Councillor Watts sides with Kelly

Jennifer Watts has sent irate constituents a note explaining her position on HRM’s violent eviction of peaceful protesters yesterday. After paying lip service to the principles espoused by those outraged at the mayor and council’s behaviour, she reverses course and endorses Kelly’s position that a petty bylaw should trump constitutional rights.

I have received many emails from residents who are very concerned and angry with the enforcement of the municipal park bylaw in relation to the Occupy Nova Scotia protest. Many of these concerns include the decision to remove members of Occupy Nova Scotia on Remembrance Day, the right of peaceful protesters to gather, the manner in which the protesters were removed by the police, the costs associated with the police action, the move to evict instead of seeking a legal remedy such as an injunction, the role of council in the decision, and the mixed messages given to the group over the past several weeks concerning their status in HRM parks. I very much appreciate the directness of your comments and the important issues that you are raising in respect to this action.

As someone who has participated in protests and demonstrations over many years I respect the important issues that Occupy Nova Scotia is raising about social injustice and inequity in our society. I appreciate that there are serious questions about the decision and how it was implemented. I am taking these responses and questions very seriously and will raise them with Regional Council.

At the same time, I support the enforcement of municipal park bylaws that do not allow overnight stays in parks or temporary or permanent accommodation without municipal permission. While many may disagree with this decision, I believe that there is the ability and opportunity to protest and publicly speak about issues in our community that respect the current municipal bylaws.

I regret that this situation could not have been resolved differently. It has caused me to think very hard about my role and responsibility as a regional councillor.

It could have been resolved differently — peacefully, respectfully, intelligently —and it would have been, by a mayor and council with integrity and respect for civil liberties.

(Note that Watts, elected as a progressive acolyte of Howard Epstein, evades the central question of council’s role in Tuesday’s illegal secret vote.)