupy NL campers leave St. John's park cleanly, quietly

05/16/2012 07:13 EDT | Updated 07/16/2012 05:12 EDT
ST. JOHN'S, N.L. - It was all quiet on the St. John's, N.L., waterfront early Wednesday as Occupy NL protesters left little physical trace of their seven-month camp for economic and social equality.

It was one of the only permanent camps left in North America after officials in most major cities, including Vancouver and Toronto, tore down other sites.

St. John's Mayor Dennis O'Keefe had allowed a small cluster of tents to remain all winter but asked campers to clear out by midnight Tuesday or face city parks officials Wednesday morning.

Occupy NL leader Thomas Clarke said the demonstrators cleaned up ahead of schedule to stress that this is a peaceful, inclusive movement that's here to stay.

"We just figured it was the right thing to do," he said as a small group of supporters gathered before 8 a.m. local time at Harbourside Park in downtown St. John's. The popular seaside gathering place with pink rhododendrons in bloom had been restored except for a couple of signs urging people to "wake up!" to social injustice.

"The Occupy movement is more than just a camp here at Harbourside Park. A lot more," Clarke said.

"We took it down on our own terms rather than cause a big ruckus here with the city because that will further help our cause."

Clarke said the Occupy movement in the province wants people from all walks of life to feel welcome as meetings continue.

"It's unfortunate that we weren't able to stay (in the park), but what we're going to do is going to be here forever. You can't evict an idea."

Occupy NL supporter Mark Brown said he has visited the camp off and on since tents first went up last Oct. 15 as Occupy protests against corporate greed and political corruption raged across the continent.

"At least you have to acknowledge when other people and other groups are really making an effort to make the world a better place," he said.

"I really believe that actions speak louder than words. Just by coming out here and creating a space here and being open and sharing, the people who were involved in this from the get-go, and who had all their hardships and had to put up with it all, they really deserve gratitude for that."

O'Keefe has offered space at city hall for Occupy meetings but says it's time to get Harbourside Park ready for summer events.

City officials arrived at the park around 8:30 a.m. local time, but rather than a confrontation they chatted with Occupy supporters.