Members of the Crazy Indian Brotherhood provide security at Edmonton protest camp

Courtesy CBC

Organizers of an illegal tent city in Edmonton have dropped demands the city defund the Edmonton Police Service.

At the end of July, a group of Edmonton protesters set up their own version of Seattle’s CHAZ – and vowed not to move until their demands are met – including $39 million being slashed from the police budget.

The group has now dropped that demand.

The groups other demands – free transit, the establishment of an accessible emergency response fund for frontline workers, more transitional support services, a review of bylaws that target people in poverty and an end to tent slashing and property destruction – remain.

They also want the city to permanently convert the tent space into a ceremonial and gathering place for Indigenous communities.

At last count, 172 tents have sprung up in the Edmonton neighbourhood of Rossdale, frustrating both community residents and police.

The camp came about after the province decided to stop pandemic work with the homeless at the EXPO and Kinsmen centres, displacing many of the homeless.

Residents have named their camp Pekiwewin meaning “coming home” in Cree.

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The area is reminiscent of the Capital Hill Autonomous Zone in Seattle where hundreds of residents took over a six sq. block area following rioting after the death of black man George Floyd at the hands of a white police officer in Minneapolis.

CHAZ was lawless for weeks and saw two murders before police finally moved in to reclaim the area.

A sign on the Pekiwewin camp entrance reads: “This is neutral territory. Any violence and you will be asked to leave.”

They have a kitchen and a medical tent that also supplies safe injection materials.

Security is handled by The Crazy Indian Brotherhood, some who are former gang members looking to better themselves.

City officials are helping with garbage pick-up and portable toilets.

But tensions do seem to be rising as many neighbours have hired their own private security guards who patrol the area. Passing motorists have thrown bottles into the camp.

Capacity at Edmonton shelters are currently sitting at between 60-75%

The area for hundreds of years has served as an Aboriginal burial ground.

Dave Naylor is the News Editor of the Western Standard

News Editor & Calgary Bureau Chief

Dave Naylor is News Editor & Calgary Bureau Chief of the Western Standard based in the Calgary Headquarters. He served as City Editor of the Calgary Sun & covered Alberta news for nearly 40 years.

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