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Occupy Toronto puts up barricades, prepares to resist eviction

Photo by Ira Lamjca

Early Monday morning in Toronto, Superior Court Justice David Brown upheld the City’s eviction notice, which orders the removal of Occupy Toronto from St. James Park.

The judge’s ruling was followed by an eviction notice from St. James Cathedral, ordering protesters to dismantle their structures.

In a 54-page ruling, Judge Brown said that while the structures erected in the camp are a form of protest, which warrant certain Charter protections, the protesters’ rights do not trump those of the residents and workers around the park.

Although proclaiming a message of participatory democracy,” wrote the judge, “[the protesters] did not ask those who live and work around the park or those who use the park – or their civic representatives – what they would think if the Park was turned into a tent city...”

The property of St. James Park is owned partly by the city and partly by St. James cathedral; however bylaw enforcement officers, surrounded by several other police officers, issued new eviction notices shortly after 2pm to protesters, which were printed on the church’s letterhead.

Rev. Douglas Stoute explained in a press conference that the church will be working with the city and complying with the court’s orders to ensure that there is “no division in the park,” adding that he thinks it’s one of the most beautiful parks in the city.

Shortly after the new eviction notice was issued, a few protesters began packing up their tents and other belongings, and staff and resources from the City of Toronto were made available to help protesters with the removal and transport of their things.

Sakura Saunders, a protester with Occupy Toronto, said that there will be people who will “non-violently resist” later tonight if the police attempt to tear down their tents. Other protesters have put up wooden barricades around their tents, saying that they will stay put.

Taylor Chelsea, also a protester with Occupy Toronto, said that it’s “a challenge trying to restore democracy, trying to find ways of working together when people don’t agree, and to top it all off, there’s the added pressure of the timing.”

When people start to feel threatened,” Chelsea said, “[the] ability to stay civil starts to fall apart, and no one wants to see calamity.”

Rev. Stoute said that the church supports the message of the Occupy movement, and will pray that the issue is “resolved smoothly,” adding that he hopes the church can continue to work with Occupy Toronto and maintain “cordial relations”.

Chelsea said that “what’s happening is that we see that these authorities ... these corporate powers are so powerful that even the church, when the pressure comes, they’re not able to take a stand for their weakest members, they’re not able to speak up.”

Kathleen Sorensen, from the Protest Chaplain with Occupy Toronto, said “we here on the side of justice,” adding that the Protest Chaplain is there to pray with, talk with and support anyone who needs it.

Judge Brown’s ruling highlights that protesters may stay at the park and protest during the day, but that they must bring down their erected structures, and must vacate the park from midnight until 5:30 am. 

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