Well done, Councillor Pam McConnell
for saying our Park should be for Everyone!
folds his tent to vacate our park before being kicked out!
Councillor Pam McConnell's Family Christmas Card saying
our Park should be for Everyone and a DEOCCUPY sign.
by: David Radler, Toronto Star, Urban Affairs Bureau Chief,
November 21, 2011,
Mayor Rob Ford is urging Occupy Toronto protesters to heed a judge’s ruling and dismantle their 5-week-old camp in St. James Park.
“It is time this protest has come to an end,” Ford said Monday, about 90 minutes after Justice David Brown denied Occupy’s request for an injunction preventing the city from clearing out the park.
Pressed on whether protesters face a deadline before they will be forced to dismantle the makeshift tent village, Ford said: “We’ve asked the protesters to leave as soon as possible and we appreciate their co-operation.
“I’m asking the protesters to leave peacefully and I’m asking them to leave as soon as possible.”
City Manager Joe Pennachetti said city staff will help protesters dismantle the camp, and noted homeless protesters and others will be offered supports.
Councillor Pam McConnell, whose ward includes the downtown park, called on the Ford administration to negotiate a peaceful exit with protesters and not have police force them out.
“I am worried that there will be violence in this park. We’ve seen G20. I don’t ever think that Torontonians have a stomach for seeing it again.”
In a 54-page ruling, Justice David Brown rejected Occupy’s request for an injunction on the basis that the makeshift tent village is a protected form of protest under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
The Charter, he wrote, doesn’t permit protesters taking over public space without asking and excluding “the rest of the public from enjoying their traditional use of that space, and then contend that they are under no obligation to leave.
“By taking that position and by occupying the park the protesters are breaking the law … I conclude that the trespass notice is constitutionally valid. The city may enforce it. I dismiss the application.”
At the camp, no tents were coming down shortly after Ford’s comments.
Protesters were planning to hold a general assembly around noon to determine their next steps.
Andrew Johnston, who had been camping in the park since day one, said he would peacefully resist any attempts by police to clear the park. “The only way I’m leaving is in a pair of handcuffs,” he vowed.
Minutes after ruling’s 9 a.m. release, Occupy lawyer Susan Ursel phoned the camp and delivered the news to protest leaders huddled in the camp’s media tent.
The ruling was greeted by solemn faces huddled around a cracked iPhone. The protesters immediately launched into discussion about whether to file an appeal.
“We’re going to start working on that after I hang up,” Ursel told them.
“All right, make the calls, kids,” Bryan Batty, a protest leader, told the others. “It’s time to stand up and fight back.”
Sakura Saunders, a volunteer facilitator for the protest, called the judge’s ruling the “worst-case scenario.”
Tearing up as she spoke to reporters, Saunders said, “Our right to carry out this protest — which is a global movement — is being threatened for a simple municipal bylaw.
“The message that’s being sent . . . is that someone’s right to have their dog poop in a park without looking at a protester is somehow more important than our right to free speech.”
The dean of St. James Cathedral, which owns part of the park, has said he expects protesters to abide by a court ruling, crushing their hopes of moving the tents and claiming sanctuary.
On Friday, Darrel Smith, a City of Toronto lawyer, told reporters what he expected would happen once the eviction was allowed to proceed.
“I understand that city staff would arrange for the removal of the tents,” he said Friday after a day-long hearing on Occupy’s injunction request.
“If there were any issues of breaches of the peace, or problems in doing that, then the police would be available and on site. But certainly I would hope that the intention would be to do it in orderly, peaceful manner.”
In his ruling, the judge affirmed that the camp was a protest, with possible Charter protections, but said the protesters’ rights don’t trump those of the people who live and work around the park.
“Although proclaiming a message of participatory democracy, the evidence, unfortunately, reveals that the protesters did not practice what they were preaching when they decided to occupy the park.
“Specifically, they did not ask those who live and work around the park or those who use the park – or their civic representatives – what they would think if the Park was turned into a tent city . . .”
At Friday’s hearing, Ursel called the camp of about 100 tents and its roughly 400 residents “symbolic of an attempt to redress inequalities in society,” and “a manifestation of what they are trying to create in the world.”
The camp in St. James Park sprang up Oct. 15 as part of the Occupy movement that started on New York’s Wall Street, protesting economic disparity, and has spread around the world.
City bylaw inspectors entered the camp Tuesday, slapping on tents notices that protesters were violating the Trespass to Property Act and a city bylaw prohibiting people from erecting structures or staying in the park between 12:01 a.m. and 5:30 a.m.
The ruling was greeted with little surprise at City Hall.
“Woodstock Toronto is all over,” quipped Councillor Doug Ford, the mayor’s brother, as he walked past reporters.
Councillor Norm Kelly said it would not be wise for occupiers to turn violent in the way that a faction of the G20 protesters did.
“If they do resist I think they’ll lose whatever public support they may have,” he said.
Downtown councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam said the Occupy movement has been successful in sparking public discussion about income disparity in our society.
“I respect the outcome. I’d feel the same way if it had went the other way. At this point in time it’s about working with city officials move people forward in a safe way,” she said.
With files from Jennifer Pagliaro, Kate Allen, Robyn Doolittle and Paul Moloney
Well done, Councillor Pam McConnell; whose ward includes downtown St. James Park, in your call to negotiate a peaceful resolution so the authorities will not have to enforce the Judges order and kick them out.
With the Mayor and the majority of council asking them to leave our public park peacefully and as soon as possible, you have the opportunity to represent your constituents by leading a peaceful exit.
The judge has spoken and no one wants a repeat of the G20 riots so we are looking to you for continued leadership in your ward.