Three Occupy activists settled with the city of Fredericton in December over the city’s removal of the Occupy camp in 2011. The out-of-court settlement package included $14,350 in damages and an apology from Mayor Brad Woodside. Julian Renaud, Dana Hartt, and Alex Davenport filed a small claims suit against the city, Mayor Woodside and the city’s director of engineering and public works Murray Jamer in April 2012. The NB Media Co-op interviewed Julian Renaud days after the details of the settlement were released in early January 2014.
NBMC: What do you think about the settlement with the city?
JR: It is a great victory for democracy and the rule of law. We saw public officials who acted well outside the bounds of their authority and literally enforced by-law provisions that don’t exist against their own constituents. The legal system was the most effective way to hold them accountable, so that was the avenue we chose to pursue, even though we didn’t have a lawyer — and it worked. I did all of the legal research and filed all of the documents myself, and found that there are great resources available to members of the public who wish to do likewise. More than anything, I think this settlement demonstrates that, despite all the injustice in society, regular people can get justice if they’re willing to fight for it.
NBMC: What do you think about Mayor Woodside’s reaction?
JR: The term “sore loser” has been thrown around to characterize Mayor Woodside’s reaction, and I can’t say that I disagree with it. He undermined the sincerity of his apology when he started to sling political mud at myself and the others who sued him for his misconduct. He fell back on instincts developed over decades of the dirty, cynical politics in which he sees fit to engage. Given his record, I was not surprised at his response, but I had hoped that it would be more mature. After he stormed out of the press conference, however, the rest went very well, and I was impressed by the quality of most related media reports.
NBMC: How have people reacted to you about the settlement?
JR: I have been overwhelmed by the outpouring of support. A lot of people have said “thank you” and “congratulations” in person and in emails. Even people who didn’t like Occupy have come forward and said that, no matter what their feelings about the movement itself, there was no justification for the mayor to use fictional by-laws against protesters. It’s a good feeling, really, to be vindicated.
NBMC: Occupy has celebrated another anniversary. What do you think it accomplished here in Fredericton?
JR: Occupy put a much-needed focus in our public discourse on the harmful effects of corporate greed and socioeconomic inequality. It also empowered regular people to make a difference, and demonstrated that positive change can and should come from the grassroots. The networking aspect has also been invaluable. By showing that so many of society’s ills stem from the same root cause — corporatism — Occupy united a lot of people from previously disparate groups, and they are now working together for the common good.
NBMC: Is there anything else you want to share?
JR: I would like to add that I am extremely grateful to everyone who has supported me over the course of this endeavour. Also, we are hosting a conference that flows well out of the results of this lawsuit. Entitled “Occupy Activism: A Community Conference,” it will be held on Saturday, January 25, from 1-4 p.m. at Odell Park Lodge. The purpose will be to explore ways that everyday people can get involved and make a difference in their communities.
Tracy Glynn is a member of the NB Media Co-op board.