The realities of the Occupy movement are proving grim. A woman at the Occupy Vancouver camp died Saturday after a suspected drug overdose. The woman, in her twenties, was found in a tent by a fellow protestor, apparently “unresponsive.” She was rushed to the hospital by paramedics, but was later pronounced dead.
Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson gave a statement about the “really tragic circumstances,” saying that it “clearly demonstrates that the situation in camp has deteriorated.” Robertson went on to say it was time to end the encampment, and city officials issued a notice on Monday to protestors, telling them to immediately pack up the tent city and leave the Vancouver Art Gallery plaza. The notice is a warning, starting the legal actions needed to make a formal order of evacuation.
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Residents say they have no intention of leaving, and Chris Shaw, a medic who was on site and one of the first responders to the woman who died, said that he doesn’t think the death should be used as a reason by media or city officials for closing down the camp. Shaw told the Vancouver Sun that medics on the camp site responded faster than EMTs, saying, “The drug issues in the city are what they are and the city has to address them. In the camp I would argue people are safer.”
While Vancouver’s site may be “drug and alcohol-free” for the most part, the sad reality is that such large gatherings make the issue hard to avoid; substance abuse problems are slowly seeping into other Occupy camps. Three people were arrested at Occupy Boston last week after trying to sell drugs to undercover cops, and in New York, tensions are building on opposite sides of Zuccotti Park. While the dedicated protestors and General Assembly meetings preach a safe, clean zone, the west side of the park has apparently become a meeting place for drug deals at night.
Sharing a public space means everyone is welcome to it, but protestors in New York are having a hard time co-existing with the homeless and mentally ill. The NYPD doesn’t seem to be doing much to help the situation; in fact, they’re allegedly pushing drunks and homeless to “take it to Zuccotti.” The New York Daily News reports that two different drunks they spoke with were told by police officers to move over to Zuccotti Park after being found in other public spaces. Sparro Kennedy, a woman coordinating donations of clothing and blankets at Zuccotti, has been doing her best to look out for occupants with special needs and the homeless, and says she’s there “to make sure that this movement does not leave behind the people really dealing with reality out here,” she told the Huffington Post. “Some people have lived in a bubble their whole lives. Well, now that bubble has been popped.”