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A whimper, not a bang

the raid on Occupy Toronto

by Justin SaundersEli Horwatt

The hastily fortified Gazebo shortly before the raid
The hastily fortified Gazebo shortly before the raid
Police, Occupiers and Media inside the park midway through the raid
Police, Occupiers and Media inside the park midway through the raid

After a large show of solidarity on Monday, Nov 21st to protect St. James Park from a judicial order allowing police to evict all persons and structures within it, the reports of a 4am police raid early Wednesday morning were met with some skepticism, and supporters failed to mobilize to meet it. Still, some occupiers mounted dramatic shows of resistance to the raid, which finally arrived around 6am following hours of staging at Police Headquarters, as several men barricaded themselves inside of the Occupy Toronto library Yurt; others formed wood-plank walls around the gazebo at the centre of the park. Many were prepared for the occupation to end with a bang, anticipating a large militarized police force to mass arrest the remaining tenants and plow their possessions into the garbage. Instead, it ended with a whimper, with only a few dozen occupiers and supporters in St. James when police and media descended upon the park.

The raid consisted of three buses of tactical officers, a Central Police Command centre, Emergency Logistics Support Unit, a Video surveillance unit, numerous cars, vans and other tactical support vehicles. After blocking traffic around the park, Police issued warnings, on what appeared to be a portable LRAD, telling occupiers to remove belongings and evacuate the park using the Northwest exit at Adelaide Street. Shortly thereafter, Police entered the park in clusters and began speaking to those in tents. Newsmedia and occupiers followed police as they placed numbers on tents (presumably to identify them for later collection) and spray-painted the grass outside of tents where occupiers had been warned. Despite heckling and confrontation, the police did not engage in the expected violence as daylight broke over St. James Park, and those who had prepared for arrest in front of the Occupy Toronto library were almost completely ignored.

After all of the structures in the park were tagged, CUPE workers began to dismantle the camp. Some materials were thrown in a garbage truck, although others (including personal tents) were simply confiscated. A bizarre scene unfolded at the tent which had formerly housed the sacred fire (it had been moved days before), as some demonstrators screamed through megaphones, and a cacophony of music, sounds and smoke issued from behind a hastily constructed barricade.

Two priests stood on a hill near the middle of camp, softly singing 'We Will Overcome' as the camp was cleared; eventually, the Library Yurt and the Gazebo stood alone. After negotiations, all of the demonstrators were 'evacuated' from the Gazebo and the ranks of occupiers protecting the Yurt likewise stood aside – in exchange for allowing the books and the Yurt itself to be saved. Upon removal of the books by occupiers, 3 of the Yurt defenders refused to leave and were detained. A brief blockade of the court van resulted in more negotiations; the priests, in conjunction with friends of those detained, offered to verify a deal in which the defenders were issued tickets and released. One more person was arrested after refusing to stop blockading the van.

A lone camp organizer remained hanging upside down in a tree, yelling, as the police mopped up.


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