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NPA mayoral candidate wants protesters given one week’s notice

City will ‘watch and wait’ on Occupy Vancouver Andrew Fleming Contributing writer

While an estimated 1,700 different cities around the world are facing ongoing protests allied with the Occupy Wall Street movement, Vancouver is probably one of the few where it has become a hot-button election issue. The question of what to do—or not to do—about the Occupy Vancouver protesters that have been camping out on the Vancouver Art Gallery’s north plaza since Oct. 15 was front and centre at a well-attended city council meeting Tuesday, Nov. 1, the final meeting of council before the Nov. 19 election. Mayoral candidate Suzanne Anton, the lone NPA member on the Vision Vancouver-led city council, wanted to give the protesters one week’s notice to pack up and go home. “Standing back and hoping for the best is not a plan,” said Anton. “There is a significant cost in terms of business to the hotels, to food vendors, the neighbouring businesses and also a significant cost to our city’s reputation, and also to the taxpayers, over half a million dollars to date. The point is people are good, protest is good, but tents are not and are causing a significant inconvenience.” Anton failed to find a seconder to put her motion forward to a vote. Her wish to send in police to end the protest went against the recommendations of city staff, who are instead advocating what they call a “watch and wait” approach. “There is a lot of public resonance with a lot of the issues that are discussed through this global protest, and up to this time the protest in Van-

couver has been peaceful and cooperative and reasonably responsive to our requests,” said city manager Penny Ballem. “We would like to try and resolve this over time through peaceful means… We haven’t provoked any major confrontation and we don’t want to do that. We know that if we push too hard, we could get it back.” Police Chief Jim Chu pointed out other cities have sent in police to end Occupy protests and it hasn’t worked. “In other jurisdictions where they’ve tried to end it with police intervention, it hasn’t ended it,” said Chu, citing the examples of Chicago and Oakland where protesters simply turned up again after violent mass arrests. “Our role in the police department is to help facilitate lawful protest. We want the safety of the protesters as well as the public… If the police are going to be asked to move in, we would prefer that an injunction is obtained.” Ballem added that a court injunction might not be even granted because it would require proving there are significant risks to the public, and judges might decide protesters’ right to freedom of expression under the Canadian Charter of Rights would trump private property rights. Lauren Gill, an Occupy Vancouver protester who is also running for city council, said it would be counterproductive to try to end the protest without addressing the issues it is raising. “We’re not going anywhere,” Gill told reporters after council adjourned. “The reality of the situation is even if they move us from the art gallery, it’s going to pop up somewhere else.” Twitter: @flematic

NPA mayoral candidate Coun. Suzanne Anton (left) wants police to end the protest outside the Vancouver Art Gallery. photos Dan Toulgoet

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Vancouver Courier November 4 2011  

Vancouver Courier November 4 2011

Vancouver Courier November 4 2011  

Vancouver Courier November 4 2011