Protesters call for support as deadline looms

Protesters occupying the Octagon have put out a call for supporters to join them as a Dunedin City Council deadline for them to move looms.

Dunedin Mayor Aaron Hawkins urged protesters to leave the Octagon peacefully after a letter to them warned they would be trespassed on Monday if they remained.

"Nobody wants to see any form of confrontation in the heart of our city," he said.

The council had turned off the supply of electricity to the reserve and a portable toilet had been removed after the private company which provided it became aware of the council’s intentions.

Those protesting in the Octagon wanted all vaccine mandates lifted, especially the one still in place for health workers.

Mr Hawkins said they were free to continue to protest lawfully, but all tents and other structures would need to be removed by noon on Monday.

In response, protesters yesterday called for more supporters to join them.

Protesters also asked supporters to write to the council.

A portable toilet was taken from the Octagon occupation yesterday. PHOTO: STEPHEN JAQUIERY
A portable toilet was taken from the Octagon occupation yesterday. PHOTO: STEPHEN JAQUIERY
A camper van joined the protest on the lawn at the upper Octagon yesterday afternoon.

Mr Hawkins’ interview with television news last night was interrupted when he had to remove himself to a safer spot, after protesters verbally abused him on camera.

Former jailhouse lawyer and protest supporter Arthur Taylor, who was in the Octagon yesterday, hoped there would not be a confrontation, but did not believe protesters would leave on Monday.

They had signalled to police they were open to negotiation, he said.

He said a group of up to 70 people was expected to arrive from other centres to attend a meeting at the Octagon over the weekend, but he did not expect most would stay overnight.

A formal warning signed by council chief executive Sandy Graham, addressed to occupiers, was delivered by two council staff members to the Octagon encampment yesterday.

It said the protesters were in violation of the Reserves Act 1977 and the City’s Reserves and Beaches Bylaw by occupying the area and putting up tents, lighting fires and erecting signs.

"These are offences punishable on conviction in the District Court to fines and can result in a criminal conviction being entered against you individually," the letter warned.

Refusal or failure to leave the Octagon after the warning period expired would result in an offence under the Trespass Act 1990 being committed.

Video footage taken by protesters showed about 10 protesters gathered in the Octagon when the council staff arrived.

Protesters told each other not to touch the paper and the council staff placed it on a table before walking away.

Monday is exactly three months after the occupation began and if protesters leave on that date it would be one day short of the length of time the Occupy protesters were encamped in the Octagon in 2011.

A police spokeswoman said police were working with the council and protest organisers to facilitate peaceful resolutions.

oscar.francis@odt.co.nz

 

 

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