Protesters move tents to make room for lights
Christmas decorations due to be put up in Centennial Square today
As promised, Centennial Square protesters moved their tents from under the giant sequoia tree Tuesday, clearing the way for it to be decked out in Christmas lights today.
The Occupy Victoria demonstrators, who have been in the square since Oct. 15, had been told Monday by bylaw enforcement officers they had until noon Tuesday to move their tents off the grass at the east side of the square.
Some moved after being reminded of the deadline Tuesday morning. The few remaining tents were dragged off the grass into the square about 11:45 a.m.
Although one of the demonstrators complained about television cameras recording the move — arguing he should have a right to privacy even in a public space — it went off without incident.
The Christmas tree lightup is sponsored by the Downtown Victoria Business Association.
DVBA general manager Ken Kelly was pleased that the protesters had co-operated. “I think we would not have been able to proceed on this critical work with critical timelines without the tents moving,” Kelly said.
“So we appreciate the spirit of collegiality.”
The tree decorating was scheduled to start this morning.
The DVBA also plans to install an ice rink in the square this winter. Work is scheduled to begin Nov. 21 and will take five days.
Kelly said some DVBA members are concerned the occupation might deter some people from enjoying the activities.
“I would say the longer that it stretches out, the more members will be concerned. Most definitely we have received telephone calls and emails from our members expressing concern,” he said.
City bylaw officers, accompanied by Victoria police, handed out notices in Centennial Square Monday telling the protesters that the Occupy Victoria demonstration, while peaceful, is contrary to city bylaws.
The notices said while the city supports the People’s Assembly of Victoria, the occupation of Centennial Square is contrary to City of Victoria’s Parks Regulation Bylaw , which prohibits holding demonstrations or other events without a permit and erection of tents and other structures in Centennial Square.
Had people defied the notice, they could have been fined or the city could have applied for a court injunction. The fine for erecting a structure without a permit is $150 ($125 if paid within 30 days) and for holding an event without a permit is $250 ($200 if paid within 30 days).