By Mallory Clarkson/London Community News
Almost 12 hours after their tents and belongings were taken out of Victoria Park by City of London Workers and London Police Service officers, Occupy London activists are already talking about their next step for their movement.
“We’re going to start trying to decide where we go from here,” said Anthony Verberckmoes at the general assembly meeting Wednesday (Nov. 9) at noon. “The first chapter of all of this has come to a close, so now some want to reestablish, some want to move somewhere else, some want to focus on the assemblies for now.”
Points of interest, including potential rallies, maintaining ground in the city-owned park, and the movement’s role within civic affairs were discussed by the around 50 occupiers. But, Verberckmoes said he doesn’t have a lot of faith in working with the city.
“I’m pretty skeptical on how far we’ll get in the system,” he said. “But, there definitely is an appetite for that within the group.
“The local issues, there’s going to be people who are going to want to push city hall more and more, I think that would be a for sure.”
London Mayor Joe Fontana echoed that perspective in a media conference Wednesday (Nov. 9) at city hall where he challenged protesters to get involved in council.
On Tuesday morning, Nov. 8, Occupiers at Victoria Park received a notice and order, stating that if all protesters, along with their belongings and tents, weren’t out of the public green space by 6 p.m., city officials, along with assistance from the London Police Service, would do it for them.
However, 6 p.m. came and went, and the police wouldn’t arrive for another seven hours. When they did come, no tickets were handed out for violating city bylaws like being in the park between the hours of 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. or establishing structures on park grounds. No one was anyone arrested for obstruction, either.
Police Chief Brad Duncan said in a media conference Wednesday morning (Nov. 9) at city hall that the execution of the notice and order was delayed because of the crowd of around 300 people who took to the park in support of the movement Tuesday afternoon (Nov. 8).
Occupier Annie, who didn’t want her last name published, said that while she’s sad the tents are gone, she has a feeling the structures will be back. She added, on some ways, not being forced to leave the park was a small victory for Occupy London.
“The loss of the tents is a big fail to me, however, victory-wise it’s nice to see that we didn’t actually get taken away, our freedoms were preserved in that way,” she said.
Annie has been occupying the park since day one (Oct. 22). She added she plans on continuing to live in the park.
Eric Shepperd, spokesperson for Occupy London, said it was painful to watch tent-city being torn down.
“Unfortunately, now we have seen a police presence that has torn down, confiscated or destroyed personal property,” he said. “We built this infrastructure up over the course of weeks. We had a food tent, we had a library tent, media tent, we had all the trappings of a civilization here and, unfortunately, that is being destroyed by the police.”
While there were many familiar faces at this final stand, one new face was Kevin Dixon, dean of St. Paul’s Cathedral on Richmond Street. He spoke to Occupiers earlier on Tuesday to tell them that unfortunately the church grounds couldn’t be occupied anymore. But, he added he agreed with the cause and would stand by the protesters to the end.
“One of the things that we say as a church is that we seek to address unjust structures in society. This is a very concrete action on behalf of the people in London to try to participate in a global movement that addresses unjust structures in society,” he said. I want to be part of that, I think that what the church is meant to be about.”
The Occupiers will continue to have general assembly meetings every day at 6 p.m. in Victoria Park.
- With files from Jonathon Brodie
Shortly after 12:30 a.m. police cars surrounded Victoria Park in downtown London and officers and city workers moved in and began the process of removing the belongings of the Occupy London activists.
The occupiers linked arms and made a chain of solidarity in front of their Alamo - the library. Many are still refusing to leave and tensions are starting to rise as chants of "I'm not moving" are heard through the park. Even if evicted tonight, some Occupiers vow to return and in even greater numbers.
As of 2:35 a.m., the police corral around the activists is tightening as efforts are made to get them to leave through the northwest corner of the park. London Community News reporters Mallory Clarkson and Mike Maloney are in the thick of the melee - with dying cell phone batteries - as the last 40 or so Occupiers refuse to move.
There appears to be a bit of stalemate going on. Police are holding their ground, activists are holding theirs and no force is being used to escalate their departure.
3 a.m. - A new shift of police officers arrives on the scene, perhaps signifying an end to the stalemate. Activists are huddling closer together preparing for the final push by police, all the while citing the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
3:16 a.m. - It looks like the end of the phase of Occupy London is near. The last 18 Occupiers have hooked their arms together forming a circle against the police. There's now about equal number of Occupiers and media folks left in the park.
4 a.m. - Might have spoke too soon about standoff ending. According to LCN reporters on the scene, there isn't much movement going on aside from out-of-town media starting to arrive at the site.
6 a.m. - Police walk away from site leaving small group of Occupiers there. Within 15-20 minutes, Occupy London activists returned to the site and set up the first new tent of the day.
More on this breaking story to follow.