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Occupy to Move Indoors?

November 7, 2011 | by  |  Features

Editor’s note: Since publishing this story City Manager Penny Ballem and Mayor Gregor Robertson have refuted claims that negotiations are taking place to move Occupy to another space, potentially indoors.

Follow the evolving story here.

According to a key Occupy organizer, protesters are in negotiations with the city to move to a warehouse following the shut down order issued by Mayor Gregor Robertson.

James “Facilitator,” (who would not give his last name) has been with the movement since its inception. He was responsible for negotiating free power from the city during Occupy’s first weekend, and said he’s been having back-channel negotiations with the city’s deputy managers throughout the occupation.

“The vehicle is not us being here, it’s the vehicle of awareness,” James said. “I’ve put it forth to the City that, if they can find us a spot, like an empty warehouse or something where we can put everything like the press committee and even the food we can still feed people if we need to, but move the vehicle away from here.”

Councillor Andrea Reimer confirmed negotiations have been going on since day one of the protest, and that moving the camp indoors is currently on the table.

“We’ve been talking with people from the movement since day one, the deputy city manager has been the lead on it,” Reimer said. According to Reimer, Deputy City Manager Sadhu Johnston has been in talks with James and other organizers from the movement to find a place that is “more suitable” for its needs.

“[The Art Gallery grounds] is not an ideal space,” Reimer said. “If they had somewhere with concrete, that drained a little better, that would be a better space for such a thing. I know that that discussion has been going on. Facilitating the movement itself would probably best be done from an indoor space where they could have things like offices.”

James said negotiations are taking place around finding a space where the movement’s committees can continue to meet and move forward on their agendas, and potentially become a political entity themselves.

“One thing this could morph into is a political possibility. We have one candidate in this election, and we could have had more if we’d been on the ball about it… we can get involved in the community in multiple parallels and be active, and actually make a difference,” James said.

Photo Credit: Jesse Winter

Suresh Fernando works with a number of Occupy Vancouver committees. He agrees it is important for Occupy Vancouver to continue working with the community.

“I’m going to propose a health and safety strategy that will have two principal elements,” Fernando said.

“One is the restructuring of tent city, the other is associated things we can do…for example engaging other organizations, councilors, InSite and so on.”

Fernando said there is a growing rift between the people living in tent city and the organizers running the general assemblies, a fact also confirmed by Reimer.

Reimer said the city’s Tenant Assistance Program has been conducting daily inspections of the tent city. Those inspections have revealed a clear distinction between Occupy Vancouver the movement, and Occupy Vancouver the tent city, which has a growing population of homeless in need residents, as identified by Tenant Assistance Program Coordinator Judy Graves.

“[The overdoses] really brought home for me that we don’t have a clue exactly what’s going on in the tent city,” Fernando said.

“It’s clear to me that they don’t participate in the general assemblies. They’re so focused on their immediate survival …they are a part of our constituency because they’re the people that most need us to serve them.”

The protesters at the Vancouver Art Gallery have been providing services to community members since the beginning of the occupation.

According to general assembly facilitator Dan Richardson, the Food Not Bombs tent at the VAG has been feeding up to 2,000 people per day with as little as $50.

“We’re providing services that the city isn’t,” Richardson claimed in an interview last week.

Continuing those services is at the heart of James’ planning. He said he returned Sunday morning from a farm in Chilliwack with hundreds of pounds of donated produce that he hopes to begin distributing to other aid organizations in the city.

“We’re going to give it out to food kitchens ‘cause we can’t eat it all,” James said. The distribution might happen through Quest food exchange, which supplies a lot of the Downtown East Side food kitchens, or the organizers might do it personally by just showing up and saying “here’s some food.”

In the mean time, James and Fernando said there is a plan in place to deal with the tent city issues raised by the two overdoses. They will likely begin removing individual tents and replacing them with 16-foot-diameter domes that people can use as common sleeping areas to watch over each other.

“Gregor [Robertson] said at the press conference that health and safety is first priority. I agree with him,” Fernando said.

“Hopefully, if you’re sleeping in a dome you won’t be passed out by yourself in a tent that no one can see. We’re not trying to abdicate responsibility. We realize this happened on our turf and that we can obviously do more, or try to do more to ensure this kind of thing doesn’t happen again.”

