'Occupy' protesters celebrate small victory
Published Tuesday, November 15, 2011 11:40PM EST
Supporters of the Occupy Toronto movement were in a jubilant mood Tuesday night, celebrating for hours at St. James Park after receiving word that their protest would live to see another day.
The city attempted to evict Occupy Toronto protesters Tuesday morning, handing out eviction notices on the camp site but a judge halted their plan by granting protesters a stay of eviction Tuesday evening.
Organizers of the movement had said repeatedly throughout the day that they planned on staying put. A judge gave them the legal right to stay in St. James Park until at least this weekend. A hearing on the injunction is expected on Friday and the judge is expected to render a verdict Saturday.
Sakura Saunders, an 'Occupy' volunteer facilitator told CP24 that the focus has now shifted to eviction preparedness in anticipation the court enforces the eviction notice this weekend.
Protesters are being advised of their legal rights and their being trained to use non-violent direct action.
"I'm excited that we have a few more days to mobilize," she said.
Organizers are also planning a massive rally Saturday at 2 p.m.
The protesters have been camped out in St. James Park for 31 days.
The judge's ruling comes hours after a dozen councillors banded together to try and stop the city from taking further action.
The councillors signed a letter to Mayor Rob Ford asking the city to "take no further action on the eviction order" until the issue comes up for debate at this month's council meeting on Nov. 29 and 30.
"This is a complex situation that needs a full airing at city council and has yet to be discussed since the original motion (endorsing a peaceful protest on Oct. 24)."
The councillors who signed the letter have typically been outspoken of the mayor. They include: Gord Perks, Kristyn Wong-Tam, Maria Augimeri, Paula Fletcher, Joe Mihevc, Janet Davis, Josh Matlow, Sarah Doucette, Shelley Carroll, Glenn De Baeremaeker, Adam Vaughan and Mike Layton.
"Toronto can't be another government that sends in police for a pre-dawn raid to interrupt a peaceful assembly of residents," said Wong-Tam on her Twitter account.
Meanwhile, organizers of the Occupy Toronto protest have been galvanizing supporters, telling them to come to the park at 11 p.m. for a free potluck feast. The Ontario Federation of Labour has also spoken out, asking their membership to go to St. James Park in solidarity with the protesters. It is not clear if the extra supporters will still hold a rally at the park this evening.
Though the eviction notice directed protesters to pack up immediately, the bylaw states that no one is allowed in the park between 12:01 a.m. and 5:30 a.m. Protesters were under the impression that the city would start enforcing the bylaw at midnight but city officials said it was their intention to carry things out as peacefully as possible.
Mayor Ford has not conducted any interviews today with the media. His staff say he is busy with other business.
His brother, Coun. Doug Ford spoke to CP24 today and said the city recognizes and is appreciative that the protest has remained peaceful.
"They've voiced their opinion and everyone's heard it but you can't have people living in a park," he said.
The next step
In the eviction notice, the city said it would remove the tents if the protesters don't comply with the order, which was issued under the city's Trespass to Property Act. The letter was signed by city manager Joe Pennachetti.
After notices were handed out, protesters gathered to discuss their next course of action and debated staying in St. James Park, where they have been camped since Oct. 15, or taking the occupation to a new location.
Some protesters told CP24 they will defy the order and continue their occupation of the park, setting up a potential clash with police and public officials.
Many were expecting bylaw officers to show up with an eviction notice.
"The way I'm looking at it, at least they didn't come in with bulldozers," said Brandon, a protester who didn't give his last name.
Park is being damaged: city
In the letter, the city said it recognizes the group's right to protest but the occupation must end because bylaws are being broken, the park is being damaged and winter maintenance is being interfered with, and city officials can no longer allow "a relatively small group of people" to take over the park and prevent others from using it.
Coun. Ford said the city will offer assistance to people who need help removing their tents and belongings in compliance with the order.
Earlier, Coun. Giorgio Mammoliti said the city has been lenient but the eviction was long overdue.
"The reality is they have destroyed the park. We've got to winterize the park and ... it's time for them to go, and we're asking them to do it peacefully," Mammoliti said. "I think this should have happened awhile back.
"Parks are everyone's to enjoy and no one has the right to place themselves in any park," Mammoliti said. "If any one family did that they would have been kicked out a month ago."
Another Ford ally, Coun. Denzil Minnan-Wong, said the protest was a disruption for local residents and businesses.
"We hope that the protesters will do the right thing" and vacate the park in a peaceful manner, Minnan-Wong said.
Two protesters accused of assaulting police
Meanwhile, two Occupy Toronto protesters are accused of assaulting police following a demonstration in the city's financial district Tuesday morning.
The arrests occurred at King and Yonge streets as the protesters were walking back to their base at St. James Park shortly before 10 a.m.
Police spokesman Const. Tony Vella said two men, aged 29 and 47, are charged with assaulting a peace officer. The 29 year old is also charged with assault with a weapon, mischief under $5,000 and possession of marijuana.
Jeffrey, an Occupy Toronto member, told CP24 he watched police tackle a man and take him to the ground after the man assaulted a police officer.
Group protests New York City evictions
Before the arrests, about 50 protesters gathered outside Brookfield Place at Bay and Front streets to oppose the evictions that took place in New York City's Zuccotti Park.
The local group chose to demonstrate outside the offices of Brookfield Properties because it owns the park where Occupy Wall Street protesters began the international movement.
The Occupy Toronto demonstration was peaceful, but police gathered in front of the entrances to Brookfield Place as a precaution and escorted the protesters to and from the office tower.
After an hour, the protesters departed the building and made their way back to St. James Park.
Occupations have been coming to an end across North America in recent days, with some evictions requiring police to step in and force protesters to leave.