WATCH: We’re learning more tonight about the damage squatters did to a Nanaimo school before police arrested them yesterday. This, as a group of activists, held a news conference, only to be interrupted by members of the public, who tried to drown out their message. Kendall Hanson was there.
It was a short-term occupation at Rutherford school that will leave long-term consequences for the school district.
“I was mortified, to be honest with you,” said Steve Rae, chair of the Nanaimo-Ladysmith School Board.
“The damage that they have caused in 17 or 18 hours that they were in there is incredible.”
The school board’s chair says judging from the amount of food and needles, it was clear the squatters were planning to be at the school for a long time.
He says there’s graffiti, roof damage which could lead to further water damage, and all the doors on the lower floor were broken.
Fixing it all and dealing with the threat of other occupations will cost thousands of dollars.
“In my estimate, a hundred thousand dollars may be conservative,” said Rae.
“We’re going to have to hire security for all our buildings now.”
On Friday, close to two dozen homelessness activists took over the closed Nanaimo school saying it was a solution to house the homeless.
The school district disagreed. On Saturday RCMP moved in and arrested those involved.
Today, some of those arrested and released on conditions called the media to Nanaimo RCMP headquarters.
“We wanted to bring some attention not just to the conditions of how we were treated in the jail but the reasons why we think we were arrested and what the problems with those reasons are,” said Laura Riach, a member of Alliance Against Displacement.
Those with competing views said the occupation was wrong.
“I have so much sympathy for the homeless people but these organizers taking the school and causing that much damage within 18 hours it’s unacceptable,” said Matthew O’Donnell, a Nanaimo resident who showed up to the news conference with a loudspeaker.
“It’s totally detrimental to the message and they need to stop.”
Those arrested say there was very little damage outside of the broken doors.
“We think the damage was done by the RCMP and the Emergency Response Team. There’s no reason they had to respond like that,” said Isabel Krupp, a member of Alliance Against Displacement.
As for the school occupation and their plans to help the homeless?
“We learned valuable lessons and we’re not giving up,” said Krupp.
Four of those arrested remain in jail. One is set to appear in court Tuesday.