RCMP arrest nearly two dozen squatters at Nanaimo school


WATCH: There were some tense standoffs in Nanaimo where police swarmed a school after close to two dozen homelessness activists moved in yesterday. They said they were demonstrating against the displacement of those at Nanaimo’s tent city. But as Kendall Hanson reports, the school district and neighbours wanted them gone.

Tensions are running high as the RCMP arrives at Rutherford elementary to remove some squatters.

When the Emergency Response Team enters the school those inside head for the roof.

They say they’re here resisting the removal of Nanaimo’s and other tent cities in the province.

“I just think it’s wrong that the police are moving in and taking people out of an empty school when there are homeless people all over the streets of Nanaimo,” said Amber McGrath a homelessness activist.

They say an empty school would be a good option for homeless housing until something permanent is built.

But breaking into the school, which was closed by the school district in June, and announcing its occupation last night did not get sympathy from neighbours.

“It’s a beautiful neighbourhood,” said Debbie Shaw, a neighbour. “They don’t belong here.”

“We’re tired of hearing about the political aspects of this. We want them out,” said a neighbour who just gave Tim as his first name.

Police ensured no one else could enter the school grounds, and arrested three leaving the building overnight.

Then the Emergency Response Team entered the school at 10:30 this morning.

They arrested the squatters and the fire department removed them off the roof one by one.

Police say it’s a tremendous drain on resources.

Over 50 officers from across Vancouver Island were here today.

“We would’ve moved on it last night but the fact is we did not have enough resources to deal with this safely,” said Cst. Gary O’Brien with Nanaimo RCMP. “We didn’t know how many protestors were inside if they had any weapons, where they were and if there were any traps in the school.”

All 23 people were arrested for break and enter and mischief and may be released on conditions later today.

The school district’s chair says he’s frustrated because any damage comes from already tight budgets.

“That’s money that’s going to come directly out of the classroom. that’s money that they taking away from kids so that is really troubling,” said Steve Rae of the Nanaimo-Ladysmith School Board.

The school district says it’s increased security at its other facilities to stop a copycat incident

Even Some still at tent city say breaking into a school was totally wrong

“I think it’s a joke. I think there should’ve been some more talk at least with the residents here,” said tent city resident Michael Pindar.

They say the timing was horrible after the province announced funding for housing the city’s homeless yesterday

Kendall HansonKendall Hanson

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