Halifax police arrested 15 people Friday and took down tents at the site of a local Occupy Nova Scotia protest, hours after the city marked Remembrance Day.
The protesters had set up their encampment in a downtown park last week, after the city asked them to relocate from the nearby cenotaph where annual Remembrance Day celebrations were to take place.
The arrests occurred hours after the ceremony ended, when some protesters refused to leave the park protest site and a stand-off with police ensued.
“I am a taxpayer of Nova Scotia and I’m being arrested for occupying Nova Scotia,” said protester Miles Howe, as he was being handcuffed in the rain.
Police Chief Frank Beazley said that the arrested protesters could face obstruction charges, after the city announced Friday that protesters were breaking bylaws and had to leave.
“While the Halifax Regional Municipality has respected the Occupy Nova Scotia participants’ right to a peaceful assembly and their right to have their issues known publicly, it is now time to return Victoria Park, the Grand Parade and other HRM parks to the public at large,” the statement said.
The notice from chief administrative officer Mike Labrecque also said it is illegal to camp in municipal parks, and that people are barred from the parks between the hours of 10 p.m. and 5 a.m. unless they have written permission from the city.
Protesters still have the right to protest peacefully in parks during normal hours, the statement said.
Mayor Peter Kelly said that while he support the right to protest, the Occupy group “won’t be able to use their tents to do it.”
The city opted to evict demonstrators partly because the weeks-old protest had cost the city about $40,000 as of Thursday, Kelly told CTV News Channel.
By Friday night, the camp had been packed up and the group had moved to a nearby church to plan what their next move will be.
Some among them claimed victory after police moved on the camp, arguing that it would boost support for their cause.
“People have come together to support us and thanks to the mayor, I think that he’s only made us stronger,” said protester Struan Ford.
Their supporters appear to include New Democrat MLA Howard Epstein, who said the decision to evict the protesters on Remembrance Day “is a disgrace and undermines the very rights and freedoms our veterans fought for.”
Last week, the protesters were asked to clear out of the Grand Parade so city staff could prepare the location for Remembrance Day ceremonies, which are held there every year.
They complied, moving to Victoria Park, but said they planned to return to the Grand Parade after Remembrance Day.
Kelly said that would not be permitted