Several night calls from Occupy Victoria protesters requesting help to remove obnoxious and noisy rowdies raiding the Centennial Square tent city over the weekend put Victoria police in a confusing situation.
It put police between a “rock and a hard place,” Const. Mike Russell said about calls from protesters he described as “illegal campers” wanting police help to move out people legally in the square.
Russell said there were quite a few calls.
Protest spokesperson Anushka Nagji last week said the People’s Assembly of Victoria, which organized the protest, had been forced to establish a “vigilance detail” of four men to patrol the tent city at night to ensure it remained quiet and peaceful.
She said the problems generally happen after downtown bars close and rowdies shout obscenities and other slurs at protesters trying to catch some sleep.
Until this weekend nothing had happened that the security detail hasn’t been able to diffuse, including handling a tiny element of Victoria’s homeless community “bent on creating problems,” said Nagji.
Meanwhile, Victoria city council last week gave thumbs up to the Occupy Victoria tent protest.
With only Coun. Geoff Young opposing, council agreed to support Occupy Victoria as long the the protesters remain peaceful and restrict themselves to using “non-violent assembly” to get their message out.
The protest is part of a “worldwide citizens’ movement to address historic and existing inequalities in financial and governmental institutions, policies and practices,” council said.
“The People’s Assembly of Victoria represents local resident participation and public engagement in this global protest and dialogue,” the motion read.
Council’s action effectively ends any threat of using police to clear out Centennial Square protesters who have set up about 50 to 60 tents in the square.
The Downtown Victoria Business Association plans to set up a large temporary public skating rink in the same space later this month.
Protest spokespeople and the DVBA have been meeting regularly to reach a compromise.
Although no formal agreement has been reached to shift some tents into an area of the square that won’t interfere with the ice rink, Nagji said most protest campers “don’t mind moving.”
But it’s not unanimous, she said.
Some protesters don’t like the idea of relocating and might not move due to the unwritten rules of the camp where individuals cannot be forced to accommodate the rest.
“It’s up to them themselves to decide whether to move,” said Nagji.
Mayor Dean Fortin said he has no deadline on how long the city will allow the protest camp to remain.
Fortin said the city won’t take police action as long as the situation remains peaceful and no criminal activity takes place.
“Right now we have no deadline,” said Fortin, adding he is closely monitoring what happens at other Occupy protest camps to get a feel for what might happen next in Victoria.
“I’m going day by day,” he said.