Occupy N.S. heads back to Grand Parade
Police confirm three people were arrested Saturday as an estimated 200 to 300 protesters from Occupy N.S. headed back to Grand Parade in downtown Halifax after being evicted from their camp at Victoria Park the night prior.
Halifax police spokeswoman Teresa Rath told CBC News that two people were arrested on allegations they breached conditions of their arrest from Friday not to be in any park, and one person was arrested on accusations they obstructed a police officer. The third person tried to stop police from arresting the first two, Rath alleged.
"We're really just there to ensure that everyone has the right to peacefully protest, and for the most part that's been happening," Rath said.
"We did see two individuals, they were acting out. They were there and that was enough to arrest them ... They were egging the situation on, they were yelling and being confrontational with police and that basically led to their arrests."
On Friday, Halifax Mayor Peter Kelly served the protesters an eviction notice, which was followed by members of Halifax Regional Police dismantling tents at Victoria Park.
There was a large police presence again Saturday as the group of protesters, which started with about 50 and soon swelled, moved back in front of City Hall at the north end of Grand Parade, many with shopping carts carrying tents and camping supplies.
The 30 police officers watched as protesters chanted that they wanted to take back Grand Parade and that Kelly had lied to them. There were a few tense moments between police and protesters, with Occupiers getting in the faces of police officers.
Many protesters said they planned to stay, while police said anyone who sets up a tent would be arrested.
'Grabbed at random'
Ian Matheson, one of the organizers of Occupy N.S., said the action from the mayor was "absolutely disgraceful" and that police were quite hostile to the demonstrators.
"A few people were grabbed at random, having their arms pulled behind their back, being treated in a way not at all suiting the peaceful situation and the nature of the protest," Matheson told CBC News on Saturday.
Fourteen people were arrested from Victoria Park by late afternoon Friday – 12 men and two women, all for obstruction of justice, according to police.
"I can't imagine how any charge of obstruction could apply to this," Matheson said. "People simply weren't inclined to immediately abandon their belongings to police."
Matheson said the protesters thought there would be a period in which to discuss taking down the tents and to prepare to leave. "But arrests began almost immediately when people weren't ready to turn over their property to police."
Mayor defends eviction
Kelly defended the eviction to CBC News on Friday, saying "at no time were they told they would be able to come back."
The mayor didn't give a reason for the eviction being served on Remembrance Day, saying only that "council gave the direction that they [protesters] will not be allowed back in and that from that point on it became an operational issue between bylaw enforcement and police."
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He said Saturday that "we can co-exist, they have the right to protest and bring their voice to the public in a democratic process, but what they can't bring is their tents."
Demonstrators moved to Victoria Park earlier this week after agreeing to leave Grand Parade for Remembrance Day events. They planned all along to move back to Grand Parade on Saturday.
The eviction notice protesters received said they would not be allowed to camp in Grand Parade or any other park within the Halifax Regional Municipality.
Saturday's rally moved away from Grand Parade early Saturday afternoon. The arrests were made after it left.