City of St. John’s turns off electricity to Occupy NL camp in Harbourside Park
The end of an extension cord lies in the snow after the power was cut to the Occupy NL camp in Harbourside Park Wednesday. — Photo by Keith Gosse/The Telegram
The City of St. John’s has cut off power to the Occupy Newfoundland camp in Harbourside Park.
The Telegram learned Wednesday a city work crew cut electricity to the camp Tuesday afternoon, leaving the park in darkness.
The move came as a shock to the handful of occupiers who regularly spend their nights in the large communal tent sitting in one corner of the park. Several of them expressed confusion when asked about the city’s move.
“Our city representatives and the authorities here have been pretty supportive of what we’ve been doing. So for our power to be cut without any advanced warning, so we could be prepared for that ... that’s what we’re surprised about,” said Thomas Jordan, who’s been involved with the movement since it started.
Mayor Dennis O’Keefe has said previously he had no intention of having the occupiers removed from the public space, like nearly every other Canadian city has. So having the power cut without warning was concerning, said the occupiers.
But in a news release issued Wednesday, the city reiterated it had no intention of evicting the Occupy NL camp.
“The city has not and is not at this time asking the Occupy
St. John’s members to leave the park, but they do need to adhere to city policies and directives," it said.
The release also said the reasoning for cutting the power was safety concerns.
City inspectors visited the camp about a month ago and asked the occupiers to disconnect a power cord they had running to an outlet in the middle of the park. They did as they were asked. However, inspectors found the cord plugged in again during a subsequent inspection.
“As there is no way to monitor the use of the extension cords the city has turned off the power to the park,” read the release.
Once they eventually found out why the city had cut the electricity, the occupiers issued a press statement of their own.
“We believe that (the city’s) stated concerns have already been largely addressed, but will continue work with the city in an effort to resolve any outstanding issues. Because of the positive relationship between the City of St. John’s and Occupy NL, we are optimistic that a resolution can be reached quickly,” it said.
The occupiers have installed a portable generator at the camp as a temporary measure.
Realistically, the loss of power is more an annoyance than a threat to the camp, the occupiers said. Only a few small items are run from the outlets, such as laptops, lights, Internet and a couple of cooking elements.
The most important factor to people living at the camp is heat, which is supplied by a small propane heater.
But losing the Internet, phone and the laptops is a bigger blow than it might seem.
The Occupy movement was largely founded online through social media and the Internet has remained an important resource for the Occupy NL crew to get its message out. The group maintains an active website, including an activity schedule, at http://www.occupynl.ca.
“It would have a big impact on our communications,” said one person at the camp on Wednesday.
“We’d be in the dark. Figuratively and literally,” said another.
Occupy NL is now in its fifth month of occupying Harbourside Park and is believed to be the last Occupy camp in Canada, where once there were dozens.
The movement was started by Canadian activist group Adbusters and found its zenith in New York’s Zuccotti Park and the massive occupy camp that was there before being evicted. The movement aims to address the struggles of the 99 per cent of society who are not part of the top one per cent of income earners.