Occupy Victoria plans ‘flash occupations’ around the city

Occupy Victoria protest group vows to battle on, despite legal risks

Victoria police Const. Mike Massine watches the Occupy Victoria protesters at Centennial Square on Monday. Campers

Occupy Victoria is planning a series of small “flash occupations” around the city in coming weeks, warns the Victoria People’s Assembly, the group behind the protest tent city at Centennial Square.

The new protest sites will range from downtown intersections to schools, malls and even Victoria police headquarters, and last from three hours to a couple of days, said spokesperson Anushka Nagji.

The action comes after the city ordered the protest camp removed from Centennial Square by Monday at noon, or face being ticketed for breaking Victoria bylaws prohibiting tents on city property during daylight hours.

Approximately one third of the 60 tents packed up and moved, but other protesters vowed to stay.

In a voluntary compromise to appease the city and the Downtown Victoria Business Association, which wants to set up a temporary Christmas season skating rink on Centennial Square, another dozen tenters moved to another location on the square.

Then, as the city’s noon eviction deadline approached, about 125 protesters and their supporters linked arms and shouted, “Hell no, we won’t go.” Another 75 people milled about expressing support but not linking arms.

No tickets were issued.

The planned flash occupations are in response to the city’s action on Sunday when Victoria bylaw officers, protected by police, handed out 87 eviction notices to protesters camping in Centennial Square.

Mayor Dean Fortin said the city now has little choice but to ask for a B.C. Supreme Court injunction ordering the protest camp to dismantle.

Once the city has an injunction in its hands it can legally send in police to arrest and remove the  protesters.

However, getting an injunction could take several days or weeks, Fortin said, even though the city wants them out by Nov. 21 to set up Centennial Square’s Christmas decorations and ice rink before the annual Santa Claus parade on Nov. 26.

Although the mayor and council continue to support Occupy Victoria’s ideals, Fortin said council and city staff have watched in horror as drug addicts, street people “and criminal elements” have moved into the tent city.

Ken Kelly, DVBA general manager, said the protest has already resulted in fewer people shopping  downtown.

“Our greatest fear is more people are going to avoid going downtown,” Kelly said, adding that the protesters have “no idea how to restructure the economy” and should leave voluntarily, or be removed.

“By remaining they are taking away the right of property owners to earn a living,” he said.

City police said the camp had been infiltrated by a large number of street people and drug dealers whose interests have nothing do with Occupy Victoria.

Victoria police spokesman Const. Mike Russell said the demographic has changed since the protest began last month.

“We’re seeing a lot of people we’ve known for a long time.”

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