Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Homeless Man Enters Two Month Hunger Strike Against Camping By-laws

by Tavis Dodds

David Arthur Johnston was today sentenced to sixty days in jail for six counts of erecting a tent within the hours of seven and seven. The court heard how David's recent appeal was rejected on October 18th and David pled guilty for camping at the Centennial Square at City Hall with the Occupy Victoria movement of several dozen people that have been breaking the by-law for nearly a month. City lawyer Troy DeSouza argued for the maximum sentencing of six months and/or ten thousand dollars for each count of erecting a tent in the daytime. The judge said, before he gave his sentencing, that he enjoys camping and the fresh air.

Saanich and Victoria mayoral candidate David Shebib was allowed to address the court, as he is facing similar charges scheduled for January, and claimed DeSouza had lied to the court so as to prevent the campers from bringing new evidence, and protested against the whole proceedings as contemptible. Former mayoral candidate was forced to leave the courtroom after she announced that nobody was announcing that David Johnston wouldn't be eating in jail. Another man was asked to leave for saying that they will kill him. Then baliffs ushered David Shebib out of court. Several young children sat quietly. Occupy Victoria/Peoples Assembly campers filled the courtroom.

Johnston was given ten days served for time he has spent waiting for today's court. His plan is to fast in Wilkinson Road Penitentiary. "It is that important." he told the court. "This city needs a refugee camp, not an internment camp. You are locking up one of the experts in refugee camps in a time when you need a refugee camp more than ever. There will not be a tourism industry for more than a year. The Chamber of Commerce has to be dismantled." Johnston noted that he had not used money since 2003, "so it's been a long trip for me." To which the judge nodded.  David then asked for a longer sentence, as he says these shorther sentences of releasing him without actually killing him. David has done four sentences of just over a month each without food, and two of them were back to back. David pins a note on himself that reads "Do not recussitate." His mother, Lea Johnston, is currently enroute from Blackfalds Alberta.

David asked if it was strange that he had been charged twice, and that he was released the last time because of lost paperwork. The Judge saw nothing abnormal in that. He had been arrested at the City Hall on the same charge six days prior and arrested the second time a day after an article appeared in the Vancouver Sun. In the evenings before both arrests Dean Fortin and City spokespeople announced that campers in Centennial Square would not be charged. In a vote to council the camp was allowed to stay in the square indefinitely, but not, said Dean Fortin, for people like David Johnston, that use the place for their private use.

Apart from the very briefest mention by David Shebib, no mention was made about the Supreme Court ruling that Victoria's previous camping by-law had been struck down as unconstitutional, but Shebib did mention that Mme Justice Carol Ross had denied the city when they applied to have the words "at night" added to her ruling.