People’s Assembly facing biggest challenge

Days after passing a motion to support in principle the actions of the People’s Assembly of Victoria...

Days after passing a motion to support in principle the actions of the People’s Assembly of Victoria (Occupy Victoria), the City of Victoria launched — politely, mind you — an ongoing war of attrition against the three-week old protest in Centennial Square. Since shutting off the camp’s utilities last week, the city’s message has shifted from one of evasive but implicit consent to one of clear and direct opposition, culminating in Sunday’s notice to vacate the square within 24 hours, or else.

Or else what, you ask? Citing concerns over safety and the looming holiday season (which will see the square otherwise occupied by a skating rink), the city issued a notice to “persons occupying centennial square” that  “unobstructed access to the entire Centennial Square” was required for properly permitted events and that “failure to remove your tents, shelters and all other objects by Monday will result in prosecution or other legal action against you.”

The response from Occupy Victoria has been mixed. Some participants have argued that it’s time to start thinking about a more mobile weekly protest model. Others — judging by the number of tents present on Monday morning — have opted to pack their bags rather than risk further confrontation.

Still others decided to call the city’s bluff and stage a rally in Centennial Square to assert the occupiers’ right to free speech, a tactic which — after two days of puffed chests and beaten brows — has worked to extend the protest until the city can obtain an injunction from the B.C. Supreme Court.

Unfortunately, the history of tent cities in the capital suggests that Monday’s victory will only serve to delay the protest’s inevitable eviction.

Ultimately, none of this matters. Just like the rest of the Occupy movement, the People’s Assembly of Victoria has been an experiment — one that was never meant to run on indefinitely. The question has never been whether Occupy can survive the cops and city governments to stay here forever, but rather can it survive the transition into something permanent? Without a doubt, the next few weeks will see an end to the camp in Centennial Square. It remains to be seen whether the People’s Assembly will end with it. M

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