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Occupy Toronto: Eviction Notices Given To Protesters

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UPDATE: CTV News is reporting that Toronto protesters have been granted a stay of eviction. The order comes just hours after city by-law enforcement officers began handing out eviction to the crowd gathered at St. James Park.
Under Judge David Brown's order, police can't take down tents in the park, but protesters are banned from putting them up. If the crowd grows, the order will be rescinded.

As CBC News reports, Brown is citing a need for more information before he can rule on Toronto's bid to clear the park. A hearing will be held Friday to discuss the issue with a verdict by 6 pm ET Saturday.

TORONTO - Occupy Toronto protesters refused to leave the downtown park they took over a month ago in defiance of a city eviction notice issued Tuesday that their occupation was illegal.

As police looked on, bylaw officers threaded their way between tents and through the mud to put up the notices, which were quickly taken down.

"I will be standing my ground here," said Hannah Kovacs, 22, as he burned one of the pieces of paper.

"If they want me to leave, they'll have to kill me first."

The notices warned that occupation of St. James Park between the hours of midnight and 5 a.m. and erecting structures in the facility contravened city laws.

There was no immediate word on when the city would act on its threat to clear out the tents and other makeshift structures.

In a statement later Tuesday, the protesters said the city could not "evict an idea" whose time had come and said they planned to stay.

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"We reaffirm our right to the use of public space to assemble, peacefully protest, and establish collective dialogue on issues that affect us all," the statement said.

"These rights are guaranteed to all of us."

But some demonstrators said they would leave rather than risk confrontation with police and possible criminal charges.

"It seems like a silly thing to be risking my clean record for," Tim Topping said as he packed up his tent.

"I'd still be willing to help, but from the outside," said the 23-year-old, who has spent almost a month in the park.

The protesters took over the park several blocks east of Bay Street on Oct. 15 as part of the Occupy movement that began on Wall Street to decry corporate greed and the growing gap between haves and have-nots.

The initial handful of tents that weekend quickly expanded to a mini-village with a library, media centre, medical facility and food and logistics areas.

"The city recognizes the rights of Canadians to gather and protest," city manager Joe Pennachetti said in an open letter to the protesters.

"However, the city has determined that it cannot allow the current use of St. James Park to continue."

The letter went on to warn that the city will take the "necessary steps" to remove the tents and other structures if the demonstrators don't do so themselves.

About a dozen Toronto councillors said the city was moving too quickly.

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In a letter to Mayor Rob Ford, they urged no action be taken until the issue had been discussed by council in two weeks.

About two dozen people staged a sit-in outside city hall late Tuesday afternoon to express their opposition to the eviction notices.
Activist Taylor Chelsea said one option was to consider a court challenge.

"Does constitutional law supersede bylaw?" Chelsea said. "We're working with lawyers to figure that out right now."

Police spokesman Mark Pugash said officers were on hand to keep the peace as the bylaw officers did their business.

It would be up to the city to decide when to clear out the park or if police would be needed.

Police did arrest two men when about two dozen protesters marched in downtown Toronto Tuesday in support of Occupy Wall Streeters who had been cleared from a Manhattan park overnight.

They gathered outside Brookfield Properties, which owns Zuccotti Park near Wall Street.

The arrested men were aged 29 and 47. Both were charged with assaulting a peace officer.

Across the country, cities have made it clear their patience with the demonstrations has worn thin.

Some, such as Halifax, London, Ont., and Saskatoon have already evicted their Occupy protesters.

In Regina, police ticketed seven people late Monday night for being in Victoria Park in violation of city bylaws.

In Calgary, protesters in Olympic Plaza sang "Kumbaya" on Tuesday as officers handed out bylaw tickets giving them 24 hours to leave after the city-issued deadline to empty the park passed.

In other cities, groups have defied requests or orders to leave. In Vancouver, city workers removed several tents and tarps, enforcing a court order to bring the site in line with fire safety bylaws.

The city planned to ask B.C. Supreme Court on Wednesday for an injunction to clear the camp.

