Occupy Toronto says movement isn't dead

Occupy Toronto protesters said a day after police cleared their tents from a downtown park that the movement will continue.

'You can't evict an idea,' protester says as mayor praises peaceful park dismantling

City crews work to clean up St. James Park on Wednesday after police cleared protesters after a five-week occupation. (Tony Smyth/CBC)

Occupy Toronto protesters say their movement did not die when police dismantled their tents and ended a five-week occupation of a downtown park on Wednesday.

City workers were busy Thursday cleaning St. James Park, the site of an Occupy Toronto encampment since Oct. 15. Some residents visited the park for the first time since the protest began.

While enforcing an eviction order, police working with about 100 city workers cleared the tents and other belongings on Wednesday.

Protester Shawn Williams said the Occupy movement, which is focused on addressing global economic disparity, will continue.

"You can’t evict an idea; we’re still strong," protester Williams told CBC News.

"We’ve been doing this for 40 days now. I do not expect us to stop any time soon," he said.

Hundreds of protesters marched through the financial district Thursday and also met to discuss future moves. Protesters say they're meeting with community groups to find a new home, but plan to get permission this time.

The city says the damage done to the park, which is now a field of mud and torn turf, will cost at least $25,000 to fix. The Ontario Public Service Employees Union, which donated three large tents known as yurts to the encampment, said it would help pay some of the costs.

Coun. Pam McConnell, whose ward includes the park, said she will be setting up a fund for the park. The revitalization will likely include new lights and new benches, she said.

'Public safety was never at risk'

The operation to remove the protesters’ tents happened without violent clashes between police and protesters.

Toronto police Chief Bill Blair told CBC’s Metro Morning on Thursday that the protesters' commitment to non-violence was key to the success of the operation.  

"There was good co-operation between ourselves and the protesters," Blair told host Matt Galloway. "They were attempting to make their point in a peaceful way. Public safety was never at risk during this event."

Mayor Rob Ford praised both protesters and police for ending the occupation peacefully.

Ford has said protesters will not be allowed to take their camp to any other city park, and a handful of protesters who tried to set up in Queen's Park Thursday were stopped immediately by police.