UPDATE 10 a.m.: Protesters at the Occupy Vancouver site say they refuse to recognize Vancouver firefighters as authority figures.
VANCOUVER (NEWS1130) – Vancouver’s fire chief is giving Occupy Vancouver protesters until 10 a.m. today to follow through on a list of safety recommendations. This comes after a man overdosed in front of the Art Gallery yesterday.
Chief John McKearney says too many tents are too close together and they’re covered by low-hanging tarps.
“They’re nestled together in order to have these tarps over top so they can get out of the weather. That, understanding the issue of livability, compromises their own safety,” he explains.
So, those tarps and tents have to go. If the protesters refuse, firefighters will remove them. McKearney adds the lack of space means crews had a hard time getting to the man who overdosed.
At the Occupy site this morning, it’s one of the first times we’ve found protesters and volunteers unwilling to discuss things. Many people have said “No comment” or “We can’t speak for the group.”
David speaks only for himself; he says there’s a sense of mindful determination ahead of the deadline. “In that time, which is very little, Occupy Vancouver is going to do all it can to meet the VFD’s requirements.”
Gucchi also stays at Occupy Vancouver and explains how the tarps help them deal with the weather and how they’ve come to symbolize the little neighbourhoods that have formed within the tent city:
“Tarps protect us from heavy rain and we just combined all the tarps together to make a ‘tent mansion’ type of thing. If you go to each neighbourhood and ask them if they will take down their tarps they will give a strict answer: No.”
David says the Occupy group will hold a news conference at 10 a.m. today.
No deadline for protesters to leave
Mayor Gregor Robertson still isn’t giving the protesters a deadline to leave but says he’s deeply concerned with the site’s safety.
He tells us he won’t cut off their electricity. “The power’s on, for health and safety reasons, primarily. So we’ll keep that there to ensure that the site is safe and that is the best advice we have from our city officials.”
Another protester calls the fire policies “ridiculous.”
Drug and alcohol ban considered
Occupy Vancouver protesters will be voting on whether to adopt a no drugs and alcohol policy after a man overdosed in front of the Art Gallery.
A medic on-site got to him quickly and saved his life. That medic is Matthew Kagis, who says the Occupy camp has attracted people from the Downtown Eastside who are looking for a place to stay.
“These are people who are escaping hiding from the police on the Downtown Eastside. They’ve got a place where there’s emergency medical care, free, hot vegetarian food, and they’re welcome. So, what are you going to do?”
Kagis is concerned about what this will do to the movement’s image, but says the group still won’t turn anyone away.
As for whether a no-drug policy will work? “It will probably be as effective as Canada’s drug laws are,” he figures.
Kagis adds if the man had overdosed in a park or in an alley, he probably would have died.