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November 15th: 'Eviction Day'.

Occupy Toronto Prepares to Fight Eviction

by Megan KinchJustin Saunders

Tuesday came and went, and Occupy Toronto was still there. (photo: Deb O'Rourke)
Tuesday came and went, and Occupy Toronto was still there. (photo: Deb O'Rourke)
City workers, pushed by cops, put up eviction notices on tents, portapotties and other structures. (photo: Loretta Lime)
City workers, pushed by cops, put up eviction notices on tents, portapotties and other structures. (photo: Loretta Lime)
Should occupy Toronto apply for a permit? How much fighting within the legal system do we want to do?
Should occupy Toronto apply for a permit? How much fighting within the legal system do we want to do?
Although the protest was mostly delayed until Saturday, hundreds of people including many trade unionists, showed up to defend the park. (photo: Mick Sweetman)
Although the protest was mostly delayed until Saturday, hundreds of people including many trade unionists, showed up to defend the park. (photo: Mick Sweetman)

 

It was a whirlwind day for Occupy Toronto. Residents woke to the news that an eviction order had been issued for midnight. At the same time, word arrived that New York's Occupy Wall Street, the heart of the Occupy Movement, was being evicted from Zuccotti park. A morning march in solidarity with protesters in New York resulted in two arrests.

Bylaw officers soon entered the park, tagging tents and other structures with notices. Camp organizers met with clergy from St. James Cathedral, which technically owns a portion of the land the camp is situated on, and a General Assembly convened to discuss potential responses. The camp buzzed with nervous energy as people prepared for an eviction and the possibility of police violence. A surge of support for Occupy Toronto became evident as the day wore on, with large numbers of people streaming into St. James, and prominent support from unions and even some celebrities.

Sid Ryan, President of the Ontario Federation of Labour released an ‘Open Letter to Rob Ford” :“Please take this letter as formal notice that I will be personally joining the occupiers in St. James Park tonight, along with many other labour activists and community leaders, to link arms with the Occupy Movement. We are all part of the 99 percent. (We) have a long and proud history of support for civil disobedience. It represents the finest instincts of citizens in a democracy to correct the actions of their governments...without it, there would have been no Civil Rights, women’s rights, environmental or other seminal movements that have changed the course of history.”

The eviction order, signed by City Manager Joe Pennachetti, states that protesters are being evicted due to business complaints and the need to winterize the park. While media have highlighted several complaints from business owners, the Toronto Media Co-op has reported on several business owners in the area who are supportive of or benign to the Occupy site.

Julie, a City Liaison from Occupy Toronto, said that Occupiers were more than willing to help with the process of winterizing the park. “Of course we care about the park, we live in it”. She told the Media Co-op “I contacted 5 people at the Parks and Rec department. The only one I could get on the phone told me that he had been instructed not to speak with people from Occupy. I left very polite messages on Thursday the 1tth and Monday the 14th with four other City workers indicating our willingness to cooperate with them, and received no reply”. Lana Goldberg, another protester living at camp, says that the City has not approached Occupy Toronto regarding winterizing the park. “We would obviously be willing to work with them on doing so,” she said.

Late in the day, the tide had shifted. As a result of negotiations through the church, police had promised not to follow through with a midnight raid, and a ruling on the injunction previously filed by several camp members against the eviction came down. Lawyers from Green and Chercover successfully argued for a stay against the eviction until a full hearing could be held to determine its legality. The injunction was granted at 5:30pm, giving the camp a temporary reprieve. The legal team are scheduled to debate the ruling in court on Friday, with a final ruling on Saturday; they are expected to argue that Charter of Rights and Freedoms, namely freedom of expression and freedom of assembly, protect protestors from any action against the camp.

“I think this case is about whether City bylaws trump Charter rights, which is pretty incredible if you think about it,” says Dave Vasey, an occupier living at the camp who sits on a number of committees. Meanwhile, 11 City councillors have signed a letter calling on the Mayor to stop the eviction.

Some activists were unhappy with attempts to call off a planned solidarity rally, and with the injunction itself. Bruce Darden said “I think its irresponsible for anyone to ever demobilize people, to thwart community members desires or will to action....The effect (it will have) is that people will continue to look to the institutions of the 1%, that of the courts, to solve our problems instead of trying to act together and to deal with our issue in collective spaces like the park.” In spite of this development, a large assembly gathered in St. James for a General Assembly, which went late into the night.

Protestors have vowed to stay and continue to fight the eviction.


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Megan Kinch (Megan Kinch)
Toronto Ontario
Member since December 2009

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is a writer and editor with the Toronto Media Co-op.

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