The City of Victoria was also in court Tuesday seeking an injunction to evict Occupy campers. The case was adjourned until Thursday to allow the demonstrators more time to prepare.

In Montreal, authorities said they had no plans to remove downtown protesters.

"As long as there's no crime and as long as there are no excesses ... we will tolerate the tents here," said police Insp. Marc St-Cyr.

Meanwhile, Canadian folk legend Gordon Lightfoot stopped by the Toronto park to visit his 17-year-old daughter. Too many young people face a bleak economic future, he said.

"What's going to happen to our kids?" asked Lightfoot, whose daughter came down with pneumonia while occupying the park. "I really admire these folks here in Toronto."

Toronto's deputy mayor Doug Holyday said the city was hoping most people would leave without violence or arrests.

"That's probably a tall order but that's what we're still hoping for," Holyday said.

The mayor was not immediately available to comment. But last week Ford said it was time for the protesters to move on because businesses and taxpayers have been complaining.

— With files from James Keller in Vancouver, Dirk Meissner in Victoria and Peter Ray in Montreal.

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A judge has temporarily halted the eviction of Occupy Toronto. The full text of the judge's decision is on the City of Toronto website as a PDF. The judge will make a final ruling on the eviction by Saturday evening.

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@ OccupyToronto : @TOMayorFord YOU CAN CALL OFF YOUR GOONS, COURT SAY WE ARE STAYING! #OCCUPYTORONTO #OCCTO

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Canadian musical legend Gordon Lightfoot visited the Occupy Toronto site briefly on Tuesday. His daughter is one of the protesters currently at St. James Park.

From Spinner:

"I'm here at the invitation of my daughter to come and see the site," Lightfoot, the man behind such hits as 'If You Could Read My Mind,' told CTV News, with his daughter Meredith beside him. "So I came down and here I am.

"I can only hope that something of some sort can be accomplished from it," he added. "I don't exactly know what that would be. I'm not really much into the political aspect of things. You know, I'm sort of like a normal person, you know."

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Reports Patrick White of the Globe and Mail:

@ Nut_Graf : My mistake. Justice will rule no later than 6pm on Saturday

Police cannot enforce trespass law, eviction notice until that time.

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@ CTVToronto : Judge grants stay of eviction to #OccupyTO protesters. more to come...

The judge's ruling means that police cannot remove tents but protesters cannot put up more tents.

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For updates from New York and other cities across the U.S. check out the Huffington Post's live blog.

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@ Misener680News : Musician Gordon Lightfoot vists 17 year old daughter who is among #occupyTO protesters in St. James Park. http://t.co/a995jPYh

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A Facebook event called "Defend the Occupation at St. James Park!" has been created.

From the event page:

Pack the park with thousands of people between 12:00am to 5:30am making it very very hard for them to forcibly remove protesters from the park.

If you don't want to put yourself in the direct line of attack for the police, then please come out and watch from outside the park. Our best defense against police brutality is many many witnesses!

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"If it's another city property, we're not going to allow that to happen," said Deputy Mayor Doug Holyday at a press conference.

"They do have a legal right to protest but there are also city by-laws that don't allow them to camp," he added.

Deputy Mayor Holyday and Councillor Norm Kelly also said that police can enforce the eviction notice at midnight.

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Adbusters, the Vancouver magazine that some people say was the spark for the Occupy movement write that the protesters may want to consider declaring victory and regrouping over the winter.

STRATEGY #2: We declare "victory" and throw a party … a festival … a potlatch … a jubilee … a grand gesture to celebrate, commemorate, rejoice in how far we've come, the comrades we've made, the glorious days ahead. Imagine, on a Saturday yet to be announced, perhaps our movement's three month anniversary on December 17, in every #OCCUPY in the world, we reclaim the streets for a weekend of triumphant hilarity and joyous revelry.

We dance like we've never danced before and invite the world to join us.

Then we clean up, scale back and most of us go indoors while the die-hards hold the camps. We use the winter to brainstorm, network, build momentum so that we may emerge rejuvenated with fresh tactics, philosophies, and a myriad projects ready to rumble next Spring.

