[UPDATE Wednesday, November 23]: The protesters decided to disband for the night late Tuesday. They will be meeting back at Grandview Park on Wednesday.]
VANCOUVER – Occupy Vancouver protesters moved their camp to Grandview Park on Commercial Drive Tuesday night, raising the ire of nearby neighbours and businesses.
The park was recently renovated during a $2M overhaul, and has been busy with families since its re-opening.
Occupy protesters are threatening to set up camp in the park, although no tents have been erected yet.
Vancouver Police are reportedly staging several blocks away at Commercial Drive and Venables St.
Several neighbours confronted the protesters at the park saying they support the movement, but not the set-up of a camp. Occupy protesters say they “likely won’t be at Grandview Park for more than a few days.”
Protesters dismantled their camp at the provincial court grounds at Robson Square earlier in the day.
The protestors were ordered out of their downtown location by a judge from the B.C. Supreme Court.
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Associate Chief Justice Anne MacKenzie, who granted an earlier injunction to the city, made the ruling early Tuesday afternoon after hearing the attorney-general’s submission. She gave the protesters a 5 p.m. deadline.
The protesters are, however, free to move elsewhere as MacKenzie rejected the attorney-general’s appeal to prevent the protesters from moving their encampment to other public lands, terming the request for injunction in this regard “speculative.”
“I do not think it to be the court’s jurisdiction to issue an injunction for something that has not occurred and is speculative.”
The court cannot issue an injunction “to control anything that has not happened” as future instances can be dealt with trespass laws, said MacKenzie.
“We’re going to vacate these premises,” said protester Suresh Fernando. “It behooves us to move. But it won’t be permanent.” Fernando said the injunction left the protesters no choice. “We’re not stupid. Nobody wants to go to jail.”
He added that Occupy Vancouver will continue to stage protests “in public space”, saying that “not everything needs to be a permanent occupation.”
Asked where Occupy Vancouver could appear next, Fernando said: “A, I don’t know and B, if I did know, I wouldn’t tell you.”
Fernando said that “whatever we do, we’ll do en masse and together.”
The group later revealed their new location in a tweet on their Twitter account.
Vancouver police issued a statement Tuesday afternoon asking all Occupy Vancouver protesters to obey the injunction and peacefully leave all areas of the courthouse.
“Police are asking the protesters not to resist in any way that could jeopardize their safety,” the statement said.
More than 40 tents were pitched by protesters on Monday afternoon at the provincially owned court grounds, after the earlier injunction forced them to move from city land at the Vancouver Art Gallery plaza.
The injunction targeted “the erection and maintenance of structures, including tents, on courthouse lands; and any activity that interferes with access to or the proper functioning of the courts.”
Hundreds of Occupiers weathered Monday night’s storm at their new location, which is under the shelter of The Asia Pacific Business Centre at 800 Hornby Street. They moved there shortly after 2 p.m. Monday, when the city of Vancouver’s injunction forced them from the art gallery site.
Earlier Tuesday morning the tent city seemed quiet and peaceful even though Premier Christy Clark promised to seek an injunction as soon as the BC Supreme Court opened at 10 a.m.
In his submission on behalf of the attorney-general, lawyer Craig Jones had said that the application for injunction was to “restore and preserve unimpeded access by the public to the Vancouver law Courts and to prevent any interference with the operation of the courts.”
Jones held that by moving to Robson square plaza adjoining the entrance to the provincial court portion of the court house, Occupy Vancouver protesters were in “criminal contempt” of the court as they were “impeding access to the courts”. In addition, he said they were also causing public nuisance by unreasonably interfering with the public’s interest in questions of health, safety, morality, comfort or convenience.
Jones compared the “occupation” of the court house precincts to the allied occupation of Germany after the Second World War. “Occupation means control of a space”. The occupiers, he said were inhibiting “the other 99 percent” from enjoying the space. “Children cannot run around in the place.”
The attorney-general also sought an “anti contravention clause” to prevent further attempts to move Occupy Vancouver to other public locations, “forcing successive landlords and courts to expend resources evicting them.”
The court accepted the attorney-general’s submission that the occupiers were in criminal contempt of the Court by impeding public access to it and were also causing public nuisance, but it refused to grant a “speculative” injunction for something that has not yet occurred.
“All things considered, the judgment was fair,” said Chris Shaw, a medic at Occupy Vancouver, who attended the injunction hearing. He said he was glad that the court refused to grant an injunction preventing the occupiers from moving to other public lands in Vancouver, as that would have been extremely far-reaching and speculative in nature and a violation of Charter rights.
The verdict could be delivered quickly because there was no representation on behalf of Occupy Vancouver.