TORONTO – A judge says Occupy Toronto protesters can remain in a downtown park while the merits of a city eviction order are argued in court.
Toronto protesters went to court Tuesday after receiving the eviction
notices and are requesting an injunction against the eviction.
judge says the protesters can’t be removed pending his decision
following arguments on Friday, but added that no new structures can be
erected in the park.
As police looked on, bylaw officers
threaded their way between tents and through the mud Tuesday morning to
put up the notices, which were quickly taken down.
The protesters vowed not to leave the downtown park they took over a month ago in defiance of the eviction notice.
notices warned that occupation of St. James Park between the hours of
midnight and 5 a.m. and erecting structures in the facility contravened
“I will be standing my ground here,” said Hannah Kovacs, 22, as he burned one of the pieces of paper.
“If they want me to leave, they’ll have to kill me first.”
The protesters said the city could not “evict an idea” whose time had come and said they planned to stay.
reaffirm our right to the use of public space to assemble, peacefully
protest, and establish collective dialogue on issues that affect us
all,” the statement said.
“These rights are guaranteed to all of us.”
But some demonstrators said they would leave rather than risk confrontation with police and possible criminal charges.
“It seems like a silly thing to be risking my clean record for,” Tim Topping said as he packed up his tent.
“I’d still be willing to help, but from the outside,” said the 23-year-old, who has spent almost a month in the park.
The protesters took over the park several blocks east of Bay Street on Oct. 15 as part of the Occupy movement that began on Wall Street to decry corporate greed and the growing gap between haves and have-nots.
initial handful of tents that weekend quickly expanded to a
mini-village with a library, media centre, medical facility and food
and logistics areas.
“The city recognizes the rights of
Canadians to gather and protest,” city manager Joe Pennachetti said in
an open letter to the protesters.
“However, the city has determined that it cannot allow the current use of St. James Park to continue.”
letter went on to warn that the city will take the “necessary steps” to
remove the tents and other structures if the demonstrators don’t do so
About a dozen Toronto councillors said the city was moving too quickly.
In a letter to Mayor Rob Ford, they urged no action be taken until the issue had been discussed by council in two weeks.
two dozen people staged a sit-in outside city hall late Tuesday
afternoon to express their opposition to the eviction notices.
spokesman Mark Pugash said officers were on hand in the park Tuesday
morning to keep the peace as the bylaw officers did their business.
Police did arrest two men when about two dozen protesters marched downtown in support of Occupy Wall Streeters who had been cleared from a Manhattan park overnight.
A New York judge eventually upheld the city’s eviction after an emergency appeal.
The Toronto protesters gathered outside Brookfield Properties, which owns Zuccotti Park near Wall Street.
The arrested men were aged 29 and 47. Both were charged with assaulting a peace officer.
Across the country, cities have made it clear their patience with the demonstrations has worn thin.
Some, such as Halifax, London, Ont., and Saskatoon have already evicted their Occupy protesters.
In Regina, police ticketed seven people late Monday night for being in Victoria Park in violation of city bylaws.
Calgary, protesters in Olympic Plaza sang “Kumbaya” on Tuesday as
officers handed out bylaw tickets giving them 24 hours to leave after
the city-issued deadline to empty the park passed.
cities, groups have defied requests or orders to leave. In Vancouver,
city workers removed several tents and tarps, enforcing a court order
to bring the site in line with fire safety bylaws.
The city planned to ask B.C. Supreme Court on Wednesday for an injunction to clear the camp.
The City of Victoria was also in court Tuesday seeking an injunction to evict Occupy campers. The case was adjourned until Thursday to allow the demonstrators more time to prepare.
In Montreal, authorities said they had no plans to remove downtown protesters.
long as there’s no crime and as long as there are no excesses … we
will tolerate the tents here,” said police Insp. Marc St-Cyr.
Meanwhile, Canadian folk legend Gordon Lightfoot stopped by the Toronto
park to visit his 17-year-old daughter. Too many young people face a
bleak economic future, he said.
“What’s going to happen to our kids?” asked Lightfoot, whose daughter came down with pneumonia while occupying the park. “I really admire these folks here in Toronto.”
Toronto’s deputy mayor Doug Holyday said the city was hoping most people would leave without violence or arrests.
“That’s probably a tall order but that’s what we’re still hoping for,” Holyday said.
mayor was not immediately available to comment. But last week Ford said
it was time for the protesters to move on because businesses and
taxpayers have been complaining.
– With files from James Keller in Vancouver, Dirk Meissner in Victoria and Peter Ray in Montreal and 680 News.