Protest surrounds ice rink site in downtown Victoria

Centennial Square spot where the Occupy Victoria tent city sits and the downtown business association.

A long-planned and large Christmas season public skating rink covering the Centennial Square spot where the Occupy Victoria tent city sits is about to test the community spirit of protesters and the downtown business association.

The two sides have yet to meet to deal with the problem — a temporary 17 by 11-metre ice rink the Downtown Victoria Business Association plans to install Nov. 21.

However, both sides are optimistic a simple solution can be found.

Ken Kelly, DVBA general manager, says he expects his organization will meet with People’s Assembly of Victoria representatives within two weeks to sort out the situation.

The business association has been planning the ice rink project since mid-August — almost seven weeks before the People’s Assembly held its first organizational meetings.

People’s Assembly supporters live in about 20 tents hat were set up at Centennial Square last Saturday after a day-long protest in the square and downtown march by about 1,000 people, as part of the worldwide protest against corporate and banking industry greed, and economic control.

Saying he personally supports the “spirit” of Occupy Victoria in finding solutions to social and economic ills facing the community, Kelly said, “I would be really very surprised if there is nothing but co-operation between us” in ensuring the rink will be set up.

Most of the protest tents sit on the planned ice rink site on the lower level of the square beside McPherson Playhouse.

Anushka Nagji, a People’s Assembly spokesperson, said the ice rink comes as a shock to her group and will be discussed by the group.

The solution might be as simple as negotiating some useful material concessions from the downtown business community for moving the tent city to the more weather-exposed side of Centennial Square, she said.

However, it is up to the assembly to decide what to do — if anything, said Nagji, adding that the protesters know the square does not belong to them and is a public place for all people and organizations to use.

Current plans call for the open-air ice rink to officially open Nov. 26 for what has, until now, been the annual Centennial Square Light-up. If a solution is found to deal with the tent city, the rink would be open to skaters daily until Jan. 2.

The rink costs $60,000 to rent and is supplied by an Ontario company. The DVBA plans to ask users to contribute a toonie to defray expenses, said Kelly.  Skate rentals will be available.

If all goes well in finding a solution with the People’s Assembly, “we’re looking forward to inviting all of Greater Victoria to come and enjoy an outdoor skate this winter,” he said.

The ice — rain or shine — is good until the weather hits higher than 10 C, he said. The ice is kept cold via a chiller and piping that runs under the ice sheet.

editor@goldstreamgazette.com

 

 

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