11/23/2011 05:14 EST | Updated 01/23/2012 05:12 EST

Eviction Doesn't Have to Be Occupy Toronto's Alamo

Turning St. James Park into an Alamo for its cause risked Occupy Toronto's ability to carry on after defeat. The potential power Occupy Toronto has isn't in clinging to an arbitrarily chosen plot of land. It is in the ability to harness the power of those who came out and to build a movement that has an impact on the world.


Occupy Toronto supporters went to bed Monday night in a precarious position. For the first time they were knowingly on the wrong side of a court ruling that not only upheld Toronto's municipal bylaw against sleeping in parks, but specifically ordered them to abide by it.

With each hour that passed since Justice David Brown upheld the City of Toronto's eviction notices Occupy Toronto squatters further risked what public sympathy they'd gained since their Oct. 15 occupation of St. James Park began.

The 99 per cent of Torontonians, that the two hundred or so people currently sleeping in St. James Park claimed to represent, abide by Canada's laws and court orders. Some Occupy Toronto supporters, it appeared, were achoosing not to.

The City of Toronto showed St. James Park's occupiers good faith for not removing them from the property sooner. Conversely, Occupy Toronto has shown extraordinarily bad faith by knowingly and purposely ignoring bylaws that don't suit their desires, seeking a court ruling to legitimize their position, and then ignoring the outcome of that ruling when they didn't like it. One can only imagine the righteous indignation Occupy Toronto would unleash upon the city if the courts had ruled in their favour and the city chose to disregard the ruling.

Those who have sought to chain themselves within the park, built barricades and other 'defences' are spoiling for a fight by creating situations that put themselves and the police in danger when it comes time for the restoration of law within the park.

Occupy Toronto organizers missed a big opportunity Monday night to do the classy thing, and rally until 11:59 p.m. when they could have marched out in unison after declaring victory in putting key issues to their supporters on the agenda. Instead, they chose to hoard an asset that does not belong to them, while volleying attacks on Canada's wealthy for allegedly doing the same.

The potential power Occupy Toronto has isn't in clinging to an arbitrarily chosen plot of land. It is in the ability to harness the power of those who came out, their networks and individual talents and interests and using them to build a social movement capable of having an impact on the world.

Imagine if all of the committed activists who met through Occupy Toronto in St. James Park over the last few weeks got together, developed a list of demands and planned ongoing and sustained actions to raise public awareness, apply pressure on decision-makers and seek action to address their concerns?

Turning St. James Park into an Alamo for their cause, by placing so much importance on controlling that piece of land, risked the ability of Occupy Toronto to carry on after defeat. Once the last holdouts have been removed from the park, the story will have had a beginning, a middle and an end.

Ultimately, those who stay in defiance will determine whether that story ends in St. James Park or a new chapter begins, relying on a more traditional approach to seeking social change. For those who believe in the message Occupy Toronto has been presenting, they should hope it is the latter.