Yesterday I drove down to Olympic Plaza to make a point and I made that point in spades. Mayor Nenshi claimed that the squatters in Olympic Plaza could not be charged under our city bylaws because they were protected by the Charter of Rights and they were expressing themselves. Nenshi also said that the city does not have the authority to move and arrest people simply based on bylaw infractions. I proved both of those statements utterly wrong in short order.
I did my research. I made sure to park my vehicle in a safe spot where there would be no damage to the park and even put a pan underneath as the truck leaks the odd drop of transmission fluid and I did not want to stain the pavement. I did make sure that I was breaking a bylaw under the same act as those tenting in the park.
I screwed a few signs to the box-liner of my truck with some random and purposely inane demands. I wanted my parallel to the “occupiers” to be as complete as possible. Many have been scratching their heads over the ever changing and increasingly bizarre laundry list of demands being made by the occupiers. It was pretty clear that for a person to be considered as expressing themselves in order to qualify for this apparent Charter protection that a rational goal or demand is not really required. I had my demands and it is not the place of law enforcement to consider whether these were valid demands or not.
Within half an hour bylaw enforcement officers confronted me and demanded that I leave the park. I politely refused to and said that I was exercising my charter right of expression. The officers took my drivers license and registration and went back to their vehicle. They returned to warn me again that I would be charged for a bylaw infraction if I remained. Again I refused to move. They returned to their truck for some period of time then where doubtless many phone calls were made.
Next a couple officers from the Calgary Police Service approached me. They repeated their request that I leave or be charged with bylaw violation. I again refused to leave and stated that I was excersizing my charter right of expression. This pattern continued in a repetitive way for some time as an increasing number of police and bylaw vehicles appeared on the site.
The police finally approached me after this had gone on for perhaps a couple hours to let me know that a towtruck was on the way and that I would have to leave my vehicle in order for it to be towed. I asked the officer to clearly tell me what would happen if I refused to leave my vehicle. He made it very clear that I would be forcibly removed and arrested if I did not leave my truck.
At this point I decided to leave my truck. I had made my point and saw no need to further force the hand of the police nor increase the number of fines that I was getting.
Again to summarize. The Charter of Rights does not prevent the city from enforcing bylaws in Olympic Plaza against protesters. The city of Calgary does have the means and authority to have protesters arrested and removed by force from Olympic Plaza.
Some have been trying to claim that my removal was due to safety reasons and such. That simply is not true or I would have been fined for such. I was fined for incorrectly parking in a park. Some may claim that the reason for the law against that sort of parking is based on safety. Well to that I counter that the law against tenting in the city parks has some basis in safety as well.
A fellow blogger who attended the event did a great summary on his blog and took an excellent photo to make a point.
One of the shots shows the sign in the park that very clearly states that habitation and camping within the park is against the city bylaws. There is even a graphic depiction of a tent with a line through it in case a person may be unable to read or not speak English. Another shot shows the tents illegally surrounding one of those signs.
Another item of note down there is that the squatters are settling in even more deeply for the winter. A larger structure has been added to their collection of tents and things such as wooden pallets are being piled up. This simply means more damage will be added to the already estimated $40,000 and I see a great deal more safety issues here as the sqatters either freeze body parts off or burn things to stay warm.
This farce has gone on long enough. Calgary city hall has allowed itself to be bullied by a collection of squatters and their bluff for non-enforcement has been called.
Do we have two sets of laws in Calgary? If the City of Calgary continues to refuse to enforce the laws on these squatters while they did not hesitate to charge myself I think that the answer is pretty clear.