New Brunswick

End Occupy Saint John: city councillor

A Saint John city councillor wants the Occupy Saint John protesters in King's Square to pack up and leave, or for the city to take action to end the occupation.
Coun. Bruce Court says the uptown encampment is "a disgrace." (CBC)
A Saint John city councillor wants the Occupy Saint John protesters in King's Square to pack up and leave.

Otherwise, Bruce Court wants the city to follow the lead of some other Canadian and American cities and take action to end the occupation.

"It's time for them to move," Court said during Monday night's council meeting. "They've got to go. I mean people are fed up with them. We get a lot of calls about them.

"They made their statement so move on."

Court said the uptown encampment is "a disgrace" that is making the city look bad to visitors.

"It does look bad, I mean in the middle of the city, having tents. That park, they're saying the grass is destroyed. I mean they're just hanging around. It's not a safe place for people to walk and sit and stuff," he said.

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"They should be removed."

The protests originally started on Sept. 17 in New York City, with a few dozen demonstrators who tried to pitch tents in front of the New York Stock Exchange.

Since then, the controversial movement to raise awareness about poverty and the corruption protesters claim has spread to the political and legal systems has spread across North America.

The eviction took place shortly after Remembrance Day ceremonies ended, and only a couple hours after an eviction notice was served.

The decision to enforce the municipal parks bylaw was made by council behind closed doors last Tuesday.

Fourteen people — 12 men and two women — were arrested for obstruction of justice.

Not all members of Saint John council agree with Court about shutting down the Occupy Saint John movement. "I admire what they're doing," said Coun. Patty Higgins.

The protesters are asking important questions and not hurting anyone, she said.

"It's been quiet and peaceful."

City spokeswoman Leah Fitzgerald said there are no immediate plans to remove the occupiers. She said they have been peaceful and co-operative.

The fire department will continue to do weekly inspections of the site, said Fitzgerald.

No one was hurt and the cause of the fire is still under investigation.

Deputy Chief Gerry Green said crews removed kerosene and propane heat sources from the site.

He worries the fire risks will only get worse as protesters look for ways to stay warm in the winter.

"Extremely dangerous, it goes without saying," Green said. "Anytime anybody's sleeping and there's a chance there could be a fire, it's just extremely dangerous."

Dorian Venne, who has been camping in the park for the past couple of weeks with a handful of other Occupy protesters, believes the fire was deliberately set to force them to move on.

He describes the damage as a setback, but has vowed to stay on.

"Even if (the other protesters) end up leaving, I mean even if I'm the only person here, it's still to me seems like a reasonable quest," he said.

Venne said the protesters will start taking shifts throughout the night to keep watch over their camp.

They also expect to soon have a military style tent suitable for winter camping.