The City of Vancouver has moved to get a court order to shut down the Occupy Vancouver tent city — but not the protest itself, says city manager Penny Ballem.
"We're asking for the tents to be removed and the structures, not the people," Ballem told reporters at a city hall news conference Monday afternoon. "They can continue to protest. That is a really clear distinction here. It is not about removing people."
Ballem said city lawyers were in court Monday and were granted an application to fast-track their application, meaning that they can apply for the injunction Tuesday.
Ballem would not say when the city would force the occupiers to take down their tents if the injunction is granted, but said it would be dealt with "expeditiously."
But many in the protest camps in Vancouver and Victoria — where city officials have undertaken a similar legal initiative — say they have no intention of complying with the demand.
In Victoria, protesters took down several tents, but about 100 other protesters formed a human chain around the camp in Centennial Square as a noon deadline from the city passed.
The camp residents say they have a charter right to protest — and to choose how they protest — and they won't leave the lawn of the Vancouver Art Gallery, despitethe threat of an injunction.
Ballem said earlier the city gave notice to the campers Monday to leave the site immediately.
A notice signed by Ballem asking the protesters to remove their tents was posted around the camp on Monday morning.
The notice said the city continues to support the protesters' right to peaceful protest and would commit to keeping the stage and electrical power used by the protesters for their sound system in place on the site, but the tents had to go.
"By this notice we ask you to take your tents, belongings and any other items or structures off the site immediately so that the safety concerns can be addressed," it said.
Protester overdosed in tent
Mayor Gregor Robertson announced over the weekend that the city would move to shut down the camps after a woman died of an apparent heroin overdose in the Occupy Vancouver camp on Saturday.
Ashlie Gough, 23, was found unresponsive in her tent at around 5 p.m. PT on Saturday and taken to hospital, where she was later pronounced dead.
An official cause of death has not been released, but a worker with the tent city said it was a drug overdose, the second in three days, though the first was not fatal. On Thursday another camper nearly died from a reported heroin overdose.
Robertson said he supports the right to protest, but the campers have to go.
"Although initially the encampment had few issues, its physical structure has now deteriorated to the point that there are imminent life safety risks, identified by the Vancouver Fire Department and other city staff who have been attending on site," Robertson said on Sunday.
But city councilor and mayoral candidate Susan Anton said Robertson has been too slow to act to shut down the camp.
"It's actually what I've been calling for, for about three weeks now, which is give people notice that they must leave and then go in and in an orderly fashion, help them leave," said Anton.
"Certainly, as I said, staff can do that. We have engineering staff, health, housing, all these other staff teams, police and fire, who can make this happen," said Anton.
Victoria protesters given notice
Over the weekend, city workers in Victoria issued notices to campers at the Occupy Victoria to take down their tents by noon Monday. The notices were handed to protesters or pinned on tents circling Centennial Square on Sunday.
Protesters have been told they must vacate so Victoria can move ahead with other activities planned for the downtown square. Violators could face tickets or a court injunction.
On Monday, protester Anushka Nagji said the immediate reaction was anxiety and panic, but camp residents soon gathered to plan their next move.
"We had a general assembly and made a decision that a letter would be sent back to the city in reply to the eviction notice specifically stating our legal right," said Nagji.
"And so there are definitely people out there, particularly people who have camped out since the beginning who … don't recognize the validity of the eviction notices."
Nagji said that rather than vacating the square at noon, there will be a call for more people to gather, and she hopes a groundswell of public support will show that they will not be easily swayed by an eviction notice.
Winnipeg protesters brave snow
Meanwhile in Winnipeg, snow and freezing temperatures aren't chasing away the Occupy Winnipeg protesters from their downtown tent village.
Jeremy Hughes has been camping out in Memorial Park, across from the Manitoba legislative building, for almost three weeks and refuses to let the weather stop him from bringing awareness to social injustices.
And in Halifax on Sunday Occupy Nova Scotia protesters were cleaning and preparing to move to another site to allow Halifax to hold its annual Remembrance Day event.