CALGARY – Talks between Occupy Calgary and city officials went cold Saturday as protesters wavered on a deal that would see them vacate Olympic Plaza.
Despite facing temperatures below minus 20 degrees, the campers vowed to continue their occupation. Protester Aaron Doncaster read the city’s proposal out loud during a general assembly on Saturday.
“Personally, if I had my own choice, I would light this on fire,” Doncaster said, holding a copy of the city’s offer.
Last Thursday, city officials presented protesters with an informal proposal that would allow them to host several public forums and establish an information booth somewhere near the plaza in exchange for the group leaving the park.
But protesters balked at the offer, citing several concerns including the proposal’s informal nature. Doncaster invited Mayor Naheed Nenshi and other city officials down to the camp for further discussions.
“They won’t even come down to our (general assemblies) and recognize us,” he said. “That is an open line of communication that needs to be acknowledged.”
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Saturday marked the fifth week the group has occupied Olympic Plaza. The city previously ticketed and threatened to evict the protesters, but has since taken a more neutral stance, citing constitutional rights to freedom of expression.
The movement seems to be waning in several Canadian cities. Protesters in Vancouver have been given until Monday to pack up and camps in Regina and Victoria have already been dismantled.
“Calgary’s said from the get-go we’re looking for a peaceful resolution,” said Bill Bruce, director of animal and bylaw services.
Several protesters called for access to electrical services before they’d continue talks with the city. Bruce said there is no plan to offer power to the camp.
“That’s not on the table from the city’s side,” he said. “Realistically, we’ve cautioned them about the weather.”
The idea of continuing without power didn’t sit well with all the occupiers. Anthony Hall, a University of Lethbridge professor who recently joined the movement, said they have the right to use electrical devices, such as laptops.
Hall would like to see city hall engage the group in a respectful discussion on the matter.
“We’re human beings,” he said. “He (Bruce) deals with bylaws and animals, and he’s dealing with us like we’re animals. We’re humans. It’s winter in Canada.”
Protesters say they hope to make a formal counter-offer to the city by next Saturday.
“The city is missing the point in that they don’t seem to understand that the way this group operates isn’t through demands or proposals,” said protester Arran Fisher.
However, Fisher didn’t have a solution as to how the two parties could reach a deal.
“I can’t think of an appropriate response apart from just letting it happen.”