Not a moment too soon: patience seems to be wearing thin with the Occupy movements across Canada, and city officials in several communities are moving to reclaim public property. In some cases, demonstrators have been given deadlines to leave.
Apparently, patience has already run out in U.S. cities like Oakland, where Occupiers have had tear gas and beanbag rounds fired at them, and in Atlanta, where police arrested about 50 people after protesters were warned to leave a downtown park.
“People have a right to protest, but this is no longer a protest. This is a campground.”
– Charles Gauthier
In Calgary and Halifax, protesters have been asked to relocate, and the mayor of London, Ontario said that it’s time for the protesters to leave a city park. Not surprisingly too, the Occupy protests have become an issue in the Vancouver mayoral campaign.
In Toronto and Vancouver, city spokespersons have made it clear that, while they respect the right of citizens to hold public protests, they will not for much longer tolerate unlawful encampments in public spaces.
Edmonton businessman Ralph Young of Melcor Developments Ltd. gives an example of the public nuisance the Occupy movement typically causes when he noted that there’s a smell that lingers because the only sanitation facilities are a few portable toilets. And, apparently, Young has heard complaints from his corporate tenants about protesters “doing bodily functions outside in the open,” as well as the sudden appearance of syringes and needles nearby.
Who among us would like to have that on or near our property?
I believe we need a better balance between citizens’ right to peaceful protest in parks and other public spaces and the general public’s right to enjoy those spaces. And surely it’s the duty of police services to remove protesters from private property that has been occupied without explicit permission of the owners. I agree with Charles Gauthier, Executive Director, Downtown Vancouver Business Improvement Assn., who said recently, “People have a right to protest, but this is no longer a protest. This is a campground.”
In Montreal, about 200 demonstrators have set up camp in a park in front of the Montreal Stock Exchange tower. A spokesman for the city said there are no plans to remove these people.
In downtown Toronto, rag-tag group of people are illegally living in St. James park in tents and makeshift shelters. The protesters have been there for two weeks and are occupying the park without a permit, which makes them squatters.
On the west coast, heavy rains turned Occupy Vancouver’s shanty-town of tents on the lawn of the Vancouver Art Gallery into a muddy quagmire this week.
So what about those who live and work in those areas, Have they no rights? Why aren’t the policy enforcing laws by which the rest of us abide? Is this democracy or merely idiocy?