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Occupy Victoria rearranges camp, but vows to stay

Nov 08 2011
Quint Smith packs up his belongings at the Occupy Victoria camp at Centennial Square in Victoria on Nov. 7, 2011.  

Quint Smith packs up his belongings at the Occupy Victoria camp at Centennial Square in Victoria on Nov. 7, 2011.

Photograph by: Adrian Lam, timescolonist.com

VICTORIA -- Occupy Victoria protesters remained at Centennial Square Monday night, despite being asked to leave by city officials and being told that the City of Victoria will go to court seeking an injunction to have the tents and structures removed.

"Even with an injunction, I could see us forming some sort of human chain or some form of civil disobedience, but I can't picture it becoming violent," said Devon Cowen as he got ready to climb into the tent he's been sleeping in for the past three weeks.

Victoria Mayor Dean Fortin had ordered the removal of all shelters by noon Monday. Instead of moving the 50 or so tents now clustered in different part of Centennial Square, many of the campers locked arms and surrounded the encampment's main tent just before the noon deadline.

About 80 people chanted and cheered, many expecting police to remove the tents, but Fortin had clearly stated the city would not make a move until his staff obtains a B.C. Supreme Court order.

A few police officers stood and watched the protest, but chants were all that could be heard. No tickets were handed out.

Dozens of tents have been erected in Centennial Square since Oct. 15, when about 1,000 people marched to the legislature in solidarity with the worldwide Occupy movement in 851 cities. The protests are primarily directed against social and economic inequality.

Last Wednesday, the city shut off the water supply to the square and the Capital Regional District shut off power. The public washrooms in the area have been closed after toilets were broken. Fortin gave the campers notice of the eviction notice on Sunday.

Victoria has not yet applied for an injunction hearing in B.C. Supreme Court. Vancouver has a hearing today at 2 p.m. in before the court.

The Vancouver protest in front of the Art gallery on Hornby Street is larger than Victoria's, and was the scene of a death on the weekend.

A 23-year-old woman from Victoria was found dead in a tent on Saturday afternoon. Ashlie Gough's death is not believed to be suspicious and was rumoured to be a result of a drug overdose.

Gough arrived in Vancouver late last week, said coroner Owen Court. A preliminary coroner's report found no sign of foul play.

Fortin said he and his staff will wait and see whether the Victoria campers will remove their tents by the end of the week before filing for the court injunction. Coun. Philippe Lucas called the city's imposed deadline damaging, saying it would only hinder co-operation between the city and the protesters.

The city's bylaws allow people to camp in the square, but the gear must be removed in the morning. The protesters want the encampment all day long.

Campers tried to make a peaceful gesture Monday when they moved more than a dozen tents from the back of the McPherson Playhouse to make way for the city's planned skating rink on the site.

Tents were placed instead alongside the Capital Regional District building. But leaving the tents up 24 hours a day is no longer an option, said Fortin.

"What was here on the 15th and 16th of October is no longer what we see here [today]," Fortin said. "People need to come down and see this is more and more becoming an unsafe gathering. We're seeing a lot more drug use and a lot more incidents."

dspalding@timescolonist.com

— Files from Kim Westad, Postmedia

Click here to read Occupy Victoria's response to eviction

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