EDMONTON — Protesters with the Occupy Edmonton movement say they will continue to camp in a private downtown park, despite being told by its owners to leave on Tuesday.
About 60 protesters have camped in the park, at 102nd Street and Jasper Avenue, since Saturday night, with many others spending their days there. About 20 tents remain in the small green space, with dozens of signs and placards lining the sidewalk and propped against trees.
The group held a general assembly Monday evening, where they discussed whether to continue their occupation or move to another space after Melcor, the company that owns the park, told protest organizers the campers would have to leave by 10 a.m. Tuesday.
After more than an hour of discussion, the protesters voted to remain in the park and set about making a plan for how to deal with the consequences.
“It really shouldn’t be looked at as an escalation,” said organizer Chelsea Taylor, pointing out that protesters have kept the park tidy and acted peacefully. “We just don’t see how we’re being any kind of nuisance at all.”
Taylor said the eviction is symbolic of the reasons the group is protesting. Protesters believed the land was public when they set up camp, she said, only to find out it was owned by a corporation.
Earlier in the day, Melcor president and CEO Ralph Young said there wasn’t any specific reason for asking the protesters to vacate the park by Tuesday.
“It’s certainly our preference that they move on sometime tomorrow. We’ve tried to be supportive and accommodating to their legitimate protest,” Young said, adding the corporation hasn’t given protesters an ultimatum.
He said a decision hadn’t been made about what will happen if protesters decide to stay.
“We have been in touch with the protest group … and we’re also keeping in touch with the police. We’re trying to work with both. It’s our desire to treat (the protesters) respectfully.”
The protest, in its third day, started after at least 1,000 people rallied Saturday in Churchill Square against the growing income disparity and other perceived economic injustices, in solidarity with the Occupy Wall Street movement that began in New York City one month ago.
Organizers at the Occupy Edmonton site said they have received donations of food, warm clothing, bedding and other supplies. A food tent displayed shelves of non-perishable food items, while a nearby table held fruit, vegetables, coffee and water.
A few steps away, a medical aid tent was stocked with first-aid supplies. Protesters lined the sidewalks holding homemade placards.
Protester Kristie Gould made the trip from her home of Warburg, 100 kilometres southwest of Edmonton, to spend the day at the camp. She said she hopes Melcor reconsiders its request.
“I hope they recognize that there are people out here who speak for the people who can’t be here. I hope they make the choice to let them stay,” said the 32-year-old Warburg town councillor.
Gould said she joined the protest because there are too many impoverished people in Alberta.
“You have to get into the statistics around poverty, welfare rates, income disparity … and there’s a lot of people on that bottom rung who are suffering,” she said. “I think this is a movement of people who have recognized the system we live in is broken.”
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