Occupy Vancouver leaves the Vancouver Art Gallery, but says movement is far from over

Ordered to take down tents at the original site, Occupy Vancouver protesters move on and prepare for the next phase.

First Nations hereditary chief Telquaa is joined in a chant as the Occupy Vancouver protest marched to their new home.

Occupy Vancouver protesters met their deadline for leaving the lawn of the downtown art gallery -- and are settling in to a new headquarters on the steps outside the nearby provincial law courts just a block away.

The majority of occupants at the previous tent city packed up their belongings earlier in the day, joining together in a march just after 2 p.m. to stake their claim on a new location.

Carrying tent and dome structures as they walked, protesters marched down Granville Street, past the main entrances of the B.C. Supreme Court along Smithe Street, then around the building and up the steps. Organizers claimed that since the courthouse lands are owned by the province, the injunction recently won by the City has no effect at the new site.

Nightly general assemblies will continue at the new location until further notice, they say.

Meanwhile, several protesters and tents remained at the original site to attempt to negotiate housing. Previous announcements had made it clear that one large tent intended to stay as long as possible, providing shelter for some of the homeless residents of the camp who had no alternatives.

Leaving the encampment

After an Occupy Vancouver press conference this morning, a number of the protesters in the tent city began taking apart tents and packing up their things. As tents came down and furniture was packed away into trucks, participants took to the stage with hopeful speeches about the movement and its impact.

First Nations activist Telquaa Helen Mitchell congratulated members of the Occupy Vancouver camp on their dedication, emphasizing that despite eviction, everyone had done a “wonderful job”.

“We made history here, and I’m so proud of it,” she said. “It makes me sick to see them come in and attack us like this. To use our justice system against us, to use our police force against us, to use our fire department against us to try to put our fire out.”

Those hoping for dramatic confrontations with officials were left disappointed, as the police stayed at arms length and let protesters continue with the takedown. There was a sense of cooperation between city workers removing palettes and Occupy Vancouver clean up crews. For many at the site, there was a consensus that the eviction was a call to regroup and try a new direction.

“It’s time to start again, you know, there’s no point beating a dead horse,” said supporter Nancy Hubbard, doing her part by cleaning up garbage around the site. “We’re here for a reason. You cannot kill the spirit of the people … the fire’s not going out.”

Like many other protesters, Hubbard said she would continue to support Occupy Vancouver by attending General Assemblies and other future demonstrations.

“This movement is going to morph into something, it has to. Because the energy is in motion and you can’t kill the energy. And it’s global – it’s not Vancouver, it’s not just a couple of cities. There’s a global movement and it’s a movement for change,” she said.

A helping hand from labour council

A five-ton Budget rental truck appeared at the Gallery site hours before the deadline, part of a donation from the Vancouver and District Labour Council (VDLC) to provide storage for supplies and larger items. VDLC President Joey Hartman was at the site herself, getting her hands dirty and lending a hand.

“We’ve got a truck that we rented so that we can put stuff into storage,” she said. The VDLC has expressed its continued support of the movement, and intends to keep providing assistance as long as it’s needed, Hartman said.

“From the beginning, the ideals of Occupy Vancouver and the Occupy movement around the world have been very similar to the ideals of the labour movement in trying to address inequality in the world,” she said.

“There were a few hiccups, but the main message is there and we need to move forward and try and refocus. This was a tactic; it’s now played itself out and now it’s time to move forward onto other things.” Despite being forced to leave the original camp, Hartman said she believes the movement will maintain a strong presence.

“I think it’s going to reshape, and I hope that the labour movement can be helpful in that. We’re not trying to run it, but we do think that we can offer support. And that’s what we’ve been trying to do all along,” she said.

At noon, a crowd began to gather around the stage. The march – originally set for 1 p.m. – was postponed for an hour or so to give supporters extra time to pack up. Organizers asked bystanders to lend a hand with the takedown. As they did, a choir stood in a circle, singing a harmonized rendition of “We Shall Not Be Moved”.

Protesters seemed uncertain about the next steps for their movement, but most believed that the organizers had a plan. One protester, speaking onstage before the platform was taken down, put the feeling around camp into words: “This isn’t the beginning of the end,” he said.

“It’s the end of the beginning, and tomorrow we start the next phase.”

Nobody can predict where Occupy Vancouver will end up. But at the end of the much-anticipated eviction day, one thing is for sure: it’s far from over.

 

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