Occupy Calgary protester James Bullock shows police his warm clothes, an indication he’s there to stay at Olympic Plaza. Photograph by: Christina Ryan, Calgary Herald
CALGARY — The city plans to start issuing tickets to camping Occupy Calgary protesters and will remove unoccupied tents at Olympic Plaza starting Tuesday, but demonstrators vow to stay put.
The city gave the protesters 24-hour notice that the prohibition on camping in the park will be enforced as of 9 a.m.
Violators could face fines of $100 and up to $1,000, with a possible mandatory court appearance, said Tom Sampson, deputy chief of the Calgary Emergency Management Agency.
“We’re going to start the enforcement of our parks and pathways bylaw,” said Sampson.
“The protesters have 24 hours to voluntarily remove their tents from Olympic Plaza. If those folks fail to comply, bylaw will commence the issuing of summons for the bylaws that have not been enforced to date.”
The Occupy Calgary protest has gone on for over a month and camping was allowed at the plaza by the city out of a fear of a challenge under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
Sampson said protesters have made their point and it’s time to clear the site.
Tents left unoccupied will be considered abandoned property and will be removed by bylaw officers. Any property taken can be claimed by protesters at the bylaw and animal services office.
“You’re not allowed to abandon your materials in a park,” said Sampson. “There’s an awful lot of empty tents down there, and we want to clean up the site. too. There’s an awful lot of junk lying around.”
Occupiers say they are undeterred and will remain at the park. An effort may be made to ensure someone is in each tent when police and bylaw officers arrive.
“We’re going to make an effort to protect people’s stuff. What form that takes, we’ll see what happens when the police show up,” protester Christopher McMillan said.
McMillan works during the day and doesn’t normally camp over night at the plaza, but he said keeping the tents in place is vital to the Occupy movement.
“The tents are a focal point,” said McMillan. “They are the foundation of a community that’s growing every day. We change minds one at a time.”
Occupiers also say they now want to host a “people’s assembly” nightly in the atrium of City Hall to discuss democracy.
“Ideally, we’d be doing this with the full co-operation of the city,” protester Tavis Ford said. “It’s not confrontational with the city.”
Mayor Naheed Nenshi rejected the idea Monday.
“The building closes at 6 (p.m.), so it will be interesting to see how they get in,” Nenshi said of the proposed assembly time of 6 to 8 p.m.
Other Canadian Occupy campsites have been shut recently, with sites in both Halifax and London, Ont., disbanded by police last week.
Some on Calgary city council say the go-slow approach here isn’t working.
Ald. Diane Colley-Urquhart said city efforts so far have amounted to little more than “hollow and idle threats.”
Colley-Urquhart also took a swipe at the “action plan” she and others on council approved a week ago, calling it an “oxymoron.”
The city’s tactic to root out the occupiers, she said, appears to depend on a combination of bad weather and divine intervention.
“I’ve lost complete confidence in the city’s ability to deal with this,” she said. “Time will tell. I’ll see what happens in the morning, but I’m sure there will be another excuse for not getting of these squatters.”
Even some on council who agree with the Occupy movement say it’s time the Calgary protesters at Olympic Plaza to pull up stakes.
“The message is being lost in Occupy Calgary,” Ald. Brian Pincott said. “Occupying was a tactic in getting the message out. And when the tactic becomes the point, I think it’s time to quite literally pack up your tents and go.”
Meanwhile, Jim Blake, chairman of Concerned Christians Canada, and street preacher Art Pawlowski plan to hold a prayer and Bible study in the atrium of City Hall at noon Tuesday.
They will hold it in the same spot the Occupy Calgary protesters held a Tibetan worship service last week.
Pawlowski has received more than 80 tickets for bylaw infractions in recent years.