Let Occupy stay? That would be anarchy, says Ontario judge

Anarchy has a long history, but Canadians have rejected it, protesters are told

Photo courtesy of Michael Swan via Creative Commons

Ontario Superior Court Justice David Brown upheld a court order to evict protesters participating in Occupy Toronto Monday after ruling that anarchy has no place in Canadian politics.

The Canadian Press has the story:

 

TORONTO - Allowing Occupy Toronto protesters to remain in a downtown park would amount to supporting anarchy, something Canadians have rejected, a judge ruled Monday in upholding the city's trespass bylaw.

There was no immediate word on when the demonstrators might be evicted or whether they would appeal the ruling but the city's mayor said the protesters should get out of the park immediately.

"We've asked the protesters to leave as soon as possible,'' Mayor Rob Ford told a news conference.

"We'd appreciate their co-operation.''

In a 54-page decision, Ontario Superior Court Justice David Brown upheld the city's trespass bylaw as a "minimal'' and "reasonable'' infringement on the demonstrators' freedom of expression.

"Anarchism has a long political history,'' Brown stated in his ruling. "But Canada has not chosen anarchism.''

Some protesters in the park said they would defy any attempt to remove them, while others did not want to risk a confrontation with police.

Sakura Saunders, a volunteer with Occupy Toronto, said some will be "non-violently resisting'' attempts to tear down their mini-village of tents and shelters.

"That's simply us standing our ground,'' Saunders said.

"We do have Charter rights to be here and it is the opinion of everyone here that our charter rights should ... be greater than the right of someone to walk their dog through this park.''

Brown disagreed.

"The tents and other shelters hog the park land, and non-protesters who seek to use the park face a chilly and somewhat intimidating reception,'' he said.

Some area residents said in affidavits they had been threatened.

"My use of the park has gone from one of enjoyment to one in which I am harassed, berated and threatened,'' resident Alena Wratislav said.

"I have been spat at, I have had change thrown at me and I have been called (an expletive) numerous times.''

Lawyer Susan Ursel said her Occupy clients were still considering an appeal.

"(Brown) was upset about the way they've gone about (the protest) but he did not actually address the spontaneous nature of this thing,'' Ursel said in an interview.

"We can fault them if you want to, but then we have to deal with the meaning of having charter protection for expression in this country.''

Members of the Occupy Toronto protest, who took over St. James Park in the city's downtown Oct. 15 as part of the global protest movement, went to court to block the trespass notice issued last Tuesday.

The city said putting up tents or being in the park between midnight and 5 a.m. violated bylaws.

City Manager Joe Pennachetti said he did not consider midnight to be a deadline for the protesters to be gone.

"We want to move quickly and hopefully beat that time frame,'' Pennachetti said.

Police said they were in discussions with the city, but would not speculate further.

Five protesters argued the occupation of the park, including tents, were an intrinsic part of their right to protest and hence their ability to assemble and express themselves.

Brown, who heard a day of arguments on Friday, rejected the notion that the Occupy Toronto protesters were worthy of a special exemption.

"It would be a most curious constitutional exemption which would have the effect of excluding many members of the public from a park, while granting a small group exclusive possession of it.''

Brown made no order as to costs given the "public importance'' of the issues.

Across the continent, civic authorities have either evicted, or moved to evict, their Occupy protesters.

Most protest sites in Canada have already been dismantled but some remain.

A judge in Victoria has said the demonstrators have to go, but has not yet given the city the authority to evict them if they don't.

In Vancouver, a judge gave Occupy protesters until Monday afternoon to clear their camp in front of the downtown art gallery, and by late afternoon they had done so.

Montreal has taken no action against its downtown protesters.

Police have also cleaned out Manhattan's Zuccotti Park near Wall Street, where the Occupy movement began in mid-September.

While most of the protests have been peaceful, there have been violent clashes as police moved to evict the demonstrators in places such as Oakland, Calif., and mass arrests in New York City.

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