Cost to police Occupy Vancouver 'disappearing': mayor
Published Thursday, October 20, 2011 4:38PM PDT
The city and its police have spent more than $500,000 so far keeping an eye on the Occupy Vancouver movement, but the mayor says the daily cost has drastically decreased.
Since the sit-in began at the Vancouver Art Gallery on Saturday, the Vancouver Police Department has spent an extra $390,000, plus $50,000 to put an RCMP tactical unit on standby Saturday.
The city says the protest has cost it $87,000 so far, but as Occupy continues to be peaceful, the price tag has been reduced to less than $1,000 per day.
Mayor Gregor Robertson told reporters that the vast majority of the cost was incurred over the weekend, and since then, extra expenses have "basically disappeared."
"[There's] no incremental cost to the VPD and a very small cost to the city to monitor the site," he said.
He says that after the June 15 Stanley Cup riot that terrorized the downtown core, the city employed an "abundance of caution" when it came to developing a strategy for handling the Occupy protest.
He also acknowledged that the cost of policing the protest in a year that has already seen a major riot could create budget problems for the police force.
"That might put the VPD into the red at year end, depending on what happens over the next couple of months," he said.
Robertson's rival in the upcoming election, NPA candidate Suzanne Anton, has criticized the mayor for allowing protesters to set up tents in front of the art gallery.
But Robertson says the tents began appearing on Saturday amidst a crowd of thousands gathering to kick off the protest.
"It's naïve to think that this could have been stopped," he said.
The mayor says the city plans to monitor the site closely for safety and health concerns, but will let the protest go on as long as it continues to be peaceful.
"If it does go sideways, obviously the city will act," he said.
Anton says that if she were mayor, the protesters would not have been allowed to erect tents and other living structures.
"Once you let tents set up, you're stuck with them," she said.
While Anton said the mayor needs to come up with a solution for clearing out the tents, she was reluctant to offer her own plan.
"I hope they're gone by Nov. 19," she said, referring to the date of the municipal election.
"If I'm saddled with that problem, then I will deal with that at that time. Certainly it would be my goal to get people to move on."
Tent city grows
Over at the protest, Sheven Bocktous was setting up his tent Thursday afternoon. He wasn't there because of any specific complaints about the financial industry or the distribution of wealth, but because he needs a place to stay.
"I'm looking at rooms and hoping to find one, but it's still warm right now and I'm hoping I can rough it for probably another month or so," he told CTV News.
However, Bocktous said he was impressed by the ideas and ideals of the protesters and found some common ground with them.
"I heard people that were very intelligent. I've seen a lot of very interesting intellectual discussions as to why this is a good idea," he said.
Protester Markus Tapis says the demonstration is slowly becoming more organized, and Occupy participants are fine-tuning the general assembly model of decision-making.
He trusts that the city will let the sit-in continue as long as there are no major problems.
"We're not breaking any bylaws, we've had no incidents with police, there's no theft, so I'm happy to say this looks like it's the most peaceful Occupy movement -- perhaps even in the world right now," he said.
With a report from CTV British Columbia's St. John Alexander