EDMONTON – Occupy Edmonton protesters camped in a downtown park celebrated Tuesday morning after learning the property owner will allow them to stay at least another day.
Protesters at the camp, which has been at 102nd Street and Jasper Avenue since Saturday, had earlier been told by Melcor, the company that owns the park, that they would have to begin dismantling tents and clearing out by 10 a.m.
About 50 people have been sleeping in tents at the small green space, after about 1,000 people demonstrated in Churchill Square for social and economic justice.
During a Monday evening meeting, protesters debated and eventually decided to stay at the park, despite Melcor’s direction to pack up.
But before the 10 a.m. deadline, protesters received word that their makeshift camp would be allowed to remain, protest organizer Chelsea Taylor said.
“We got an announcement through our liaison that the company has confirmed that, for now, we’re allowed to stay,” she said, adding it’s not clear how long the camp can stay.
“We do hope to let them know when we have an idea of what our timelines are in terms of enjoying the space. We’re just elated. We stood our ground, but we did so respectfully.”
Melcor CEO Ralph Young said the company’s desire was for the protesters to move to another location.
“That was certainly our preference. We’ve had communications with them and we’ve also talked to the Edmonton Police Service,” he said.
“They have handled themselves very reasonably and responsibly and haven’t caused us any major concerns.”
He said the company hadn’t given protesters a hard deadline, saying the company’s priority is the safety of everyone using the small park, now host to more than 20 tents and dozens of protesters.
“Certainly the main criteria is that it’s safe and peaceful … and not impacting our company and our tenants in the building next to the site,” Young said.
He wouldn’t say when the company’s position to allow the camp to stay will change.
“We’ll monitor that day to day and decide with them when it’s appropriate for them to move on.”
Without an impending eviction to worry about, Taylor said protesters can now shift their focus to upcoming actions.
“Now that we can take a breather, we’re going to have some workshops,” she said. “Our presence here means we now focus on more pertinent issues.”
Organizers are also planning to bring in more supplies to sustain the camp, along with a porta-potty secured using a donation from the Canadian Union of Postal Workers.
University student Mahad Mohamed, 22, has camped at the site since Saturday night.
As he stood on a street corner Tuesday holding a large placard that said education is a right, he said he was excited that protesters have more time to talk about issues, such as access to education and corporate influence in government.
“After I heard, I was excited to see the small people succeeding for once,” he said. “We’ll continue to fight against this two-tier system.”
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