Occupy Calgary won't be forced out by city

The city-imposed deadline for Occupy Calgary demonstrators to leave Olympic Plaza has passed, but the municipality says it will not force the group to leave.

Olympic Plaza group is asked to leave, but won't be physically removed

Tavis Ford, who is camping out in Olympic Plaza as part of Occupy Calgary, says the group won't leave until they see an end to injustice, pointing to the homelessness that exists in the shadow of oil company headquarters. (CBC)
The city has asked those occupying Olympic Plaza to leave, saying there's been damage to the day-use park. Those at St. Patrick's Island are allowed to stay. (CBC)

The city-imposed deadline for Occupy Calgary demonstrators to leave Olympic Plaza has passed, but the municipality says it will not force the group to leave.

The city doesn't want to risk violating the group's constitutional rights, so it will not forcibly remove them at this time, said Tom Samson, deputy chief of the Calgary Emergency Management Agency.

"Our challenge right now is certainly that there are bylaws that require us to not have people there, but in a similar sense we have the Charter, which says that people have a right to demonstrate."

The city requested that the tents be removed Thursday, so that the plaza could be cleaned for Saturday’s Muslim Heritage Day festival. The group booked the space in advance.

Occupier Tavis Ford said Occupy Calgary has been working with the Muslim community to ensure that there’s room for both groups in the public square.

"They have been fantastic, co-operative, and we're doing everything we can to accommodate them," Ford said. "We're really looking forward to that day. There's a lot of solidarity."

Samson said that while the group hosting the weekend festival may not mind sharing the space, he thinks the appropriate thing for the demonstrators to do is to leave.  

"Anytime that you’re planning an event, you don’t look to have a bunch of folks who are squatting on land to join your event."

There is another event planned for Oct. 31, which may be cancelled, and another event on Nov. 2. Having the plaza occupied has cost the city up to $40,000 to get the park cleaned quickly and repair damages, Samson said.  

City looks at legal action

The city's legal team is examining whether the city can get an injunction to force the protesters to leave the plaza. Samson said they don’t want to see anything like what happened in Oakland, Calif., where police officers violently broke up camps and arrested protesters who refused to leave public space.

Ford and his fellow occupiers, however, aren’t deterred.

"We're looking for systemic solutions, and we're staying," Ford said.

"This is beyond the city, it’s beyond administration. This isn’t matter of green grass, or having access to the park and making everything pretty. If we want to use an awful term, this is a sore that shows the sickness of capitalism."

Samson isn’t convinced. He said he doesn’t think the occupiers are finding solutions to the problems they say they're demonstrating against, adding that the group is only inconveniencing and harming Calgarians who are now avoiding Olympic Plaza.