EDMONTON – As an 11 p.m. deadline came and passed Sunday night, Occupy Edmonton protesters showed no signs of packing up and the corporation that owns the small downtown park made no move to enforce the eviction.
On Saturday, Melcor Developments Ltd. issued a notice to Occupy Edmonton protesters, saying those who remain on their property at Jasper Avenue and 102nd Street after 11 p.m. on Sunday will be “subject to removal by lawful means.”
After an emergency meeting Saturday evening, protesters said they would resist the eviction and remain at the campsite.
At press time Sunday night, neither police nor Melcor had arrived at the site.
Organizer Mahad Mohamed said Melcor had proposed a Monday morning meeting between protesters, the company and representatives of the police service and the city, but protesters had not decided yet whether to take part.
Police would not intervene in what they view as a “conflict situation between the protesters and Melcor,” acting Insp. Graham Hogg said earlier Sunday.
“Police will not be removing protesters,” Hogg said. “Our goal of a peaceful outcome still stands. They recognize that they must downsize, but I don’t think they will completely decamp.”
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Hogg said police are hoping to bring both sides together in a resolution conference facilitated by the Alberta Conflict Transformation Society, an offer that Occupy Edmonton demonstrators have thus far rejected.
“That offer is always on the table,” Hogg said.
In an open letter addressed to Melcor president Ralph Young, released late Sunday afternoon, Occupy organizers suggested the two parties use the services of a different mediation centre.
The letter requests Young outline specific concerns with the encampment, and lists more than two dozen safety initiatives the occupiers say they’ve instituted at the camp.
Citing a breakdown of communication, the letter also suggests the two parties reconcile their conflict with the help of the Edmonton-based Mediation and Restorative Justice Centre.
The Melcor notice informs Occupy Edmonton participants that the company will file a complaint with the city and ask police officers’ help with the eviction.
It also includes a provision to delay action if the demonstrators agree to submit a plan to dismantle their site.
On Sunday, Young released a statement explaining the rationale for the notice.
“Events and site conditions in the past week have significantly altered Melcor’s requirement to take action,” said Young, adding a list of complaints Melcor had previously raised with protesters.
The statement says Melcor requested protesters put out fires on Wednesday, and repeatedly asked the occupation to end when weather deteriorated.
On Friday, the group requested an urgent meeting.
After failing to receive an adequate response, Melcor decided to issue the notice.
“Melcor, Occupy Edmonton leaders and anyone associated with failure to respond to real risks to human safety could face serious consequences should any actual damage or injury or death occur on the site,” Young said.
An online petition created in opposition to Melcor’s notice had more than 4,000 signatures.
Mohamed was surprised to hear police wouldn’t remove protesters.
He said the group would be willing to talk to the city and police, but is demanding constitutional reform.
“We’re more than happy to have conversations with them, talk to them,” he said.