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Occupiers hint they might stay despite injunction

Occupy Nanaimo could be settling in for a long winter's occupation at Diana Krall Plaza
Occupy Nanaimo members Tara Thurber

Occupy Nanaimo could be settling in for a long winter's occupation at Diana Krall Plaza, despite the possibility of a civil injunction to have the group removed.

The city and Occupy Nanaimo members met several times over the past two weeks to seek a solution and both sides have remained cordial during discussions.

But that could change.

The city could ask all occupiers to leave the plaza by 9 a.m. Thursday (Dec. 1) or face a civil injunction. The city says it must enforce Bylaw 2008 7073, which doesn't allow tents or permanent structures to be erected in city-owned parks and open spaces.

Both sides met again Wednesday afternoon, after the Bulletin's deadline.

"We've made it quite clear we want to see some progress on this," said Nanaimo Mayor John Ruttan Wednesday morning. "We're saying we've talked for more than two and a half weeks now and it hasn't progressed very far."

Occupier Tara Thurber, while decorating a Christmas tree outside of Occupy Nanaimo headquarters in Diana Krall Plaza, said it's likely some of the people demanding change will choose to remain.

"We all have our own reasons for being here, but as occupiers, we do meet regularly and so far we've had consensus on just about everything. I can't think of anything we've disagreed on," she said.

Occupy Nanaimo meets three times a week – Tuesdays and Thursdays at 6 p.m. and Saturdays at noon at various downtown restaurants or coffee shops. The group held an emergency meeting Wednesday night to discuss the injunction.

Occupier Chad Henderson said it's up to the city to provide an alternative to Diana Krall Plaza if it wants the group to move.

"This is an opportunity for the city to start a precedent. We want to push the boundaries and the city has the ability to not enforce its bylaw. This movement is much bigger than a parks bylaw. We don't need these tents to drive change."

Henderson said it has been frustrating dealing with the city at times "because the city works within a system and it's the system we're trying to change."

About 20-30 protesters occupy the plaza, though the movement has the support of hundreds of volunteers and thousands of supporters citywide.

Ruttan said he wouldn't speculate on how an injunction might play out.

Occupy Nanaimo spokeswoman Jesse Cummings said the occupiers will be willing to move if the city can provide an "equal or superior space" to enable the group to get its message out.