Police Chief hands down ultimatum on Occupy Vancouver after midnight clashes

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Video courtesy of stormcrow45 via YouTube

Vancouver Police Chief Jim Chu says Occupy Vancouver has been attracting an "increasing number of problem people" after officers were kicked, punched, and bitten by a minority group of aggressive protesters Monday night.

The City of Vancouver filed court documents Monday to seek an injunction to end the encampment on the Art Gallery lawns.

The Canadian Press has the story:

 

Vancouver's police chief has warned all Occupy protesters to disperse after he says black-masked people pushed around firefighters, kicked and punched police and sent two officers to hospital with bite wounds.

Chief Jim Chu said the melee unfolded at the encampment in a downtown square around midnight Monday.

"If you wish to avoid arrest and avoid whatever violence will be initiated by those among you, we urge the legitimate protesters to leave now,'' Chu told reporters Tuesday, only hours before city lawyers began a process in B.C. Supreme Court to obtain an injunction to legally force the camp's removal.

Chu was joined by the city's Fire Chief John McKearney as he said the tone of the camp has transformed from an initial "non-violent spirit of co-operation'' to one with an "increasing number of problem people.''

A scuffle broke out when firefighters moved in to extinguish a fire in a barrel.

Police stepped in when people in black masks and others "who are intent on violence'' formed a human chain to prevent the firefighters from doing their job and began to push them around, Chu said.

Officers were then punched, kicked and bitten, while one had his ammunition clip stolen. No arrests were made.

Chu wouldn't give any timeline or say when his force might move in to clear the site, noting the force is waiting on the court's ruling before making any decisions.

But he stressed police still have a goal of ending the encampment peacefully.

"It has often been said by those in the Occupy movement that they represent the 99 per cent of us,'' Chu said. "If that is true then we ask you to remember that 99 per cent of the population obeys the law and respects the rights of others.''

The fracas came just two days after the group's general assembly voted by consensus to formally adopt a policy of non-violence.

Only between 15 and 25 people are currently sleeping in tents at night, McKearney said, while many more people join throughout the day.

A video posted on YouTube, called "First Nations sacred fire gets put out by VFD,'' shows the late-night scene unfold.

Only a handful among the group of dozens appear to wear coverings over their faces. People yelled as the firefighters slowly move in with police behind them.

"That is my right to have this fire. I am First Nations,'' yelled one woman as the group jostles.

"No respect,'' the crowd chanted as smoke blew in the wind. The group yelled at the officers as they slowly backed out of the site and some people hugged each other before beginning to sing.

The escalation of tensions in Vancouver comes as one of the various Occupy camps across the country voluntarily cleared out.

The public square in front of Halifax city hall was unoccupied Tuesday for the first time in nearly a month as the anti-capitalist protesters relocated ahead of Remembrance Day ceremonies.

Brian Crouse, one of the demonstrators, said the cleanup and subsequent move to a nearby park went smoothly.

"There's a sense of real community and a sense that we leave this space in the best condition possible,'' Crouse said as he helped load a moving van.

Corey Samoila said he spent the night tearing down tents and helped provide security because tension grew.

"Because of the move, some people got a little hostile. It got interesting but we managed to calm everything down,'' said Samoila.

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