RCMP make arrests on the roof of Rutherford Elementary School. GREG SAKAKI/The News Bulletin

26 squatters at B.C. elementary school arrested

RCMP teams moved in on Nanaimo’s Rutherford school Saturday morning

RCMP moved in at a Nanaimo school and made arrests today, breaking up the Schoolhouse Squat.

Numerous RCMP officers including special tactical teams arrived just after 10 a.m. Saturday at Rutherford Elementary School where Alliance Against Displacement and residents and supporters of Discontent City homeless camp had been squatting since Friday.

School board chairman Steve Rae thanked RCMP for their quick action.

“We understand and acknowledge and respect that there’s a homeless problem in this province and we want to help where we can with homeless people. But this is something that is completely different,” Rae said. “This is a group of people who have broken onto our property that’s not been supportive of the real cause, which is homelessness.”

Though the school closed last June, the school board chairman said “it’s not for them (squatters) to break into a school building that is owned by the school district, to use for their causes. We will not stand for this.”

Rae said he hopes there will be consequences.

“We are going to have them removed from this property as we’re doing right now and we’re going to charge them with everything we can so this stops,” he said.

Nanaimo RCMP spokesman Const. Gary O’Brien said 26 people were arrested and taken into custody.

“Break-and-enter and mischief at this point,” he said. “There may be secondary charges based on whatever background they have.”

He said any resistance to the arrests was not enough to be concerning to police and wouldn’t result in additional charges.

“It went very well. It was quite smooth,” he said. “We’re quite impressed with the fact that within 24 hours of the initial complaint, we had 26 in custody and the situation dealt with.”

O’Brien said there were about 40-50 members at the scene Saturday. In addition to general duty officers, there were members of the Vancouver Island Tactical Response Team, Vancouver Island Emergency Response Team, Police Dog Services and forensic ident.

He said the school district was assessing damage to the school.

Amber McGrath, Discontent City supporter, was observing the arrests Saturday and said “it’s heartbreaking” to see.

“The people in that building are fighting for everybody in Nanaimo and across the province and the country to have affordable housing and I don’t think that’s an unfair thing to fight for,” she said.

She referenced the 170 units of supportive housing announced by B.C. Housing on Friday and suggested that’s not a satisfactory solution when it’s affordable housing that’s needed.

“It’s temporary shelters. It’s not a home. An 8-by-10 cell in a trailer without a kitchen isn’t a home; 24-hour wraparound services is a prison,” she said. “Then they say that, that means that you have to take those services whether you want them or not. It’s not attached to the individual, it’s attached to the housing.”

She was asked whether Discontent City would be trying to identify another building suitable for squatting and said she didn’t know what next steps might be.

“There’s empty buildings when people are freezing. People are being put out into the bush to die when we have empty government buildings sitting here that people could be in and be warm,” McGrath said.

There were arguments between Schoolhouse Squat opponents and supporters along Hammond Bay Road.

RELATED: Discontent City campers break into empty elementary for ‘Schoolhouse Squat’

RELATED: Nanaimo’s Soldiers of Odin council candidate opposes school sit-in

Just Posted

Province announces $100-million grant funding for Northwest communities

The Northern Capital and Planning Grant will go to four regional districts and 22 municipalities

Security guard now on patrol at three Terrace banks

Company hired to secure ATM vestibules due to safety concerns

LNG Canada sponsors fast-tracked driver’s license training in Terrace, Kitimat

The $80,000 contribution is part of the company’s commitment to hire locally

Prince Rupert Gas Transmission project searches for partners

TransCanada is renewing permits for its natural gas pipeline project to North Coast.

Coastal GasLink stops work to investigate archaeological find

OGC archaeologists are en route to the Houston-area site where Unist’ot’en report finding stone tools

B.C. students win Great Waters Challenge video contest

Video, mural and song about saving the salmon claims the top prize

B.C. athlete takes home gold in freestyle aerials at Canada Games

Brayden Kuroda won the event with a combined score of 121.65.

Cabinet likely to extend deadline to reconsider Trans Mountain pipeline

New round of consultations with Indigenous communities is coming

B.C. government provides $75,000 towards salmon study

Study looks at abundance and health of Pacific salmon in Gulf of Alaska

Murdered and missing honoured at Stolen Sisters Memorial March in B.C.

‘We come together to make change within the systems in our society’

UBC researchers develop inexpensive tool to test drinking water

The tricoder can test for biological contamination in real-time

Disgraced ex-Congressman Anthony Weiner released from prison

He was convicted of having illicit online contact with a 15-year-old North Carolina girl in 2017

B.C. communities push back against climate change damages campaign

Activists copying California case that was tossed out of court

Most Read