Anton introducing motion to end Occupy Vancouver
Vancouver mayoral candidate Suzanne Anton is asking city council to direct police and firefighters to help end the city's Occupy protest.
The Non-Partisan Association councillor will be presenting the motion next week, but says she does not advocate using force to remove the tents that have been set up behind the Vancouver Art Gallery since Oct. 15.
"You work with people peacefully over a week, I guarantee you they will be gone," Anton said. "We have a professional team of staff who will make sure that they comply."
The team would involve city health, housing and engineering staff as well as police and firefighters. If protesters refuse to comply, Anton suggested staff could proceed by removing tents when they are unattended.
Incumbent Mayor Gregor Robertson told reporters Wednesday that police and city staff have already been reminding protesters day after day that the camp violates city bylaws.
He acknowledged that the message has not resonated much among demonstrators. "Their governance is, I think, amorphous at best, and so it's difficult for there to be a substantive exchange at this point… we're not hearing anything back except that they want to stay."
But for now, maintaining a dialogue is all that can be done, Robertson said.
Demonstrators in hundreds of other cities have joined in the Occupy Wall Street movement, and attempts to quash the protests using force have ended in violence, the Vision Vancouver mayor added.
"I know, looking at other cities that have descended into chaos with tear gas and arrests and violence, that that is not the way forward," Robertson said. "Precipitating that with threats and ultimatums is totally irresponsible, so we're not going there."
Anton says her motion would see "squatters" at the Art Gallery given a week notice to remove tents from the property. "People are fine, tents are not," said Anton, who accused Robertson of responding to the situation with indecision.
"Nobody, not even me, a member of his council, knows what his intentions are," she said.
The global protest against economic inequality and corporate greed has become a hot-button issue in Vancouver's civic campaign; Tuesday's mayoral debate saw demonstrators shout over both Robertson and Anton before one Occupy protester stormed the stage.
Robertson shrugged the incident off Wednesday as "boisterous" attendees merely exercising their right to protest.
The mayor of Halifax, which has also hosted an Occupy protest since Oct. 15, issued his own one-week ultimatum on Tuesday, saying the city needed to be cleaned for a ceremony of the Atlantic Jewish Council on Nov. 9 and a Remembrance Day event two days later.
He did not outline what the city plans to do if they refuse to vacate.
In the States, a handful of cities have taken a more hands-on approach to quelling protests. On Wednesday, riot squads in the U.S. cracked down on camps in Atlanta and Oakland, Calif., deploying tear gas and arresting dozens of protesters.
Protesters were reportedly warned multiple times overnight before the raid began.
Vancouver's mayor insists the situation must be taken day-by-day, and that the city would take more swift action if police or staff witness health, safety or fire breaches at the site.
Municipal elections are being held province-wide Nov. 19.
With a report from CTV British Columbia's Rob Brown