Occupy Toronto prepares for Saturday court decision
Occupy Toronto protesters are preparing for all scenarios after a judge granted them temporary reprieve against a city-issued eviction notice, which could have forced them out of St. James Park as of 12:01 ET on Wednesday.
On Tuesday morning, bylaw officers taped eviction notices to tents and gave notice to protesters, many who have been camped out at St. James Park since Oct. 15.
The injunction granted by Judge David Brown — a former Bay street lawyer — put the eviction of Toronto occupiers on hold, saying he needed more time to review the eviction order.
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Brown will hear arguments on Friday, and on Saturday he will decide if the eviction notice should be enforced, or if the encampment will be allowed to continue indefinitely.
Rev. Douglas Stoute, the dean of St. James Cathedral, expressed his hope that the scene will remain peaceful, whatever the outcome.
"Our wish, our aim and, I can say from the cathedral, our prayer is that this will be resolved peacefully, without violence, the same measured approach that we have followed from the beginning," he said.
Protester Stefonknee Wolscht agreed.
"This isn't the G20, this is very quiet, very peaceful, let's not escalate things unnecessarily."
Occupiers having 'important conversation'
Occupier Misha Saunders told CBC Radio's Metro Morning on Wednesday that the judge’s order gives occupiers more time to get their message out.
"I think it was very important for the occupiers to know that the court system would be working with this and that the occupiers at St. James Park are having an important conversation, and so that conversation will continue to happen," he said.
Saunders also said the news has prompted Toronto residents to visit the park, at the corner of King Street East and Church Streets, for the first time.
"Last night there was a huge influx of support into the park," he said. "People who came down to really say that, ‘We’re busy but we’re with you, and we believe in what is happening here.' I’m certain that will continue to happen."
The protesters are part of the global Occupy movement focused on raising issues of economic inequality by staging similar encampments around the world.
Police in New York City took down the Occupy Wall Street encampment on Tuesday, and in Calgary, police issued eviction orders to protesters.
New tents prohibited
CBC’s Melanie Nagy visited the park as the sun rose on Wednesday, and said occupiers are simply sitting tight and awaiting the judge’s decision.
"The tents are still up, people are in the park ... for the most part now, it is pretty quiet," Nagy reported.
While the court injunction allows the occupiers to stay for now, it prohibits new tents at the camp — a stipulation that has some protesters miffed.
"People removed their tents because of the eviction notice and now they're not allowed to come back because they followed the mayor's orders?" said Stefonknee Wolscht.
"These people were complying and now they're being punished for complying."
Council divided on next steps
Meanwhile, members of Toronto city council are debating how to handle the encampment.
Complicating the issue is that only part of the protesters' campsite is on city property. The other half is owned by St. James Cathedral.
Some protesters have moved their tents and gear to what is thought to be the church's side of the unmarked property line.
City and church officials held a meeting on Wednesday afternoon to discuss what will happen if protesters are forced out of the park.
Several council members have said it’s time for the protesters to go.
"They’ve been there for a month and they’ve had an opportunity to make their protest, and people can’t enjoy that park," said Deputy Mayor Doug Holyday.
"Enough is enough — it’s time they left. You simply cannot occupy a city park."
What should Toronto council do?
Deputy Mayor Doug Holyday and Coun. Shelley Carroll debated what the city should do with Occupy Toronto protesters on Metro Morning on CBC Radio. You can listen to their debate here.
But a group of 13 other council members, including Coun. Shelley Carroll, have written a letter to Mayor Rob Ford asking him to delay the evictions.
Carroll said the occupiers deserve to have council discuss and debate some of the issues they're trying to raise.
"The occupiers have been asking for something all along: that governments and financial establishments demonstrate that they do understand what this is about and the need for economic redesign."
Coun. Gord Perks, one of the council members opposed to the eviction, said the occupiers are raising legitimate issues and should be allowed to stay to have those views heard.
"I think it’s important that these issues be raised at this site and at other sites around the world and that’s why I think it’s important that Toronto city council consider endorsing the peaceful protests that the Occupy Toronto movement has been engaging in."
Perks also disputed claims that protesters are preventing others from using the park.
"I’ve not seen anyone excluded from this park," he said. "What I see is a park that’s being more busily used than at any time in its history."
CBC’s Colin Butler was also at St. James Park on Wednesday, and said occupiers he’s spoken with say they will stay regardless of the court decision.
"Even if the court orders them to leave, they say they won’t leave," Butler reported.