Occupy Nova Scotia protesters want you to tell them whether they should take Halifax to court.
They extended that same invitation to Mayor Peter Kelly and the police chief Tuesday morning. Kelly said he’s booked this weekend and can’t make it to the meeting Saturday in Grand Parade.
Defending a legal challenge, however, could cost the city thousands of dollars, a move that taxpayers may be loathe to support. But the international movement purports to champion “the 99 per cent,” which is why organizer Ian Matheson said the local chapter wants taxpayers involved in the decision.
“The tax burden on citizens is one of the reasons why we wanted to make certain that this was extremely public,” he said.
Even as they celebrated the Crown’s decision last week to drop the obstruction of justice charges against the adults arrested during the Nov. 11 eviction, protesters said they might wage another legal battle.
But Occupy Nova Scotia has yet to decide what grounds would be challenged if it chose to go through the courts.
Matheson said the group may sue for wrongful arrest, in light of the dropped charges.
A charter challenge is also being considered, alleging that removing the tents from Victoria Park violated the group’s right to freedom of expression. Occupy Toronto launched a similar challenge last fall; Ontario Superior Court Justice David Brown ruled in the city’s favour.
Halifax’s mayor said he believes council and the police acted within their rights when enforcing the bylaw that prohibits camping in public parks.
“Anybody who feels they have any (legal) direction they need to take have the right to do so,” Kelly said Tuesday. “But as for us, we stand by our bylaws and we stand by our process.”
Still, Kelly voted against a motion put forward by Coun. Debbie Hum (Rockingham-Wentworth) to release the minutes from the private meeting council held Nov. 8 when it decided to evict the protesters from Victoria Park.
There has been very little public explanation about council’s role in the eviction, with the city’s solicitor advising against it last November because of then-pending court cases against the protesters.
Hum’s motion was defeated Tuesday, as it needed two-thirds of council’s support. The vote’s tally was not recorded.