The illegal tents at Occupy Vancouver will be there long after the election
It's Sunday morning and I find myself at a loss for words. After weeks of tweets, blog posts and media appearances pleading with Mayor Gregor Robertson to do something about the illegal Occupy Vancouver tent city, I am reading about the death of a young woman named Ashley. Her deceased body was found yesterday afternoon in one of those illegal Occupy Vancouver tents.
When I turned on the radio this morning, I must admit I was a bit confused. A number of media outlets are reporting Robertson had ordered the immediate shutdown of Occupy Vancouver. However, when I listened to the Mayor actually speak, the words coming out of his mouth today sound eerily similar to those he uttered last week: "We don't want to set a deadline..." and, "We want this all to end peacefully..." and, "I am sympathetic to the cause."
Dither, dither, dither.
Despite the fact we've had one nearly fatal overdose and now one death, Robertson clearly remains politically paralyzed regarding what to do with the encampment. He told CKNW he is now looking into what options the city has at its disposal to shut this thing down.
Really, Mr. Mayor? You've already had both a public and in-camera briefing on what options are before you. You've had over 5 weeks to get yourself briefed. The only thing you're missing now is the political will to make something happen.
I didn't know Ashley, but I likely walked by her tent a few days ago when I visited the encampment for the third time. There was no need for this young woman to die in a tent on the Art Gallery front lawn. But now we are forced to talk about her in the past tense. THIS TENT ENCAMPMENT HAS TO END NOW.
Is it just me, or does anyone else find it ironic that the Mayor continues to say he wants to end this encampment peacefully? We've now had one death and one near-death in less than a few days. Regardless of the how the tents eventually come down, they will never have come down peacefully thanks to these incidents.
What follows are a few random thoughts and questions I'd like you all to ponder as the Mayor and city officials continue to mull what's next for Occupy Vancouver:
- In the days leading up to the October 15th start date for the encampment, I tweeted out several times asking what the plan was from the city to prevent the squat. There was radio silence from 12th and Cambie. The first time the Mayor spoke about the encampment was several days after it started. That's when he said it could remain "indefinitely" as long as it was "peaceful".
- The city initially reported the illegal encampment had cost taxpayers over $500,000 after one week. The Mayor said the city had managed to contain those costs to about $1,000 per day. Does anyone believe that to be the case after what we have witnessed over the last week? How many city staff at the encampment on a Saturday were getting paid overtime?
- It took the Fire Chief to finally make the first move to shut this site down after both the Police Chief and Mayor appeared unwilling to do anything. But without any political backing, the Fire Chief had to move cautiously. His order to comply with fire regulations was ignored after the emerging Occupy "government" stated they didn't recognize his legal authority over them.
- Had Robertson actually visited the squat prior to last evening? His staff insist he made "several" appearances, but there are no photos or evidence to confirm this claim. In fact, when I asked Occupy protesters to confirm if they had ever seen His Worship...they all responded and said he was a no-show. So who is telling the truth?
- How long is the Mayor prepared to allow the illegal tents to remain and what is his plan to remove them? He says he wants a peaceful ending to all of this...but what if that's not possible? How many other individuals could die before this is all over?
- Why is the Mayor continuing to provide free water, electricity, garbage pickup, recycling, 24/7 fire and security services? When will he follow Victoria's lead and cut off the free services as phase one in the shut down process?
- Why has the Mayor not requested staff begin the process to file an court injunction? He's had over three weeks to do so, but has dithered.
- What role is the backroom deal between COPE and his party playing in all of this? Has COPE told them they will tear up the political agreement if he moves in on the encampment before the election? Why is he not making a copy of this agreement available to the public to see?
- When will the Mayor re-convene council for an emergency meeting – (whether in-camera or not) to get authority to take action?
- Finally, we know city officials "tagged" tents for removal the day before. Was Ashley's tent one of the tents that was supposed to be removed, and if so is the City of Vancouver liable as a result?
I have so many other questions swirling in my head but I somehow think they will fall on deaf ears. But for the sake of the young people living under the rule of the new provisional Occupy government, let's hope something is done BEFORE the election to put an end to this madness. The Mayor has pandered long enough to a group of his supporters who have clearly lost control of the situation at the Art Gallery.
Based upon what I'm hearing from Robertson this morning, I suspect those illegal tents will be there not only until the election, but for weeks after that. The reality is the secret political agreement he signed with COPE has simply paralyzed him – at least until 8 pm on November 19th.
My heart goes out to the family and friends of Ashley. I hope she is the last victim of this Occupy Vancouver encampment. May her soul rest in peace.