Protesters celebrate Occupy Toronto stalled eviction
City officials, protesters react to temporary injunction
Protesters and supporters gathered in St. James Park to celebrate an injunction that halted the midnight eviction of those still camped out at the Occupy Toronto site.
Judge David Brown granted a temporary stay of the city's eviction notice, which would have allowed authorities to force occupiers out as of midnight Tuesday.
Brown will hear arguments for and against the city's plan on Friday, meaning protesters will be allowed to stay at the park in the meantime. The judge is expected to deliver a verdict by 6 p.m. ET Saturday.
News of the injunction is a victory for members of Occupy Toronto, many of whom had pledged to hold their ground regardless of what happened in court.
Although the temporary reprieve means there will be no midnight confrontation between police and protesters, the judge also said that no new tents or occupiers should be allowed to join the encampment.
Officials react to injunction
Mayor Rob Ford admitted that he was disappointed by the judge's decision, but was ready to wait and see what happens next.
"If that's what the judge said, that's what the judge said," Ford said Tuesday night. "So, we'll see Saturday morning and take it from there."
Toronto police Chief Bill Blair said the protesters should be able to make their point, but citizens should also be able to enjoy their park.
"We still support lawful, peaceful protests in the city, and we want to make sure we facilitate that for people who wish to have their voices heard," said Blair.
"But there are limits to certain rights, to the extent that they encroach on other people's rights, and so we're trying to strike that balance."
When asked if he expected conflict to erupt between police officers and protesters, as it has in other cities, Blair said his officers would be there to keep the peace.
"The last thing we want to see is any kind of violence," he said.
Supporters celebrate at St. James Park
Labour activists and other supporters arrived at the park to join campers in a show of solidarity Tuesday night. The mood was festive as protesters danced, sang and celebrated the temporary reprieve.
Sakura Saunders, who has lived at the park for two weeks, was among those grateful for the extra time to prepare for a possible eviction.
"We have non-violent direct action training, so people can be prepared if the police decide to use force," she said.
"We also have legal workshops so that people can know their rights and know exactly what they're risking."
Neighbourhood resident Richard Himel decided to visit the park for the first time Tuesday, and remarked that the mostly youthful crowd was well organized.
"I'm extremely impressed with things right now," said Himel, who said the movement reminded him of the energy of the 1960s.
"If this is really the quality of young people today then I think our country has a good basis to work from."
Eviction notice had threatened fines up to $2K
Toronto bylaw officers began handing out the notices about 10 a.m. ET.
The notices called on protesters to remove "tents, structures, equipment and personal belongings from the park."
"The city recognizes the rights of Canadians to gather and protest. However the city has determined that it cannot allow the current use of St. James Park to continue," read the notice.
"In particular, the city can no longer sanction the appropriation of St. James Park by a relatively small group of people to the exclusion of all others wishing to use the park and to the detriment of those in the vicinity of the park."
Citing the Trespass to Property Act as the legal basis for the eviction, the notices also say the city "will take necessary steps to remove the tents and other structures."
The city had offered to make staff available to help protesters move. Those that did not comply could have been slapped with fines of up to $2,000.
Eviction threat intimidates some, invigorates others
Saturday's decision may bring a déjà vu as protesters wait for the court's final decision, which will shed light on whether removing the occupiers from the park is unconstitutional.
Just minutes after Tuesday's ruling, the occupiers tweeted that they would be holding an 'Evict Rob Ford' march on Saturday, an apparent response to the mayor's plan to evict them.
The future remains uncertain for the tent city that has sprouted up at St. James Park. Over the past few weeks, the park has been transformed into a makeshift village, complete with a library, media centre, medical facility, a food station and meeting spaces.
Folk musician Gordon Lightfoot is among those who visited the park Tuesday after being invited by his daughter, who has been sleeping in the park.
"She says she's doing it for the future of our children, which seems to make a lot of sense to me," he told reporters.
Reporting from St. James Park earlier Tuesday, CBC's Colin Butler said the eviction notices initially drew a mixed reaction from protesters.
"Some began dismantling their tents and started to move on, while others are refusing to budge," Butler reported. "One protester has written 'I am not moving' on his tent."
Some reacted with bolder words.
"I will be standing my ground here," Hannah Kovacs, told reporters as he burned one of the notices. "If they want me to leave, they'll have to kill me first."
Others were less willing to face the possible consequences of staying around.
"It seems like a silly thing to be risking my clean record for," said Tim Topping who has spent almost a month in the park. He spoke to reporters as he packed up his tent.
"I'd still be willing to help, but from the outside."
Is it time for the Occupy protests to move on? Have your say.
The Toronto notices came the same day police moved Occupy Wall Street protesters out of a park in Manhattan, where the Occupy movement started in September.
Two of roughly two dozen Occupy protesters were arrested in downtown Toronto on Tuesday as they marched in support of demonstrators who were cleared from the New York City park overnight.
The New York protest spread around the world in mid-October, when an international Day of Action was held. Occupy groups are diverse and appear generally leaderless, and while each emphasizes various concerns, they generally are fighting against the gap between the rich and poor.
With files from The Canadian Press