Occupy Fredericton protesters get apology, $14K from city

The City of Fredericton is apologizing to three members of the local Occupy movement and paying them a combined total of more than $14,350 in damages after their protest camp was removed by city staff two years ago.

City reaches settlement with 3 protesters who filed lawsuit after camp torn down in 2012

Three Occupy Fredericton protesters have won an apology and $14,350 in damages from the city, after their protest camp was removed by city staff two years ago.

Julian Renaud, Dana Hartt, and Alex Davenport had filed a small claims lawsuit against the city, Mayor Brad Woodside, and the city's director of engineering and public works Murray Jamer in April 2012.

But the parties reached an out-of-court settlement last month and the details were just released on Monday.

The mayor refused to read the written apology aloud, but acknowledged that due to the Charter right to protest, the city's bylaw did not give it the authority to tear down the Occupy Fredericton camp, without a court order.

"Legally, it was not the right thing to do. I accept that, I apologize," Woodside told CBC News. "But the bottom line is, that mess is no longer there, and that's what really I wanted to accomplish."

The mayor also suggested the lawsuit was more about money than principle.

Renaud disputes that claim. "My share of the settlement is about $4800. You think I fought two years for that? It's nonsensical," he said.

The mayor "just made up laws that don't exist and accused his own constituents of violating them and then enforced those fictional laws against them. That's a pretty significant issue, really," Renaud said.

Fredericton hoped to be 'shining example'

The Occupy movement was spawned by a suggestion in Canada's Adbusters magazine, which prompted people to occupy a park near New York's financial district to protest income inequality and social injustice.

The Occupy Wall Street movement inspired similar efforts around the world.

The Occupy Fredericton camp had been set up at Phoenix Square, next to City Hall, on Oct. 15, 2011, and the protesters stayed there for weeks without any problems.

While other cities, such as Halifax, were issuing eviction notices for similar camps within their boundaries, Woodside had said Fredericton wanted to negotiate with the protesters and be a "shining example" for the rest of Canada.

City officials asked the protesters to move by Nov. 23 so they could get ready for the annual Christmas tree lighting ceremony on Dec. 2.

When the protesters didn't leave, the city issued an eviction notice, effective Jan. 1. The camp was dismantled on Jan. 3.

The three protesters had argued in the lawsuit that city officials did not have the authority to tear down their camp based on two provisions of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, in particular the sections that deal with freedom of expression and freedom of assembly.

They were seeking $16,600 — $5,000 each, plus loss of property.