Judge orders Monday deadline for Occupy Vancouver to vacate

The RCMP and other police from neighbouring municipalities could join Vancouver police officers to disband the Occupy Vancouver tent village.

Late Friday afternoon in B.C. Supreme Court, Associate Chief Justice Anne MacKenzie ordered tents and structures removed by 2 p.m. Monday. Those who interfere can be arrested and tried for contempt of court.

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She agreed with the City of Vancouver application for an injunction which said the camp, erected Oct. 15 on the Vancouver Art Gallerys north plaza, violated the City Land Regulation Bylaw, Fire Bylaw and Trespass Act.

MacKenzie heard the matter over three days but did not consider the constitutional arguments of Occupy Vancouver lawyers Jason Gratl and Michael McCubbin. They contended the protest camps Charter rights trumped city bylaws because campers are using tents to freely express themselves in the anti-corporate greed protest. They also argued some of the campers are homeless and emergency shelters are both scarce and dangerous.

MacKenzie said Gratl and McCubbin had very able arguments that should be heard at trial, but they fell outside the scope of the injunction hearing.

MacKenzie agreed to city lawyer Ben Parkins request to allow police from other jurisdictions to help enforce the order. Those arrested may be released after signing an undertaking to stay away from the VAG and appear at a contempt of court hearing.

There was a difficulty when the Stanley Cup happened, Parkin told the court, referring to the June 15 riot. The 606 overwhelmed VPD officers were augmented by 322 from the RCMP and other agencies.

The order includes a declaration reaffirming the right to lawfully assemble on the Art Gallery Lands, which are leased by the city from the province until 2079.

Gratl unsuccessfully asked MacKenzie to follow a Victoria judges Friday morning decision to omit enforcement from an injunction to end the Occupy camp in the provincial capital. Gratl said an enforcement clause was unnecessary because there is a great deal of cooperation between City of Vancouver officials and Occupy Vancouver.

It is highly desirable for that cooperation and peacefulness to exist, MacKenzie said.

Parkin originally wanted a 48-hour order, but McCubbin said five days was more appropriate to let the campers pack-up their belongings and equipment. He said the level of confusion on the site favours more than 48 hours, referring to mixed messages about the camp by Mayor Gregor Robertson and fire chief John McKearney.

Five days is far too long, replied MacKenzie.

After a short recess that confirmed the citys Gathering Place emergency homeless shelter would open Friday night, she settled on the nearly 72-hour window.

The oral decision drew jeers from some in the gallery. MacKenzie threatened to have court sheriffs eject those who refused to be quiet.

Outside court, members of Occupy Vancouver said the leaderless group would discuss its next move at a general assembly meeting.

The issue with the shelters is provincial funding has been cut and to be fair the city has never put the homeless shelters high on its list of priorities, said Sean OFlynn-Magee, the first defendant named in the citys Nov. 7 petition. [Single-room occupancy hotel] conditions in Vancouver are not particularly good, especially for some of the young women who are tenting with us. I dont think they feel safe.

Madam Justice has said we are not going to deal with the issue of your rights right now while I trample on your rights, said first aid volunteer Mathew Kagis, who was added as a defendant.

Asked what he would do on Monday, Kagis said: I will stand by with my medic gear.

Occupy Vancouver protesters reacted to the decision by marching to Vision Vancouver and Non-Partisan Association campaign offices. One person was arrested for writing on the window at the NPA office.

The Occupy Wall Street-inspired protest became a dominant issue during the civic election campaign, which ends with Saturdays vote.


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