Many Calgarians have complained about the city’s lack of action against Occupy Calgary. We at the Free Press would like to make a point of thanking Calgary Police Service for not pepper spraying anyone and continuing to protect our rights as human beings to safety and security of the person.
Despite the serving of 24 hour eviction notices last Tuesday, there was little action taken to enforce them. At least until 11:30 pm Monday Nov 21.
I arrived on the scene to find a police van blocking Macleod Trail and a large group of bylaw officers removing tents under CPS supervision. I approached one officer and asked him to tell me what was happening. he told me they were removing unoccupied tents. I asked him what would become of the tents and the possessions they contained and he assured me that they would be held and the owners could contact Bylaw about claiming them.
This did not turn out to be entirely true. More on that in a moment.
The Olympic Plaza demonstrators were undaunted. Even as the tents were pulled down and tossed into the back of a truck, we unanimously declared, “The Occupation does not end here.” Passages from the charter were chanted and songs were sung into the chilly air as police cameras filmed the demonstrators who stood together to show that the info tent at least was definitely Occupied.
There are still many tents standing. The Occupation of the Plaza continues.
I spoke that night to a bylaw officer who asked that his name be withheld. He said to me, “Our department has laid off three guys this week and asked three more to take early retirement because of budget cuts. We just had to go down by the river and do this same thing to a camp that I think belonged to a homeless family. They are going to come back to find the little they had is gone. This isn’t right.”
It certainly wasn’t right for one homeless mother to be. She returned after a visit to the hospital to the camp which had served as her only shelter and safety to find all of her belongings gone.
And where did they go? Several demonstrators found that their personal effects had been discarded. Blankets, clothing and other personal effects were dumped in a nearby lot.
CBC radio interviewed Bill Bruce, head of Calgary Bylaw service about his reasons for entering the camp in the middle of the night with no warning. that podcast can be listened to here.
I especially like the part where he terminates the interview.
Bill Bruce claims that the warning came in the form of 24 hour eviction notices served the week before. The question of why they did not enforce them 24 hours later in the daytime instead of a week later by dark of night remains unanswered.
Later that night a homeless first nations man named John Green wandered into the camp. The man claimed to have been beaten up by CPS officers before being dropped off at the camp where he says they told him, “Go to the tents.”
It is true that Mr. Green was intoxicated at the time and we are unable to verify the story. However if it is true it seems to amount to a kind of implicit acknowledgement of the camp as a safe space for homeless people.
The next morning, spirits and temperatures rose and attitudes remain optimistic. Though it is only a matter of time before further action is taken. We hope it won’t be done in such a cowardly fashion.