City to issue Occupy Toronto notices to leave park
We still don't know when the City is going to take action to end the Occupy Toronto protest at St. James Park, but the how is starting to shape up. "We're just going to hand out the notices and ask these people to leave," Rob Ford told reporters earlier today. "It has been a peaceful protest and I'm sure they will leave peacefully." When asked about a timeframe, the mayor would only say that "it's going to happen soon."
Despite Ford's confidence, there's reason to believe things won't go quite so smoothly. Although a splinter group that had set up at Queen's Park on the weekend obliged police when they were asked to leave, the protesters at St. James Park will likely prove more resilient. As the Canadian Civil Liberties Association (CCLA) pointed out in a press release last week, "freedom of expression, peaceful assembly and association are core democratic rights that are protected by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms....The enforcement of municipal by-laws or trespass notices may be unconstitutional as these actions may unjustifiably violate Charter rights."
There's also the matter of the land on which some of the protest is taking place. Part of the park is owned by the church, and the congregation has decided not to ask the protesters to leave. "The church complicates things," Norm Kelly, Chair of the City's Parks and Environment Committee, said last week.
To some degree, then, these notices sound like a prelude to a real eviction attempt, which may or may not sit on the horizon. This mostly passive strategy is a good one for Ford to adopt as it will have the effect of putting the ball in the court of the protesters. But one wonders if there's a back-up plan should the occupiers refuse to pack-up and leave â something which I tend to think is quite likely.
As for the warning allegedly issued by Anonymous, the mayor acknowledged the threat, but won't allow it to disrupt his plans. "We've talked to our IT people and they feel very confident that it's secure," he said. "You have to take every threat seriously, but we have to move on and we have to ask these people to leave the park."
Photo by Luke Champion
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