The right to protest and occupy space

The Occupy movement is going from the parks to the streets to the courts. Activists in Canada and the United States argue that Freedom of Speech and Freedom of Assembly provisions in both countries give them the right to stay where they are. Today, with deadlines looming we're asking questions about the right to use public space, the right to protest, to be disruptive. And does the Occupy Movement have to Occupy Something to sustain itself ?

Part One of The Current


It's Thursday November 17th.

Police in Seattle pepper sprayed an 84 year old woman as they broke up an Occupy protest this week.

Currently, police issued an immediate apology and offer to pepper spray anyone they may have missed.

This is The Current.

The right to protest and occupy space - Michael Taube / Arun Gupta

We started this segment with a clip from protesters at Zuccotti Park in New York, the birthplace of the Occupy movement, are already taking up more space today. In what is expected to be one of the largest demonstrations in recent New York history. 10,000 supporters of the Occupy Wall Street movement will be in the streets around the subways, the stock exchange in what is being called a 'Massive Block Party'.

Earlier this week police cleared out the campers from Zuccotti Park, but they allowed people to return if they didn't pitch a tent. Here in Canada, Montreal's protesters aren't being kicked out but they are being told to dismantle anything that doesn't meet health standards.

In such cities as London, Ontario and Halifax the tents have been removed. A judge in Toronto decides Saturday if the city can evict the occupiers. So those occupiers are making plans. Conversations are underway in Vancouver, where the city is also in court, hoping to take down the tents. The mayor wants the encampment down before the Grey Cup at the end of the month.

The debate has become whether anyone has the right to take over public space indefinitely as a part of a wider protest. To explore that, we were joined by two people. Michael Taube is a political analyst, columnist for the Ottawa Citizen and former speech writer for Prime Minister Stephen Harper. He was in Toronto. And Arun Gupta is the co-founder of the Occupied Wall Street Journal. We reached him this morning in Houston, Texas.

We also put the question of the future of the movement to occupiers in three cities. We asked what would happen if they can no longer occupy the space they are in. We aired a clip with what they had to say in Toronto.

In Vancouver, the city's lawyers want an injunction to dismantle the camp on the lawn of the Art Gallery. We aired a clip what Vancouver protestors are saying.

And finally, to Calgary, where police are issuing writs for activists to appear before a judge.The city's police chief, Rick Hanson, has said that since the courts have liberally interpreted Charter rights in the past, a judge should decide the next step.
In the meantime, here's what protestors are saying at their site at Olympic Plaza, across the street from Calgary City Hall.

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