Campers clear cenotaph, parks department starts cleanup

Tribute bench vandalized during week-long tent city

While they didn’t hit the deadline set by Oak Bay Police Department, a protest camp vacated the cenotaph area of Oak Bay by this morning (Nov. 1).

On Oct. 26, police told campers that they would have to be gone by 11 a.m. on Oct. 31 to allow the parks department to prepare the cenotaph area as they do every year at this time. This year, in addition to the parks Staff usual efforts to prepare the park, there will be the additional cleaning required to ensure the site is safe and to address the issue of a vandalized tribute bench.

“The community of Oak Bay has been very compassionate and patient, but unfortunately, the camp deteriorated and Oak Bay residents have been disrespected by having their property damaged,” said Deputy Chief Ray Bernoties. “I was incredibly disappointed to learn that they had spray painted a tribute bench.”

Police said they were increasingly concerned that conditions at the park were deteriorating. They received reports of unusual activities in the area such as people defecating and urinating in the park, a house broken into in very close proximity to the park, other break and enter attempts. A tribute bench, located at the camp, was also spray painted. Aside from being a disrespectful act, police said, it will cost about $1,500 to replace.

The pop up protest camp moved to the Uplands Park space Tuesday, Oct. 24, to spend its third week in Oak Bay public spaces. The camp started behind municipal hall and moved to Willows Beach after a week.

“I’m very pleased that Oak Bay used a Hazmat team. The fact that they found needles, potentially containing fentanyl, should serve as a warning to other municipalities,” Bernoties said.

He added that officers tolerated weeks of threats to cause a violent confrontation with police if they took action.

With the camp gone, the parks department and a contracted hazmat team started cleanup. Preparation for Remembrance Day will continue for several days.



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