Occupy Vancouver has occupied a new slice of land in the city: Robson Square, just outside provincial court facilities.
The protest movement’s second occupation began Monday afternoon, shortly after a court-imposed 2 p.m. deadline to clear its original site at the Art Gallery expired. Protesters carried several domes and tents on a raucous march through downtown streets before setting them atop the stairs at Robson Square, a provincially-owned complex containing, among other offices, civil and family courtrooms and, a block away, the B.C. Supreme Court.
But the encampment quickly took shape in an area just outside provincial court offices on Hornby Street, sheltered from the cold, driving rain.
By 5 p.m., more than a score of tents were pitched there, along with food and information tents.
All indications were that the protesters intended to stay.
They had responded to the urging of SFU English professor Steve Collis, a frequent media volunteer at the Art Gallery occupation, who told them on their arrival, to loud cheers: “Return [to the Art Gallery]and bring more tents, so we can hold this place.”
The move on Monday prompted the B.C. government to announce it will seek an injunction on Tuesday to end the new occupation. Attorney General Shirley Bond wasted little time seeking to remove tents from the court entrance, announcing she will ask for remedy shortly after learning of the new Occupy target.
"It is essential that we ensure the public has access to the courts," Ms. Bond said in a statement.
She also said she was concerned that by moving the camp a short distance from the original protest site, "these members of Occupy Vancouver are acting in defiance of the spirit of the original order that the court issued on Friday.”
Police looked on but took no action.
However, an altercation involving an Occupy Vancouver protester that began on the Art Gallery site resulted in one man being taken into custody for breach of peace, eyewitnesses said.
Earlier, as the court deadline to leave their downtown encampment neared, the protesters were divided on their next move.
Some had been packing up tents, wooden pallets and other supporting materials into moving trucks supplied by the local labour movement. Others were determined to stay.
“This is my home,” affirmed Matt In-The-Hat, who said he had been staying overnight at the Art Gallery site since it took shape five weeks ago. “This is a unity thing. I’m here supporting my friends.”
Even those willing to depart, however, said Occupy Vancouver would continue in another phase, with more occupations and “disruptive actions,” protester Suresh Fernando told a crowd of reporters at the site Monday morning.
But Mr. Fernando referred generally to occupations of buildings, parks and other public spaces, plus “flash occupations” of SkyTrain. “We are going to ensure we will be heard,” he declared. “These direct actions will continue to test boundaries.” He added that, like many at the site, he was speaking only for himself.
The leaderless movement’s nightly general assemblies, where decisions are made by consensus, would also continue, he said.
“The future of Occupy Vancouver looks bright. We’re excited,” Mr. Fernando said.
He called occupations “the Rosa Parks” strategy. “A refusal to leave will force [people]to ask questions,” he said.
He said the labour movement had been helping Occupy Vancouver move “some of our stuff” to an undisclosed location for storage.
But he acknowledged some unhappiness within the labour movement over the protesters’ occupation strategy.
“They have been concerned with the way the entire episode has spun out of control,” Mr. Fernando said, with union leaders expressing concern that occupation became the main issue, rather than economic inequality matters that prompted the North American wide movement in the first place.
With a report from Justine Hunter in Victoria