Banner Image Credit: Jesse Winter

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14 Comments


  1. Great story. This could be an interesting model for other cities where winter hits hard.

  2. Thanks for your coverage. To add to the discussion, from someone who has also been involved since day one, I take strong issue with the assertion that there is a “growing rift” between Tent City and the GA – I’d like to know what evidence individuals have for that assertion. That’s not been my experience in any way at all, and I fail to see what Andrea Reimer could possibly know about it. Just because she’s a city councillor doesn’t mean she knows anything about OccupyVancouver. To say that Tent City people don’t participate in GA’s is simply untrue. I’m sorry to hear that someone thinks that.

  3. Perhaps the permanent camp should move over to City Hall… and the Art Gallery can continue to be used for more temporary gatherings/meet-ups/events.

  4. Good coverage. One thing I find interesting is the number of folks involved in Occupy Vancouver who are stating that the City isn’t doing enough with regards to homelessness/housing (see Food Not Bombs quote above, though I’ve seen this thinking in other stories as well). While I think the city could be doing more, and has made some mistakes in the last few years, they are still actually doing a pretty okay job with regards to homelessness.

    What I haven’t heard any of the Occupiers say is that until very recently housing and homelessness haven’t been municipal responsibilities. The feds (until the 90s) had funding for housing and the provinces were the ones actually responsible for it under the Constitution. And they still are. What’s happened, though, is that the provinces have downloaded responsibility to municipalities without adding funding to municipal budgets.

    So yeah, the City could be doing more. But who’s actually responsible for mental health, housing, welfare, and all those things that are needed to get people off the streets? The provinces and the feds. So before being too hard on the City, remember who actually helped create the problem.

    So

  5. I have been involved with this since October 15th and yet I rarely participate in GA meetings. For example, I was building a dome during last night’s GA… Does that mean there is a rift between me and the movement?

  6. How about moving them all in 312 Main Street now that the police have abandoned their digs?

  7. LOL – thanks for providing non-stop laughs OccupyVancouver. Whilst you unemployed and unemployable sit and shiver in the rain the rest of the city sit back and enjoy the spectacle. I particularly love the bold statements coming forth that the group refuses to leave. Oh you’ll leave alright, and in a very undignified manner too most likely. The question is simply will you leave today or after shivering for a few more days. It matters little to us when it is, we all know how this will end, and so do you. There will be more than one smile when it happens too.

    Sorry if that sounds harsh, but really, it’s pretty hard to take any of you seriously. I watched the live streaming video from your little camp Saturday night and the only thing the surprised me is how truly ignorant and ridiculous you guys are. A rag tag group of uneducated and frankly not very bright people that missed the boat in life.

    Once again, thanks for the spectacle. I’ve just made a fresh batch of popcorn and am waiting for scene two. :-)

  8. There are always sad little men like Jack. If they were in a burning building they’d laugh at the people trying to put out the fire and tell them they were doing it wrong.

    Here’s something to cleanse the palate of his nonsense.

    http://occupywriters.com/works/by-lemony-snicket

  9. “If they were in a burning building they’d laugh at the people trying to put out the fire and tell them they were doing it wrong”

    And you guys would be whining that if the government (that you profess to reject) would give you more handouts then you’d be in a position to help the people in the burning building. But in the meantime you’ll gather with a handful of other rejects from society and sleep in a tent in a park. Yep, the world looks to folk like you to lead us into the light. Such a varied assortment of worldviews you share and have to offer! LOL

  10. @ jack i’m sorry someone did something so cruel to you that it’s made you so bitter…hope you find some compasion before you die a withered selfish old man

  11. @Jack – A classic response that really personifies why this movement needs to exist. The fact that you can say that you will sit back and laugh as those who are struggling in the cold shiver, really shows what kind of person you are: not a man, but a cowardly mouse who has likely not had to struggle and therefore feels superior. Perhaps you might like to consider that the true worth of a man is in his ability to help those who need it. What have you done for your anyone but yourself lately? Will anyone have anything compassionate to say about you when you leave this life? Judging from your statements I really doubt it.

  12. jack
    fell flat

    attempted wit
    came off like a dick

  13. This guy has not be on site since the first day. He’s a zeitgeister with a leadership complex.

  14. Great story about a wonderfully complex subject.

    Move these people indoors, give them offices, a few grants and make sure there is a televised General Assembly every week. Make sure to do the “mic check” and ensure that every twinkle is recorded.

    Most importantly, make sure that the occupiers are interviewed by major media – and the dependent – on the major issues of the day. That is the most important part. Lots of interviews. Not just sound bites, really dig in. Find out what the occupiers really think.

    Let’s keep this alive pretty much forever. When will the first occupier baby be born on site? When will the first MSM reporter embed with a tent?

    Occupy is the gift which keeps giving.

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