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Occupy Vancouver continues: businesses feel impacts; protesters reaching out; politics as usual

November 1st, 2011 · 13 Comments

The last council meeting of the Vision administration became the site for a round of political theatre Tuesday, after the Vision council pulled in staff to explain what’s going on down at the Occupy site.

The explanations were fine, but then Vision politicians couldn’t resist driving in a nail with a jackhammer, by asking all kinds of questions aimed getting staff to state the case for doing nothing. No sooner were they done then Suzanne Anton stood up to blast the mayor for having no plan.(No explanation, as usual, for what her plan is except some vague order to tell protesters to leave.)

Cue scrums out in the hallway with all and sundry, including several Occupy Vancouver protesters and more. My story, which condenses the drama considerably, here.

The main legal point of the afternoon appeared to be that police don’t want to go in anywhere without an injunction and then an order to enforce. (I’ve heard they insisted on that in previous homeless camps.)

City manager Penny Ballem said the city’s legal department is not confident a judge would grant an injunction, since they tend to give a lot of leeway to freedom-of-expression arguments unless there are problems of health and safety, destruction of private property, or criminal behaviour.

I don’t understand the fine details of these Charter arguments but council candidate Sandy Garossino, a one-time Crown prosecutor who used to job-share with Suzanne Anton, has been educating a group of us via 140-character tweets.

In the meantime, as I reported yesterday, businesses around the site are beginning to get concerned about the long-term impacts. For some, like the hotels, it’s more the traffic problems. But, ironically, the food carts that Vision Vancouver loves to brag about are among those hardest hit.

One of the evolving parts of the Occupy Vancouver camp is how the protesters are responding to this. The people I’ve talked to seem genuinely concerned that they’re having a negative impact on businesses or the general public. The Occupy tweeter put out a message this morning asking people to visit the food trucks.

Another young woman, Kaleen McNamara, who is part of the newly formed community liaison committee, also said they are going to try connecting tomorrow with groups like the Santa Claus parade, the Grey Cup festival planners, and the group that traditionally lights a menorah at Hanukkah to make sure they feel welcome at the plaza.

However, many of the protesters (I had a chance to talk to several of them because I arrived early at council to stake out my spot) also insisted that they’re not going to leave. They say that before the Occupy movements set up tents, no one paid any attention to the issues they’re talking about. (Not sure that’s completely true, but for sure, it has increased the attention.)

However, our conversation did head for rockier ground when I kept asking, “But what if your tactics and your camp end up actually turning people off your message and you alienate the general public?” Some said the public supports them, that it’s just the tabloid media that makes it sound as though there’s opposition.

But others said that, if they feel they are truly turning the public against them by continuing the camp, they’ll have to re-evaluate. However, as it now stands, those are just random opinions. Anything that happens at the camp has to be voted on by the general assembly, which is never quite the same people every day.

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