Homeless protesters break into empty Nanaimo school

Homeless protesters break into empty Nanaimo school
CHEK

Homeless protesters have broken into Rutherford Elementary School in Nanaimo and have hung up banners. Credit: Alliance Against Displacement.

Homeless protesters have broken into Rutherford Elementary School in Nanaimo and have hung up banners. Credit: Alliance Against Displacement.

Homeless protesters from Discontent City and other activists have broken into the empty Rutherford Elementary School in Nanaimo to protest the court injunction, displacement and the lack of affordable housing in the city.

On Sept. 21, a B.C. Supreme Court judge ruled everyone at Discontent City on 1 Port Drive must leave the encampment within 21 days. There are approximately 300 homeless campers at the site.

On Friday, the province announced they had purchased land at  250 Terminal Avenue for 80 units of temporary modular housing. The city is also providing land at 2020 Labieux Road for another 90 units of temporary housing.

In the afternoon, a group of homeless people from Discontent City and supporters broke into Rutherford Elementary School to start a squat they have dubbed the “Schoolhouse Squat.”

The group has hung banners on the roof of the school that say “Fight 4 Homes” and “Fight 4 Justice.”

In a statement to the media through Alliance Against Displacement, the squatters said the Schoolhouse Squat has been started to provide a home to the people who will be evicted from Discontent City.

“For five months, Discontent City has been a home to the homeless — in camp we were unhoused, but we made a home. The government and courts are trying to make us homeless again, and we will not go along with it,” the statement reads.

“It is not right to call the Schoolhouse Squat a protest against the injustice of the court injunction, it is resistance against Canada’s collective punishment to homeless people who organize and fight back. We are resisting the death sentence dealt to our most vulnerable homeless friends by Judge Skolrood’s order to displace over 300 people to nowhere.”

The squatters also said the government and the Supreme Court wants homeless people to die.

“We have seen the city, police, and province stand by silently while a mob of hundreds gathered at our gates to assault us. We have heard the government and law use the same language as the anti-homeless mob: that the homeless are outsiders, that the homeless are dangerous, that the homeless are a threat to public order. The Schoolhouse Squat is resistance, not a protest because to beg for help from those who hate us would be a naive hope that we cannot afford while the government and courts conspire to disorganize us and scatter us into dangerous isolation,” the statement reads.

The group also said there is not enough shelter beds and that night-by-night park camping in Nanaimo will not work as homeless people can’t erect a shelter or leave their personal belongings without being fined. The squatters are inviting others to join the protest in Nanaimo or to start one in their own town.

“We want the Schoolhouse Squat to be a gathering place for Indigenous people displaced from their lands and dispossessed of their communities, for working class people who have lost their homes, communities, and families to low wages, high rents, overwork, and abuse, and for people in housing crisis,” the squatters said in the statement.

Nanaimo RCMP are at the scene of the protest and have surrounded the area with police tape.

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