'Still work to be done' to make Occupy Vancouver safe
Vancouver's fire chief says protesters in the city's Occupy encampment have not fully complied with a court order on safety regulations, but he's willing to give them more time.
Demonstrators were told to remove tarps and place tents at least three feet apart by 2 p.m. Thursday under an interim court order issued by B.C. Supreme Court Justice Anne MacKenzie.
"There is still work to be done," Chief John McKearney told reporters after touring the site.
"We've identified where there is further requirement to be compliant, and I'm confident, based on the information I've seen from the peacekeepers, that the work is going to progress."
He estimated that it will take the protesters 12 to 14 hours to get in compliance will fire safety regulations.
McKearney said he will give those living in the tent city more time, "as long as there's forward movement and they give me a reasonable time."
It was the second time in less than 12 hours that firefighters have toured the Occupy Vancouver site at the Vancouver Art Gallery to make sure protesters are obeying the judge's order.
Demonstrators were also ordered to remove all fuel sources and fire hazards from their tents by 7 p.m. on Wednesday. McKearney and a team of 11 firefighters and senior department personnel inspected tents for propane, butane other potentially hazard heat sources Wednesday night, and were able to access all but about 18 tents.
Inspectors were refused entry to 12, and six were found locked and possibly unoccupied. Capt. Gabe Roder described the majority of protesters as "much more cooperative" than they had been in past days.
Protesters obliged firefighters peacefully on Wednesday night, but tensions arose between occupiers and members of the media trying to document the inspection process.
A team of reporters and camera operators followed firefighters throughout the camp, leading some protesters to refuse firefighters access to their tents for privacy concerns.
"I'm gonna go over there and take that camera off your hand, pal," one protester yelled at a member of the media. "That's no respect at all."
"Sorry, we don't want filming in the tents," another told firefighters.
Later, ambulance paramedics arrived at the camp to tend to a woman found unconscious in a tent. Roder said the woman appeared to be about 25 years old, and was in a semi-responsive state by the time she was taken to hospital.
Protesters downplayed the seriousness of the incident and blocked cameras from filming the patient.
"It's quite simple: We don't want you spin-doctoring everything that goes on here," said one protester who did not give his name.
Justice MacKenzie has given lawyers for the Occupy came one week to mount a defence against the city's request for a permanent end to the tent city that was set up behind the art gallery almost four weeks ago. The injunction was filed two days after a woman was found dead inside a tent at the site, and four days after a protester suffered a non-fatal overdose.
The city is also seeking the authority for police to arrest and remove anyone who interferes with the camp's dismantling.