Nanaimo school occupiers ordered to pay restitution to district

Two activists who broke into a vacant elementary school in Nanaimo three years ago have received conditional discharges with 12 months of probation and ordered to pay $1,000 in restitution to the school district.

On Monday, Tingchun Chen and Ivan Drury pleaded guilty to mischief by damaging property during the occupation of Rutherford Elementary School on Hammond Bay Road on Oct. 5 and 6, 2018. Chen and Drury were also ordered to complete 50 hours of community work service. A charge of break and enter was stayed at the conclusion of the proceedings, said Dan McLaughlin, communications counsel for the B.C. Prosecution Service.

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Chen and Drury received the same sentence handed to Mercedes Courtoreille, 24, and Christopher Thompson, 35, in October 2020.

Chen and Drury were part of a group who planned the break-in and occupation of the school to protest an injunction obtained by the City of Nanaimo, allowing it to remove campers from a tent city in its downtown core on Oct. 11.

The group’s plan was to take over the school, which had been mothballed at the end of June, and move homeless people into the building.

On Oct. 5, the group cut locks and broke windows and went inside with food and supplies. The protesters, who included homeless people, also tried to barricade the doors, knowing police would arrive and try to remove them. They moved to the roof and hung banners from the school.

Police arrived and told the protesters they were under arrest and to leave. They didn’t, so more officers were called to the school.

While this was happening, a crowd of concerned citizens and curious neighbours and those opposed to the protesters began to gather. Police were forced to create a perimeter to keep the two sides apart.

The next morning, RCMP officers and the Emergency Response Team were still at the school. The fire department was also at the scene. Police arrested people on the roof and used the ladder bucket truck to take people down to the ground and into custody.

In total, 22 people were arrested.

Because both police and the school district were afraid there would be another occupation, the school district hired a security company to guard the school and another property.

The school district said its costs totalled more than $70,000 for the occupation, including the costs of hiring security.

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