Read the full statement.

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According to reporters in the park, they are now trying to figure out how to respond to the eviction notices.

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@ thekeenanwire : Some tents being disassembled by protesters. http://t.co/LUMwHuru

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@ KatieFranzios : http://t.co/wdvrwAtk - One Occupier is going around sharing a number for legal aid, just in case. #OccupyTO

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@ thekeenanwire : Media and medical tents moved onto Church property. Church has given permission.

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@ NatalieCTV : “The time has come, they have to leave,” says Frances Nunziata re #OccupyTO eviction notices. “I think we waited too long.”

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Councillor Doug Ford, the mayor's brother, spoke to CP24:

On the eviction notices:

"There's no surprise that we're going to issue these tickets. I think it's time for these folks to move on. These people have been peaceful and we appreciate that."

When asked what would happen if people didn't leave the park:

"I'm sure the police will take care of that and we'll see how it goes. I think the best thing for everyone is that they leave peacefully. It's time to move on... They've voiced their opinion. Everyone's heard it. We can't have people living in parks indefinitely."

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"Evictions in New York, Portland, Oakland have not been as peaceful as people would like... I would hope that we find a peaceful solution to this. We don't want to see any violence here today," he said to CP24 from the park.

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@ jpags : Park is swarming with journalists. Almost outnumbering occupiers I can see in some places http://t.co/dDrAfMUV

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Just to note that the City Of Toronto site is still up and running. Earlier this week, hacker group Anonymous said that it would attack the City of Toronto's systems if the Occupy Toronto movement was evicted.

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The City of Toronto has issued a statement on the eviction of Occupy Toronto. From the statement:

The City has worked to balance people's right to protest with public safety. Residents and businesses have been very reasonable and patient. Protesters have been very peaceful and the City is very appreciative of this. However, it's time this came to a peaceful end.

The protesters have not approached the City nor has the City given permission to use St. James Park for the type of activity that has been ongoing there since October 15. Many activities at St. James Park are contrary to City bylaws, policies and practices with respect to the use of City parks and other public spaces.

Read the full statement.

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@ nowtoronto : Buzz here now that protesters contemplating move to Queen's Park. #OccupyTO

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@ CBCAlerts : Occupy Toronto protesters hold meeting to plan next move . Trepass notices tell protesters to leave today. #occupy

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@ kristynwongtam : Toronto can't be another government that sends in police for a pre-dawn raid to interrupt a peaceful assembly of residents. #OccupyTO

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@ kets13 : eviction notice on #occupyto tent. http://t.co/Ctx7C7cb

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There's some uncertainty whether the city can actually evict the protester as part of the park is actually church property. From the website of St. James Cathedral:
The Cathedral did not invite the protesters into the Park. The Cathedral is not involved in the protest. We have, however, treated the protesters in the way that our faith and sense of humanity directs: with respect and dignity. For over 200 years, St. James Cathedral has been a place where divergent opinions have come to be expressed in a safe and respectful environment. We have asked that the protesters respect the members of the community who live and work in the area. The overwhelming response from the members of the community to the Cathedral’s position on this issue has been positive. They share, as do we, the protesters’ message of justice and equality.

We fully appreciate the frustration of some of the neighbours to the disruption. Their anger at the Church, however, is misplaced. We have no power to evict the protesters. We cannot speak for the City, but even if we did have that power, we would be very reluctant to invoke it. We believe that we are blessed to live in a society where peaceful conversation can take place publicly and where citizens are free to voice their concerns without fear of violence or reprisals.

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According to CP24, some protesters are throwing out their notices. Turning them into paper airplanes.

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@ stephaniesmyth : #TOMayorFord doesn't have 'time' to talk about '#occupytoronto today @cp24

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@ kissmykishkas : Toronto cops issuing eviction orders to #occupytoronto. looks like the continental crackdown come to #toronto

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Police and bylaw officers have entered St. James Park and issued eviction notices. We will live-blog developments as they happen

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Also on The Huffington Post

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