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Protesters, including one using a hockey stick, take down a tarp at the Occupy Vancouver site in downtown Vancouver, B.C., on Friday November 4, 2011. Fire officials ordered the removal of unoccupied tents and overhead tarps at the site, citing safety concerns. (DARRYL DYCK/THE CANADIAN PRESS)
Protesters, including one using a hockey stick, take down a tarp at the Occupy Vancouver site in downtown Vancouver, B.C., on Friday November 4, 2011. Fire officials ordered the removal of unoccupied tents and overhead tarps at the site, citing safety concerns. (DARRYL DYCK/THE CANADIAN PRESS)

Woman found dead at Occupy Vancouver Add to ...

A woman died Saturday afternoon at the Occupy Vancouver protests on the grounds of the Vancouver Art Gallery.

She is believed to be in her 20s. The cause of death is not known, but she was found unresponsive in her tent shortly after 4:30 p.m. Saturday, Vancouver Police Department spokesperson Jana McGuinness said in a statement. The woman was pronounced dead in hospital after paramedics were called to the scene.

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The VPD's forensics squad is assessing the scene, and the B.C. coroner's office has been notified.

Jeremiah Baldwin was a friend of the deceased woman, whom he and many at the site call Ashley. (Her name has not been officially released.) Mr. Baldwin was extremely distraught over her death.

"She was the coolest girl in the world," he told The Globe over the phone. "She was so caring, giving and generous."

The Canadian Press reported several hours after the incident that Mr. Robertson has instructed city officials to shut down the Occupy Vancouver site as soon as possible, safely and without disruption, because he now considers it unsafe.

Rafferty Baker, a 28-year-old documentarian filming the movement, was on site when the first VPD officers arrived at the scene. "Emotions were very high," he said. "The group of friends of the young woman were hugging, crying, but also becoming very defensive of the site, toward media or anyone waving a camera."

Mr. Baker said several dozen people showed up for a candlelight vigil for the deceased woman several hours later. Because of on-site fire restrictions, mourners chose to hold the vigil nearby on Georgia Street.

Vancouver Fire and Rescue Services initially confirmed the death. Their spokesman, Captain Gabe Roder, said that the department had never determined the cause of death, which was suggested on Twitter as a drug overdose. He said his crew were incapable of making such a determination. “We’re not doctors,” he told The Globe and Mail.

Police have also avoided drawing conclusions about the death. "No evidence has been uncovered at this early stage in the investigation to suggest the death is suspicious," McGuinness wrote.

Concerns for safety have led some to speculate that officials may soon order Occupy Vancouver encampment to disband. This past week, fire officials asked camping protesters to remove overhead tarps and empty tents to reduce the risk of fire.

Vancouver mayor Gregor Robertson has taken a largely hands-off approach to the Occupy movement, hoping it comes to a close on its own - but he has publicly mulled over the possibility of using safety concerns as a means to call for the camp to disband.

In spite of the investigation on site, veteran Vancouver punk band DOA played a scheduled concert at Occupy Vancouver on Saturday evening.

Follow on Twitter: @joshokane

 

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