Eviction decision pending
Approximately 25 Occupy Kingston protesters gathered in Confederation Park on Wednesday to discuss possible eviction.
On Dec. 6, Kingston city council members will put the eviction decision to a vote, which will determine Occupy Kingston’s next move.
Protesters have occupied the park since Oct. 15. Fewer than five protesters have slept in the structure erected in the park since the movement began.
According to a city bylaw, the current set-up in the park is illegal.
Councillor for the Loyalist-Carataqui District Kevin George spearheaded the motion that will come to council.
Part of the motion reads: “Be it resolved that the Occupy Kingston protesters be requested to cease camping and to remove all shelters, tents, equipment and debris from Confederation Park by no later than 12:01 a.m. on Thursday, December 8, 2011 and to refrain from carrying out any of those activities in other city parks and municipally owned public spaces.”
“That does not mean that they cannot continue to protest by sitting in the park, holding up signs,” George said in an interview. “Constitutional rights allows for that.”
City council is sympathetic to the issues being addressed by the Occupy movement, he said.
“We, as a council, understand what it is that … many of the 99 per cent face,” he said. “We’ve all been there at one time or another.”
Although Kingston bylaw officers have received negative phone calls regarding the protesters, George said, council has asked officials not to act yet.
“We want this as peaceful as we possibly can, and that’s what we want to do,” he said. “The last thing that I would like to see is these individuals have their future records tarnished by being arrested.”
If there’s resistance, George said it will be up to Kingston bylaw officers to decide what happens.
“I don’t think they would forcibly remove them but they would obviously have to attend the site and convince them that there is a law that says you must remove yourselves, or we’ll have to fine you or have you arrested,” he said. “I’m just hoping it doesn’t get to that point in time.”
Roughly one month after the Occupy movement began in Kingston, eviction notices were distributed to groups all across North America, including Toronto and London, Ont.
George said the City has been watching the reactions of other municipalities.
“Some of them we haven’t been overly pleased [with] because of the violence that’s occurred and the animosity,” he said. “We want to just wait and see what the occupiers themselves may choose to do based on what was happening in other communities.”
Matt Thornton, a Kingston occupier, said there are plans in place in case the protesters are evicted.
“If worse comes to worse, resistance is definitely an option,” he said at the Occupy meeting on Wednesday.
Thornton said eviction resistance would begin by organizing occupiers into colour categories that signify their willingness to be arrested. This organization would happen internally and wouldn’t include any external identification.
Occupiers identified in the red category are willing to be arrested, while the green category resembles someone who cannot be, but will act as a support system to those incarcerated.
Another option, Thornton said, is finding a building to occupy. He said one next to Yellow Bike Action on Carlisle Street is a possibility.
“It’s this giant empty building and it’s this workspace, but we could possibly take that, and it’s right inside [a] park,” he said.
Yellow Bike Action is a bike collective that takes in and refurbishes old bikes and sells or rents them to the public at a low cost.
Occupier Matt Shultz, MSc ’12, said the public doesn’t understand why the movement has no leadership roles.
“There’s always someone in charge, there’s always someone who’s making the plans … [The media has] a hard time adjusting to a movement that doesn’t have that,” he said. “Of course it’s one of the main strengths of the movement.”
A big myth being circulated is that occupiers aren’t doing anything productive, Shultz said.
“If you actually look at the dynamics of the Occupy … they’re remarkably creative, hard-working people,” he said. “When they get hit they come up with an idea and implement it quickly.”