Occupy Vancouver: packing up but not packing it in
Reporting from Vancouver – After over a month of battling law enforcement, fierce storms, torrential downpours and strong bureaucratic opposition, the Occupy Vancouver encampment has finally packed up, though they are not prepared to pack it in yet.
The commencement of camping comes as a result of Nov. 18 Supreme Court ordered injunction to remove all structures from the protest site, which had been in place for over a month in the middle of downtown’s business and shopping district. At 2 p.m. on Nov. 22, City of Vancouver officials moved in to enforce the injunction to remove all structures from the Occupy Vancouver protest site, located in on the rear courtyard of The Vancouver Art Gallery.
Coincidentally – or not – the Supreme Court order to remove the make-shift tent-city came just one day prior to the Vancouver Mayoral elections. Incumbent-Mayor Gregor Robertson, had seen his healthy lead over the opposition dwindle in recent weeks, and had come under increased scrutiny over his perceived soft stance on the contentious campers.
The self-sustained mini-community, complete with first-aid, food, warm-up and information tents, as well as living quarters, quickly migrated to a new site, at Robson Square, just a few blocks away. However, the new camp had hardly been erected before it too was dismantled after British Columbia Premier Christy Clark pushed a second court injunction, barring the protest from it’s new location, through the supreme court.
“I think people are fed up with all this nonsense, it’s not time for them to move,” she said, according to The Province. “It’s time for them to close up shop. I’m fed up with it. We’re going to send a message that we’re fed up and we’re not going to waste days, weeks and months. We’re going to get on this as quick as we can.”
And quickly they did.
Following the Nov. 22 eviction, Occupy organizers once more relocated, this time to Grandview Park, a slightly more remote location outside the downtown core. Yet this locale too proved unpromising. After uproar from local residents and community figures, as well as a reminder from police that camping in the park was in fact illegal, Occupy organizers held a general assembly, where the decision to disband the camp was made.
According to Occupy Vancouver organizers, the group plans to hold meetings and continue to protest at the original Art Gallery location.
The Current court injunctions bar all structures from being in place, however meetings and peaceful protests are protected and well within the legal rights of the protesters. Organizers say that while they will abide by the law, they will not give-up, and will continue to hold public assemblies on a nightly basis.
While the over month-long protest saw a few minor dust-ups between police and protesters the event had managed to remain largely peaceful. Unfortunately however, the movement was marred by tragedy, which served to raise the ire of local residents, businesses and politicians and increased scrutiny on the gathering.
On Saturday, Nov. 5, 23-year-old Victoria resident Ashley Gough died of a drug overdose, after ingesting a lethal mix of cocaine and heroin. Medical teams stationed at the site attended to Gough, however were unable to resuscitate the woman. The fatal overdose comes on the heals of the successful rescue of a man, who also suffered an overdose, the Thursday prior. Fortunately, however, medical aides which were on site, were able to respond in time to save the man’s life.
Vancouver resident, Neil Magnuson, is a full-time rights activist, an active member of the occupy movement, and an acquaintance of the deceased. While he grieves the loss of the young woman, he contends that the media and city officials are using the tragedy to further their own cause and detract from the legitimacy of the movement.
“[She] had only been here for a couple of days, wasn’t really part of the movement, she was just here,” he said. “This isn’t an issue in so many other parts of Vancouver where people are dying of drug overdoses all the time. [There were] about 150 drug-related deaths last year, and yet you don’t hear about that in the mainstream, you hear about the one death at Occupy Vancouver.”
While Magnuson is concerned with the attention that the few negative incidents bring, he still firmly believes that “Occupy” will continue its forward momentum.
“This is a great movement and it will continue because it’s the right thing to do,” he said.