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Occupied Ottawa plans for park squat despite threats from mayor, police

by Andy Crosby

Banner drop over Rideau Centre walkway last Nov. 17, International Day of Action in solidarity with Occupy Wall Street
Banner drop over Rideau Centre walkway last Nov. 17, International Day of Action in solidarity with Occupy Wall Street

Occupied Ottawa (formerly Occupy Ottawa) is set to re-take public space as the spring season heats up in the nation’s capital.

“On Saturday, May 12, Occupied Ottawa will be back in the streets and the parks, asserting that we have the right to protest, organize and resist in public space,” according to a press release.

A rally will commence at 3pm at the Human Rights Monument near Elgin and Lisgar, accompanied by speakers discussing indigenous and mining injustice issues, among others.

The march will conclude with a part squat and re-occupation at an undisclosed location.

“Occupied Ottawa has decided to continue to use public space again this spring, after having been forcibly evicted by the Ottawa Police last November,” said Squid Murgatroyd in an interview with rabble.ca.

Occupy Ottawa camped out in Confederation Park last Oct. 15 for over five weeks in solidarity with the Occupy Wall Street movement and public space occupations against global capitalism in dozens of cities across the US, Canada, and Europe.

Over the winter months the movement persisted, despite lacking physical occupations, culminating in May Day actions in numerous cities which drew tens of thousands of people to the streets. Police were reported making violent arrests in New York, Oakland, and Seattle.

In Chicago, protestors are preparing to confront the NATO summit on May 20.

Mayor Jim Watson has already warned the local movement that if they occupy a public park the city will use police force to carry out an immediate eviction.

Ottawa police, whose anti-riot division recently trained at the Canadian military base in Petawawa, are bracing for what they call a summer of protest violence, citing incidents from the over three-month old Quebec student strike still in progress.

Participants, observers, and even the mainstream media have chimed in to note that in the vast majority of cases, it is the police that instigate physical violence against demonstrators which has resulted in serious injuries, as seen in Victoriaville on May 4.

Police have also erroneously referred to violence emanating from the near daily student demonstrations in Gatineau with no evidence to support their assertion.

On May 5, an Occupied Ottawa demonstration began at Parliament Hill and ended in the Market after protestors took over the intersection and police arrested Derek Soberal, an organizer from Toronto.

According to the Toronto Media Co-op Ottawa Police officer Henri Lanctot referred to the peaceful demonstration as becoming “very hostile, very violent towards the police when the officer arrested Mr. Soberal,” revealing the misleading language employed by police surrounding the discourse of violence.

However, threats made by the mayor and police are not deterring Occupied Ottawa protestors whose final preparations are under way.

“Most of our efforts have focused on internal and external educational activities and community building,” according to Matt Morgan and John Bainbridge in a rabble.ca blog post.

During the Confederation Park occupation the camp was criticized by some participants for not properly dealing with issues which included misogyny and racism.

As a response, participants have organized anti-oppression workshops and consulted with indigenous activists which ultimately led to the name change, “a way of acknowledging that Ottawa, and, in fact, the entire Ottawa river watershed is unceded and occupied Algonquin territory,” according to Morgan and Bainbridge.

“Internally we have been discussing how to remain a broadly inclusive movement, while rejecting oppressive behaviours and structures and building a directly democratic direct action movement that agitates for social and economic justice.”


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