A committee formed after the riot had their Occupy Vancouver recommendations ignored
On the eve of city officials shutting down the illegal Occupy Vancouver encampment, I've received a copy of a very important email. It was sent out by Charles Gauthier, Executive Director for the Downtown Improvement Association [note: the email I received did not come from him] to a number of his members just days before Occupy Vancouver started camping at the Art Gallery.
Gauthier happens to be an official observer of the City's new Large Events Oversight Committee (LEOC) which was established in the aftermath of Robertson's Riot [see page 8]. The committee is tasked with providing the City Manager and Mayor with advice on how to prevent future riots and public mayhem on Vancouver's streets. The committee is chaired by Vision Vancouver's hand-picked Deputy City Manager Sadhu Johnson.
On Oct 11th Gauthier wrote an "in confidence" email to a few of his members telling them that LEOC had provided a series of recommendations to the City Manager & Mayor. As you can see from the email, four days prior to the encampment getting set-up, members of the LEOC were led to believe an encampment would not be permitted. That is until their decision was overruled by the City Manager at the last minute. Here is Gauthier's email (emphasis ours):
From: Charles Gauthier [mailto:email@example.com]
Sent: Tuesday, October 11, 2011 6:30 PM
Subject: Occupy Vancouver
I attended a meeting this afternoon organized by the City of Vancouver to discuss how it will deal with Occupy Vancouver.
In short, the City will not allow an encampment to set up on the north lawn of the Vancouver Art Gallery (VAG). It will not allow cooking facilities to set up. It will not allow porta potties to be installed.
It will remove free-standing news boxes within a 4-block radius of the VAG and other potential target businesses of the protesters (ie department stores, financial institutions). The DVBIA will be submitting a map of potential target businesses to the City tomorrow (Wednesday) so that these news boxes can be removed by end of business on Friday.
On-street parking will also be removed within a one-block radius of the VAG and other potential target businesses.
There will also be a visible police presence and a stand-by response unit.
Police will remove protesters from private property if requested to do so by the owner or agent (ie security), however, response times will vary and may be slower than expected. More details on this to follow in the ensuing days.
I understand that you may need to share this with your personnel and security contractor. Please do so discreetly.
If you have any questions, please contact me.
Downtown Vancouver Business Improvement Association
Amazingly Occupy Vancouver was the FIRST major event whereby the LEOC could swing into action after the riot, yet their recommendations were ignored.
LEOC recommended the encampment not be permitted to start in the first place. My source tells me "the Vancouver police never wanted to allow this encampment to get set up in the first place. But they were overruled at the last minute by a political decision. The Mayor obviously didn't support the committee's recommendations."
In this morning's Globe and Mail, Frances Bula does a good job of asking a series of questions regarding why the encampment was allowed to stay up as long as it has. She states (emphasis ours):
The best way to end a protest camp is not to let one start in the first place – that was the lesson the city learned earlier this decade.
After dealing with a four-month squat in and outside the empty Woodward’s department store in 2002, along with homeless camps in several parks in 2003, the city’s legal department concluded that quick action is crucial.
That’s why the city has busted up protest camps with great alacrity in the past two years. One, during the Olympics, was taken down after two weeks. For a planned protest camp earlier this year at the Olympic Village, the city got an injunction in a single day to prevent a camp from being set up on private land near the village.
But police and city officials didn’t follow that same approach when the Occupy Vancouver protest got under way on Oct. 15 and tents started going up.
Police did nothing that day or the next. City managers started negotiations with protesters about leaving, but didn’t set an ultimatum.
And it wasn’t until Monday that city managers issued the first written request for the protesters to evacuate.
City staff and the mayor have said one reason they didn’t prevent tents from going up immediately was because of the massive crowd. With 4,000 people at the initial Saturday rally, police couldn’t go in and start fighting with people to take down tents.
But clearly, Mayor Gregor Robertson was also swept up by the sentiments of the day that viewed this crowd of camping protesters and their cause as being on a higher plane.
“There are very legitimate concerns about equality, climate change and the state of the world that almost all of us share and we are willing to see what a global protest like this might precipitate,” he said on the Monday after it started, indicating he was prepared to let the camp stay.
In light of the fact that police and city staff are about to shut down the ecampment, I hope local media will dig a bit deeper into how and why we got into this mess in the first place.