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Occupy Vancouver looking beyond tent-city model of protest

Protesters march through downtown streets after vacating the downtown Occupy Vancouver site on Nov. 21, 2011.

Darryl Dyck/ The Canadian Press/Darryl Dyck/ The Canadian Press

Occupy Vancouver decided Wednesday afternoon to temporarily abandon public occupations in favour of regular meetings after the group was forced indoors for the first time the previous evening.

The decision was made by an assembly of approximately 50 protesters who returned to Grandview Park after heavy rainfall and the park's 10 p.m. closing time left them with nowhere to occupy Tuesday night.

A second general assembly was planned for 7 p.m. Wednesday on the grounds of the Vancouver Art Gallery, the site of the initial Occupy Vancouver protests in October.

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Court injunctions forced protesters to abandon their sites at the Art Gallery and the Robson Square law courts, on Monday and Tuesday respectively.

Protesters had camped out in downtown Vancouver since Oct. 15.

Vancouver Park Board Deputy General Manager Peter Kuran was at Grandview Park on Wednesday. He addressed the assembly by reading out loud parks control bylaw 8 (b), which states that written permission from the general manager of the Parks and Recreation Board is legally required to hold a public gathering in a city park.

"The bylaw is intended to permit access to all," Mr. Kuran said. "We have large gatherings in parks all the time. We're just trying to organize it so we don't have two events colliding at once because we do permit these kinds of activities."

Two bylaw enforcement officers accompanied Mr. Kuran on Wednesday, but he said that the protesters were not being asked to immediately leave the park.

What Occupy's next move will be remains unclear, but many in attendance on Wednesday said they recognized the need to look beyond the tent-city model of protesting.

"We've been spending so much time and energy trying to stay one step ahead of the bylaws, fire departments and police that we're spinning our wheels," occupier Mathew Kagis said to the general assembly.

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Occupiers said they were maintaining a positive attitude, despite the recent setbacks.

"I think morale is great. I don't see Occupy Vancouver disappearing anytime soon. It may move. It may relocate, but this is a global movement and there's no way it's going away soon," said occupier Chris Waddell.

Occupiers also refuted the idea that the decreasing turnout at general assemblies was evidence that the movement was losing popular support.

"I don't think the occupation has dwindled at all. There's definitely a few less people here than on the first day, but that's the power of the Internet. People don't need to physically be here to be with us," said occupier Jessica Mason-Paull.

The general assembly discussed several other issues on Wednesday, including storage space, community outreach and media exposure.

"We're kind of the Rosa Parks of this generation," said occupier Suresh Fernando.

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"We're just not getting off the front seat of the bus. We're not going to move … At some point, we're going to get a chance to actually talk about the issues. But, the first thing is just capture attention by sitting down. Literally, not even figuratively, that's what the occupation is about."

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