I went to the General Assembly yesterday (Friday) evening to bring these
matters and your concerns over structures in Melcor Park to the attention
of the participants. As always, we (the group that acts as the liaison
between Melcor and the camp) want to make sure that Occupy Edmonton is
aware of yours’ and Melcor’s understanding of the situation.
Collectively, we liaisons had little understanding from the letter from
October 21 and correspondence onwards about Melcor’s specific objections to
(even minimal) structures. Our understanding was, and is, that Melcor’s
primary concerns are with human safety, vulnerable persons, protection from
the elements, and openness to park visitors / sharability of the community
space. Furthermore, EPS officers that we have met with recently have
indicated to us that they have no desire to remove us, so long as we act
responsibly to ensure human safety.
An enormous concern expressed by a visiting officer on Nov. 3 was that
people have proper sleeping arrangements if they stay, and that persons who
“died or had a medical problem” on the ground would result in a serious
police reaction against the whole camp. At the same time, we have been
advised that several large four-season tents that will replace the existing
ones (and make the park much tidier) will be late in arriving (and will be
here tomorrow or Sunday).
This, I understand, was the reasoning for the construction of a platform.
My latest visual confirmation tonight is that a simple platform was created
for installation in one tent. This individual did so without clear
permission from the General Assembly early in the morning, and we advised
him to stop construction, but this was after you spoke to him.
However, this evening, we began to speak among ourselves of some sort of
insulated platform as a possible immediate necessity for camp. The resolved
plan is to build several insulated platforms to have them on hand in the
event the tents do not arrive before Monday, beginning this morning.
As I mentioned in previous correspondence, the camp made the earlier
decision this week to stay, and attempt to meet Melcor’s primary concerns
as expressed to us — human safety — from within the parameters of staying.
We are aware that you may not like this answer, and we apologize that this
part our winterization process seems to be a tension in our relationship
with Melcor. I have advised the Assembly that you have mentioned “further
action” and your advisement of the City and the Police.
However, we wish to assert that you and Melcor have a range of responses
available to you, from welcoming ones to, for lack of a better word,
repressive ones. We respectfully ask you to consider whether the latter are
truly necessary. We have not asked Melcor to identify with our specific
cause, merely recognize that we are all living through extraordinary times
that began with an an Arab Spring, continued to an American Fall, and now,
apparently, a Canadian Winter. These developments, as we have mentioned
before, require unusual steps to be taken to engage the public in an
accessible central space to address and confront matters of pressing
political concern. To the best of our knowledge, it would cost Melcor
nothing to say “yes,” even tacitly, to the occupation.
Occupy Edmonton has understood our relationship to be based on shared
concerns for human safety and are not erecting anything complicated or
permanent. Also, the police have advised us that there should be no open
flames or electric generators.
We are also soon taking, or have already taken, the following actions:
— Tarps will be removed today, tents Sunday.
— We are in the process of purchasing four season tents.
— We are in the process of removing other equipment which is not suited for
winter use (art tents, medic tent, kitchen tent, and unnecessary winter
supplies related to those tents).
— We have asked individuals who own tents on the site to pack them up, or
we will store them for later reclamation.
— The Social Workers’ Outreach Group (a working group within the General
Assembly) is determined to get anyone who happens by the park who normally
requires a shelter into a shelter well before shelters close, and make the
entire GA aware of when shelters close. It is understandable that with
Edmonton’s often full shelters and lack of adequate social housing options
that numerous persons who live on the street find themselves drawn to
Occupy Edmonton for safety, but we recognize that those people who have
additional issues beyond homelessness are beyond the capacity of Occupy
Edmonton to handle. Therefore we have escorted people to shelter ourselves,
or, if the hour has been late enough, called ambulances or police to the
site to have people taken away to emergency forms of shelter if necessary.
Again, Ralph, we assure you that we will do what is necessary and
responsible work to keep campers safe at night, and the park open and
welcoming. But that may require insulated platforms that may go inside
select tents. I hope we can come to a mutual agreement about what human