Occupy Edmonton protesters begin site clean-up

Occupy Edmonton protesters are clearing a massive pile of belongings from the downtown park the group has been camping in for more than six weeks.

Protesters will discuss Friday night whether to occupy new site

Occupy Edmonton protesters are clearing a massive pile of belongings from the downtown park the group has been camping in for more than six weeks.

It's expected to take most of the day Friday, said Mike Hudema.

The protesters will meet at 6:30 p.m. Friday to discuss what they will do next, he said.

There's a possiblity that will mean occupying a new site; there's a possibility we'll be organizing in different way," he said. 

The camp at Jasper Avenue and 102nd Street was dismantled by city police early Friday morning, resulting in at least three arrests.

"We were all sleeping in the white tent," said Mahad Mohamed. "They woke us up and told us to move."

Police were courteous

About 45 officers arrived to remove the protesters and their camp in what appeared to be a peaceful eviction, which took about 90 minutes. 

Police, for the most part were, "very courteous and respectful," said Occupy protestor Bill Thomas.

Officers arrived just after 4 a.m. to minimize any potential conflict, such as protesters locking themselves together, police said.

Nine people were in the park and given the choice to leave without consequences or stay to be arrested, said police.

Six people left, while three men — aged 27, 32 and 33 — chose to be arrested.

One protester attempted to handcuff himself to a stove, said police.

The three were released at about 7 a.m. after being issued trespassing fines of $287.

Police erected a fence around the perimeter of the camp before leaving the scene.

The tents and any salvageable personal items found on the private property will be itemized, processed and available to be claimed by owners in the next few days, said police.

Occupy Edmonton protesters said earlier this week they would not willingly leave the downtown park where they had been camped out since mid-October.

The protesters said they were prepared to stay at the site for years if need be.

"We're building a community here," said Hudema, on Tuesday. "We aren't harming anybody."

Site was unsafe, said owner

Melcor Developments Ltd., the owner of the park at Jasper Avenue and 102nd Street, wanted the protesters to stop camping at the site, citing safety concerns over the use of fires and wood-burning stoves.

"During the six-week occupation, there were dozens of calls to police, fire and ambulance to attend to issues at the site," Melcor said in a press release Friday.

"Given the seriousness of the many infractions, and the risks to personal safety, Melcor determined that it was imperative to end the unauthorized trespass on the property."

Melcor thanked the police and the city for helping to end the occupation "in as safe, orderly and peaceful manner as possible."

The Edmonton eviction follows similar moves by police in Vancouver, Ottawa, Toronto and Montreal.

The Occupy movement was spawned by a suggestion in Canada's Adbusters magazine, which prompted protesters to occupy a park near New York's financial district. The Occupy Wall Street movement inspired similar efforts around the world. The movement — which held an international day of protest Oct. 15 — protests income inequality and social injustice.