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Photo by Jane Lytvynenko

 

Protesters stay in park past set deadline

ON NOV. 21, Occupy Ottawa protesters received an eviction notice from the National Capital Commission (NCC) requesting the group vacate Confederation Park by 11:59 p.m. that night. Although the encampment has shrunk after receiving the notice, not all tenants have complied with the NCC’s request, some barricading the fountain in Confederation Park and others staying in their tents.

Occupy Ottawa is a part of the global Occupy Together movement that stems from Occupy Wall Street. Protesters describe it as a horizontal movement, which fights for the 99 per cent—individuals who have suffered from the poor economic decisions of banks and governments during the 2009 recession.

“What we have here is a community of people who help and care for each other,” said Shane Davis-Young, second-year chemical engineering student at the University of Ottawa and a member of Occupy Ottawa’s facilitation working group.

“We have services here like food, shelter, and the ability to direct people to societal resources they may need, and what we have here is a truly open and democratic community that’s open to everyone,” he added. “That is what the NCC is trying to shut down and they won’t because Occupy Ottawa is more than just a camp.”

The notice the NCC delivered says although Canadians have rights to peaceful protest and freedom of expression, Confederation Park needs to undergo “preparations for events and programming, [which] will be adversely affected if the camping activities continue,” referring to Winterlude, a festival taking place in the park in February.

The notice also advised protesters their belongings would be seized by the NCC if they remained in Confederation Park past the deadline.

“Winterlude does not include the entirety of the park and we had no plans to interfere with Winterlude,” said Davis-Young. “Winterlude preparations won’t begin until January—there’s no reason to kick us out now. Many of us were actually looking forward to volunteering and participating in Winterlude to give back to the community.”

Jill Skinner, superintendent of the Ottawa Police Service (OPS), said there is an operational plan in place if the protesters refuse to leave, but the OPS is trying to remain neutral.

“We continue to maintain a very positive working relationship with the demonstrators,” said Skinner. “Our goal is to have them leave peacefully.”

Despite some protesters staying past the time set by the NCC, Skinner said no new deadline has been set.

“At this point, we should take this one step at a time,” said Skinner. “It’s all about a co-operative working relationship. We protect people’s right to protest.”

Davis-Young said those remaining in the camp are intent on staying put regardless of the NCC’s and OPS’s warnings.

“I decided to stay because there are things more important than a $65 trespassing charge or a petty arrest,” said Davis-Young. “The movement is still going strong. What we’re looking at is the end of the camp, not the end of the movement. Occupy Ottawa is more than just tents.”

—Jane Lytvynenko