Hundreds expected for Occupy Victoria protest

'Anarchists' need government approval to demonstrate of B.C. Legislature grounds

It’s not often that protesters many see as anarchists get government approval for large scale demonstration in front of the B.C. Legislature buildings.

But that’s exactly what the people behind the Occupy Victoria protest slated for Saturday (Oct. 15) between 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. have done – gone though the hoops to get approval that allows them to protest as long as they don’t damage property or break the law.

The protest approval letter even tells permit applicant Josh Steffler: “I wish you the best with your upcoming event.”

Steffler is optimistic the protest against bank and corporate greed and power will draw several hundred people.

Provincial New Democrat leader Adrian Dix and Victoria Mayor Dean Fortin both said they approves of the aims of the protest.

Dix said there’s a growing need to address “the alarming increase in inequality that disfigures our society.”

Urging the protesters to “do so in a peaceful manner,” he said “we will continue to see movements  . . that offer a voice to those who feel ignored, excluded and disenfranchised.”

However, Dix won’t be at the Occupy Victoria protest due to other commitments.

Staffler said the Victoria Police Department has told him it will have uniformed officers at the demonstration but wouldn’t say whether plain clothes officers will also mix with the crowd.

He said Victoria police have told him they expect about 200 people to participate in the demonstration. Steffler said he hopes the number will be considerably larger since it is part of a well-publized national protest in several Canadian cities Saturday, and which itself is part of the fast-growing international Occupy Wall Street movement in the United States.

When asked why Occupy Victoria chose the legislative grounds rather than in front of a major bank or investment dealer,  Steffler said it would have been almost impossible to get a protest permit from civic authorities, adding it is better to draw the attention of MLAs who have the power to legislate change.

Occupy Victoria needed government approval in order to tap into legislative grounds electricity so that protest speakers can use microphones to address the crowd, he said, adding that the protest will have its own marshals on the legislative grounds to ensure there is no damage or other trouble.

The permission letter for “Public Use of Legislative Grounds” allows protesters on the front lawns, steps and driveway of the Parliament Buildings “provided that you and your participants adhere to the following guidelines”  and “not damage property or endanger the health and safety of others.”

It also asks that any litter generated by the protest be collected and removed — something Steffler promises will happen within minutes after the three-hour protest ends.

As a final note, the approval letter advises “that this authorization does not signify any undertaking by the Legislative Assembly of British Columbia to compensate for any loss or damage suffered by those using the Parliament buildings and/or ground for this event.”