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Action at Occupy Calgary, camps in Toronto, Ottawa still standing

Posted by on 12/08/2018

The face of the Occupy Canada movement was changing early Tuesday as authorities moved into a camp in Calgary, and groups in Toronto and Ottawa waited to see if police would enforce eviction deadlines.

Meanwhile, protesters in Montreal expressed a resolve to stay in place despite a request from the city’s mayor for them to vacate. Activists in Vancouver moved from one public space to another prompting government lawyers to ready to ask for a court injunction once more.

But whether they remained in tents pitched in public spaces or were trying to regroup after being booted from their encampments, protesters across the country vowed they would continue to decry corporate greed and give voice to the underprivileged.

“We’ll just grow stronger from here,” Occupy Calgary protester Chelsea Pratchett told The Canadian Press as bylaw officers took down unoccupied tents and ticketed those still living in Olympic Plaza late Monday night.

Bylaw officers were accompanied by police as they moved peacefully into the camp of about 10 tents and fewer than 40 people around 11 p.m. local time, said bylaw services spokesman Bill Bruce.

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“They’re a little upset but we are giving anyone a chance to move their belongings and go,” he said. “What we’re doing is exactly what we said we’d do.”

The Occupy movement crossed into Canada Oct. 15 as an extension of protests which began in Manhattan with Occupy Wall Street. In addition to a number of fragmented concerns, it has aimed to highlight the concentration of the world’s wealth in the hands of very few.

While camps were set up in cities across the country, a number have since been dismantled or protesters handed eviction notices as officials cited broken bylaws and security concerns.

The Calgary camp follows similar action taken in London, Halifax, Regina and Saskatoon earlier this month. Occupy Calgary was handed an eviction notice last week and protesters were waiting for it to be enforced.

Despite expecting authorities to arrive at some point however, there were those who were more agitated at the night’s events.

“Police coming down in the middle of the night is quite frankly dishonourable,” said protester Christopher McMillan.

“Going forward we’re going to stand around and document and bear witness to what’s going on here. We’re going to regroup and figure out what we’re going to be doing in the morning.”

The waiting pattern Calgary protesters had grown familiar with was still new for Occupy camps in Toronto and Ottawa early Tuesday morning after eviction deadlines passed without incident.

“We’re going to come back and stay here for as long as it takes,” Occupy Toronto camp facilitator Nele Micheles told a cheering crowd after a countdown to a deadline.

“This is the beginning of a big movement and we are serious.”

Many with the camp have voiced a determination to stay until removed by authorities. Some even role-played confrontations with police in anticipation of a showdown.

Addressing the crowd over a loudspeaker, Micheles said police likely wouldn’t move into St. James Park until the activists’ numbers dwindled and urged people to stay as long as possible.

“The idea is that not everyone leaves because that is what police are expecting probably,” she said in an interview. “If we do end up getting evicted, there’s definitely the feeling that we’re not going to give up.”

The buildup to the eviction deadline while exciting for some, was an outright inspiration to others.

“We’re been working so hard for the last month to create a village where conversations can happen,” said protester Mischa Saunders who thought the camp key to the movement.

“Having a village to meet each other in, to share in and to talk in, is absolutely vital to any community.”

A Toronto judge issued an order Monday that the camp be taken down, saying the protesters were trespassing and that allowing them to stay would amount to supporting anarchy.

The park can still be used by the Occupy movement, just not during the hours of midnight and 5 a.m. and without tents or other structures.

Meanwhile in Vancouver, protesters who packed up from the grounds of the city’s art gallery after a court order relocated to a covered area outside the provincial courthouse.

The action has sparked plans by government lawyers to argue for an injunction against the camp.

“It is essential that we ensure the public has access to the courts,” attorney General Shirley Bond said in a statement. “I am also very concerned that by re-establishing their camp within close proximity of the Vancouver Art Gallery, these members of Occupy Vancouver are acting in defiance of the spirit of the original order that the court issued on Friday.”

Vancouver lawyers won a court-authorized injunction on Friday compelling the group to vacate the grounds of the Vancouver Art Gallery, and police were given authority to enforce the order.

While most of the global protests have been peaceful, there have been violent clashes as police moved to evict the demonstrators in places such as Oakland, Calif., and mass arrests in New York City.

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