Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Please move, Canadian cities urge occupiers

Patience wears thin, but no violence

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There are signs patience is starting to wear thin with the Occupy movements across Canada, as officials in several cities are signalling to protesters the communities want to reclaim their public spaces.

While the small band of campers in Winnipeg's Memorial Park have been left alone so far, occupiers in other cities have been given deadlines to leave, though there are no signs authorities are considering approaches more extreme than asking nicely.

Some are even suggesting they simply move it somewhere else, a markedly different approach to what was seen at the Occupy protests in Oakland, Calif., and Atlanta, Ga., this week.

Police in Oakland fired tear gas and beanbag rounds at Occupy demonstrators Tuesday, which cleared out the site for a few hours. Police in Atlanta warned protesters there to leave a downtown park, and early Wednesday morning they moved in and arrested about 50 people.

In Calgary, where the Occupy movement has split into two factions, demonstrators occupying a prime downtown location have been asked to leave and return to the original, less high-traffic park agreed upon with authorities.

The downtown Olympic Plaza has been booked for a cultural celebration next Tuesday, so officials have asked the protesters to leave that spot Thursday so they have time to repair damage they say has been done to the grass, washrooms, artwork and infrastructure.

"We do need these demonstrators to respect that there are others and that they don't necessarily represent the 99 per cent, but rather a smaller group of people who are making a park not available for others who have booked it," said Tom Sampson, the deputy chief of the Calgary Emergency Management Agency.

Sampson said the movement may have a good message, but judging from feedback and complaints he has heard from community members, he thinks their methods may be causing them to lose public support.

"People don't understand what their message is anymore," he said. "They don't understand what their purpose is."

Occupy protesters in Halifax have been asked to leave the public square in front of city hall by the early evening of Nov. 6, in time for the area to be cleaned up for ceremonies marking Remembrance Day and the Dignity Day Ceremony on Nov. 9, which marks Kristallnacht, when more than 30,000 Jews were arrested by the Nazis in Germany in 1938.

Mayor Peter Kelly has offered the protesters space on the Halifax Commons, a large park that's about a 20-minute walk away.

In Edmonton, protesters are occupying private property in the heart of downtown, and an event that was to be held in support of the United Way couldn't take place, said the president of the company that owns the property.

Ralph Young said his company, Melcor Developments Ltd., gave the occupiers a letter last week suggesting they pack up every night by 11 p.m. and return the next morning. Young noted there's a smell that lingers because the only sanitation facilities are a few portable toilets.

"It's not something we condone," he said. "We have not given approval, but we have not said we're going to take any legal or police action to have them removed."

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.

"We're just hopeful it will come to a relatively speedy and peaceful end," he said.

The Occupy protests have become a hot-button issue in the Vancouver mayoral campaign.

The city has tolerated the protest so far, with a crowd of tents on the front lawn of the downtown Vancouver Art Gallery.


-- The Canadian Press

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition October 27, 2011 A13

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