Police psychologist cautions against raiding Occupy Vancouver
Police psychologistMike Webster is urging city officials to negotiate a peaceful end to the Occupy Vancouver tent city even if they get a court-issued injunction against the protesters.
On November 16, the B.C. Supreme Court was set to begin a three-day hearing on the City of Vancouver’s application for such an order.
“I’m not sure that swooping down on people in the middle of the night is the best thing to do,” Webster told the Straight by phone. “There seems to be in these Occupy camps an appreciation for democracy, for talking things out, discussing things, and so on. So I think you can take advantage of that.”
Webster was interviewed hours after New York City police raided Zuccotti Park at around 1 a.m. on November 15. Officers and city crews cleared the park of tents and personal belongings. About 200 Occupy Wall Street demonstrators were arrested. A judge ruled later in the day that the city can stop activists from coming back to what has been described as the spiritual home of the Occupy movement.
“Just because there’s a court injunction and an enforcement order doesn’t mean it has to be used,” Webster said.
The police psychologist recalled that he was a consultant with the RCMP during the mid 1990s when the force dealt with a First Nations band that blockaded Green Mountain Road in protest of the expansion of the Apex Alpine ski resort near Penticton.
A court issued an injunction against the Penticton Indian Band but the RCMP chose to negotiate with the group. An agreement to end the blockade was eventually reached. “The aboriginal people were prepared to defend the road,” Webster said. “It would have resulted in a tragedy.”
As cities across North America evict Occupy encampments that have denounced capitalist greed and social inequality, SFU history department chair Mark Leier said that the loosely organized movement has achieved a significant victory.
“One of the things that the Occupy movement has done is to say, ‘You’re not alone,’ ” Leier told the Straight by phone. “There are hundreds of thousands of people across this country, across North America, who also feel something is wrong.”
Although it’s too much to expect these demonstrations to produce concrete changes, Leier said, these protests are a “necessary first step”.
According to Leier, the challenge is for these occupations to evolve into a cohesive movement while preserving their most empowering aspect, which is “complete grassroots democracy”.