Anton to call for ‘peaceful’ removal of Occupy Vancouver encampment

NPA mayoral candidate Suzanne Anton is taking her fight to dismantle the Occupy Vancouver encampment to City Hall, though it’s uncertain whether she will find any support on the Vision Vancouver-dominated council.

Anton will present a motion Tuesday resolving that the city request the immediate removal of all structures from the Vancouver Art Gallery plaza, with city staff facilitating the deconstruction “in a peaceful manner.”

Anton, the sole NPA member of council, said the mayor and council are responsible for giving direction to city staff, but haven’t yet done so.

“It’s getting very comfortable there; that’s the problem that Gregor has caused,” she said Monday, shortly after touring the site outside the gallery.

“People are becoming very invested in the site. It makes it very difficult to get them to move,” she said.

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Indeed, there was little concern about Anton’s efforts to decamp the Occupy protesters outside the art gallery on Monday.

Those at the site – some of them overnight campers, others just stopping by – said their interactions with police and city staff have been so positive so far that they don’t expect a heavy-handed approach from the city, nor do they see a reason for it.

“You can’t fight someone who’s not fighting back,” Ross Hiebert said. “The reason this will work – and last – is because we’re peaceful.”

One city worker whistled as he strolled through the camp; nearby, Vancouver firefighters kept an eye on the proceedings. And despite a number of people smoking on-site, there wasn’t a stray cigarette butt to be found.

Vision Vancouver candidate and city councillor Geoff Meggs said he won’t support Anton’s motion.

“It’s not clear what Coun. Anton’s motion would do except trigger a confrontation,” he said. “The mayor’s made the excellent point that in Denver and Oakland and other locations where they used a heavy handed approach, it’s led to very disastrous consequences.”

“They’re raising a series of issues in a public space where they have the right to protest,” he said.

“The only real question is the tents and structures.”

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It was Mother Nature, not Anton, that was the real threat Monday, as the wind threatened to blow over some of Occupy Vancouver’s more rickety tents.

Vancouver Coastal Health said Monday there are no public health concerns at the gallery site.

“We’re routinely monitoring the situation,” spokeswoman Anna Marie D’Angelo said. “Whenever there’s been any concerns about garbage, we’ve told them and they’ve cleaned it up.”

Media reports raised concerns about rats spotted in the area over the weekend, prompting the director of the Downtown Business Association, Charles Gauthier, to call for an end to the protest.

But as Meggs pointed out, “It’s pretty hard to go around this town at night and not run into rats.”