Standoff at Hanlon Park drags on for fourth day
Thursday, July 30, 200911 Comments
Protesters stand atop a watch tower in the middle of the occupied Hanlon Creek Business Park. (Greg Beneteau)
(Click here for more photos of the Hanlon Creek Business Park Occupation)
In the end, they sat and waited. And waited.
By sundown, protesters occupying the Hanlon Creek Business Park realized police likely weren’t coming to take them away just yet.
The city served the group an eviction notice which expired at 4 pm today. But the only police presence occurred when two cruisers drove past the entrance to the site at around 5 o’clock.
One of the officers waved at the crowd as he drove by. Otherwise, things were quiet.
Throughout the afternoon, a steady stream of well-wishers and local residents stopped by the protesters’ camp, a community of tents, tarps and crude wooden structures in the middle of a construction site. In the evening dinner was served: a potluck of donated foods and soup simmering on a makeshift fireplace.
Meanwhile, at least a dozen cars were parked near the entrance to the site, while regional media had camera crews at the ready to cover a possible standoff.
As the deadline approached, protesters prepared themselves for possible confrontation with the authorities. Many of the 50 occupants signed contact forms detailing who to contact in case of an arrest. Others wrote contact numbers on their forearms.
Sitting on a pile of wood chips, Shareen instructed protesters how to deal with police. She gave them the contact number for a sympathetic lawyer who would take their cases pro bono, and warned them not to actively resist arrest in order to avoid more serious charges.
“We don’t want to fight. That’s not why we’re here,” she said.
The Mercury reported that Guelph Police were still waiting for direction from the city, which owns the land.
Police Spokesperson Constable Kevin McCord said police wanted to avoid taking an “aggressive stance” if possible.
“Come four o’clock, if they haven’t moved or aren’t going to move, then I would imagine there is going to be some communication with them,” McCord said. “But what that is going to be and who is going to do it, I can’t say right now. As always, we will want to deal with them in the most peaceful, non-conflicting way possible.”
Mayor Karen Farbridge told thecannon earlier today the protesters had to be evicted in order to protect their safety and avoid environmental damage to the site.
The city was open to having the protesters gather an alternate site so that construction could continue, she added.
A protester who called himself Paul mocked the city’s offer to relocate their camp, using a graphic example.
“Imagine you’re this forest and I’m the construction company,” Paul said “I have a sword and I want to stab you.”
“Now imagine my friend is trying to stop me and I say ‘It’s alright, just go wait over there.’ Meanwhile…” he made a stabbing motion with his hands. “It’s not a concession; it’s a pat on the head.”
One of the group's media liaisons, Sam Ansleis, was guarded with her comments, saying she felt uncomfortable speaking for the entire group.
When asked about the possibility of a confrontation with police, Ansleis would only reiterated the group's commitment to "protecting this vital and thriving ecosystem" from commericial development.
"We hope that the city does not take action by way of having police forcefully removing us from this site," she added.
Local resident John Reel applauded the group for their efforts, but worried the mostly young, haphazardly-dressed crowd would be stereotyped as idealistic hippies.
"I worry they won't be taken seriously because of how they look," said Reel, whose home backs onto the 675-acre property the city wants convert to a business park. "It's a shame, because it is a really important issue."
He said he also worried about the possibility of violence erupting if police moved in, saying it would not give protesters "the right kind of attention."