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Regina police clear city hall encampment, 11 arrests made

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Residents of the encampment at Regina’s city hall were forced to leave Friday afternoon as police began clearing the site.

On Thursday, Regina Fire Chief Layne Jackson said residents needed to vacate the area as soon as possible after the Fire Safety Act was put into place due to three fires in 24 hours, including one that destroyed a tent on the east side of the camp.

The fire that destroyed the tent Thursday morning was one that Jackson said was "fully involved” and one he said could have been fatal if it was in a more populated area of the camp.

According to the Regina Police Service (RPS), there were 11 people arrested and charged with obstruction. One person was charged with assaulting a police officer. A man in a wheelchair was arrested, but charges did not proceed once it was determined he could not move under his own power. He was taken to hospital.

The 11 people who were arrested were taken to the RPS Detention Unit, and police said they anticipate they will be released from custody later on Friday night.

Four of those arrested were believed to be volunteers, and seven were believed to have been camp residents.

There were 30 officers involved and no injuries reported. Throught the day, RPS officers worked to connect those at the camp with support services.

The decommissioning of the camp began at 1 p.m. Friday.

“We wanted to reach out to make you aware of safety measures being put in place during the decommissioning of the camp this afternoon. Due to a variety of factors, including the presence of multiple items that could be used as weapons, we will not be allowing media or anyone not working as emergency services personnel to enter the perimeter,” an email from RPS said.

Despite the order to vacate within 24 hours, many tents, volunteers and residents of the camp remained at the site on Friday morning.

Volunteers said they and residents were caught off guard when told they would have to leave and said that city council has not talked to them in the 43 days the camp has been in operation.

“And now this is happening. This is not fair. This is not fair, 42 days for city council and they haven’t talked to us," volunteer Alejandra Cabrera said on Thursday.

“This is incredibly sneaky, you guys. Come on, you guys. Are you kidding me right now," Shawn Koch, another volunteer said to a Regina firefighter.

Encampment volunteers held a news conference at noon on Friday. They said more clarity on the decision to shut down the camp and why a special city council meeting was promptly scheduled and then cancelled the next day needed to be brought to light.

Regina Mayor Sandra Masters said the authority of the fire department and police, as well as the safety concerns brought forward, outweigh city council and the decisions they would have made regarding the camp's future.

In a statement from City manager Niki Anderson, she thanked Fire Chief Layne Jackson for “prioritizing public safety in the midst of an incredibly complex situation.”

“I am convinced his decision has saved lives.”

Fencing was temporarily installed around the green areas of the Courtyard and along the east and west sides of City Hall while the remnants of the camp are cleaned up, according to the city. The fencing will stay until property repairs are completed.

City hall is slated to reopen to residents on Monday during regular business hours, with access through the front doors on Victoria Avenue.

- With files from Wayne Mantyka

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