Monday, November 7, 2011

Penny says pack up now, protest later

A letter has been posted at the Vancouver Art Gallery's north plaza where Occupy Vancouver's camp was erected Oct. 15 and 23-year-old Ashlie Gough of Victoria died Nov. 5 of an apparent drug overdose.

Below is the text of the letter from city manager Penny Ballem. It is not a court order, but a request. Occupy Vancouver general assemblies have previously reached consensus that the campers will not respect requests from the city that are not delivered by officials during a general assembly. See the Twitter photo of the City of Vancouver notice by @DorianBanks at this link.

"To: The persons occupying the Vancouver Art Gallery Plaza and surrounding grounds.

The City has long supported the right to gather and carry out peaceful protest. The Occupy movement is a global protest addressing a number of important issues of concern to our citizens.

However, the safety of people is paramount. Much work has been done to cooperatively find solutions to safety issues on the Occupy Vancouver site. However, over the last 4 days, there has been an escalation of safety concerns in the area of fire safety, injection drug use, the presence of pests and other hazards. Saturday there was a death in the encampment and on Thursday November 3 there was a near death du to drug overdose.

Staff have been directed to end the encampment in a way that can be done safety and peacefully while respecting the right to protest.

The Vancouver Art Gallery site will remain a site where protest is welcomed and the city commits to retain the stage and electric power for the sound system…. at the ongoing Occupy Vancouver protest.

However by this notice we ask you to take your tents, belongings and any other items or structures off the city immediately so that the safety concerns can be addressed.

Signed this 7 day of November, 2011

Penny Ballem, city manager

The letter comes two days after Mayor Gregor Robertson held a media scrum near the Hornby Street entrance of the Vancouver Art Gallery. Robertson did not go to the camp. He claims he has been there, but I have received no evidence from the city or independent witnesses that he has been at VAG's north plaza between Oct. 15 and present day.

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