11/11/2011 02:00 EST | Updated 01/11/2012 05:12 EST

Occupy Nova Scotia: Halifax Mayor Orders Eviction From Victoria Park

HALIFAX - Police arrested 14 people at an Occupy Nova Scotia site Friday as officers dismantled their encampment in a downtown Halifax park.

The chief of Halifax Regional Police, Frank Beazley, said the people will likely face charges of obstructing police while officers were trying to enforce a city bylaw and remove their camp.

Police moved in after notices were handed out to the protesters in Victoria Park telling them they were in violation of the bylaw.

The bylaw states that no one can camp in a municipal park without written permission from the city.

"The city gave them notice early this morning (Friday) ... we went down and met with them to make arrangements to leave," Beazley said in an interview. "After several hours there was no movement whatsoever by anyone there to comply with our request.

"So our intention was to go in and just remove the tents."

The arrests came after people showed signs of resistance, said the chief.

"People started standing on the edges of their tents, defying the police and saying 'You're not taking our tents,' " he said. "We again asked them to move and they didn't, and so we went in and we removed people.

"Some of them started resisting and some of them started taunting police and some of them just wouldn't comply — so in the end there was arrests made."

Beazley also said that in future, protesters will be prevented from setting up camp in any municipal park.

That includes Grand Parade, a downtown square where they had been set up before being asked to relocate for Remembrance Day ceremonies.

In Victoria Park on Friday, police were seen taking down tarps, pulling up tents and packing personal belongings into green garbage bags as some campers stood by.

About 200 people gathered in the park while protesters also dismantled more than a dozen tents and loaded them into a van headed for a nearby church.

One demonstrator said they would regroup at the church and figure out their next move since they've been told they can't return to Grand Parade.

The group chanted various slogans under darkening skies, directing their criticism at Halifax Mayor Peter Kelly, who issued the order to have them removed.

"Peter Kelly, Peter Kelly, shame on you, come and take this tent down," they chanted.

Protest supporter Kaley Kennedy, 24, said she was disappointed in Kelly for "bargaining in bad faith" after he and some veterans met with them recently to discuss relocating for Remembrance Day ceremonies.

"I would hope that the people of Halifax see this as an infringement of our right to peaceful assembly and our right to free speech," she said at the protest site.

"I think the movement got quite a bit of momentum today."

Kelly said enough was enough.

"Council and the public have respected the right to peaceful protest and free assembly, but the time has come for the encampment to end," said the mayor.

"Our parks are for all of the public, not an unregulated campground for some."

Kelly says the same bylaw that applies to parks also applies to Grand Parade.

"Since the departure of the protesters from the Grand Parade, we have made a significant effort to bring it back to the condition the public expect," the mayor said.

"Camping will not be permitted in the Grand Parade or any HRM (Halifax Regional Municipality) park."

Beazley said police had received dozens of complaints from the public about the encampments.

"Noise complaints, drug use, we investigated minor assaults, people were finding themselves in medical emergencies," he said.

"And in some cases, when citizens were walking through the parks, they were treated very aggressively by people in the encampments.

"Some people were even defecating in the bushes."

Meanwhile, a New Democrat in the Nova Scotia legislature was critical of the move to kick the protesters out.

Howard Epstein, who represents a Halifax riding, said evicting the protesters on Remembrance Day "is a disgrace and undermines the very rights and freedoms our veterans fought for."

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