Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Occupy Toronto Has Been Given an Eviction Notice

'IMG_3007' photo (c) 2011, michael kooiman - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/



The eviction of occupy Wallstreet was watched online in Toronto by the protestors, and today they are now faced with their own eviction notices. By-law officers, accompanied by the police, taped the following eviction notices to all visible tents.

NOTICE UNDER THE TRESPASS TO PROPERTY ACT – NOVEMBER 15, 2011
You are herby given notice that you are prohibited from engaging in the following activities in St. James Park and in any other City of Toronto park:
  1. Installing, erecting or maintaining a tent, shelter or other structure;
  2. Using, entering or gathering in the park between the hours of 12:01 a.m. and 5:30 a.m.
The City of Toronto herby directs you immediately to stop engaging in the activities listed above and to remove immediately any tent, shelter, structure, equipment and debris from St. James Park.

If you do not immediately remove any and all tents, shelters, structure, equipment and debris from St. James Park, such tents, shelters, structures, equipment and debris shall be removed from St. James Park by or on behalf of the City of Toronto.

You are further ordered immediately to stop using, entering or gathering in St. James Park between the hours of 12:01 a.m. and 5:30 a.m.

Please be advised that this notice may be enforced in accordance with the provision of the Trespass to Property Act, R.S.O. 1990 c. T21 or by any other legal means available to the City of Toronto.

Please be further advised that under the Trespass to Property Act, every person who engages in an activity on premises when the activity has been prohibited under the Act is guilty of an offence and is liable, on conviction, to a fine of not more than $2,000.
Protestors are currently holding a general assembly meeting to decide what to do at midnight, when the eviction is scheduled to happen.  One of the proposals is forming a wall of resistance around the park.  Others have begun to move to Queen's Park.   On twitter, #occupytoronto is currently asking for volunteers to come down and support their movement.

I am really caught at this point.  I think that economic inequality is absolutely an issue that needs to be actively discussed and fought against.  The problem with the occupy movement, is that it has no cohesive goals and appears to me to be about anarchy.  Bringing attention to economic inequality, with no plan on how to create real and lasting change feels pointless to me.  What does sitting in St. James park accomplish?

There is also a healthy and safety aspect to consider.  What are these people using for bathroom facilities?  What about the different incidents of violence across the occupy movement?  There has been at least one death in Canada that I am aware of so far. There is no control over who is coming or going. Some residents of the St. James area, say that they are scared.  Toronto is cold during the winter and at this point, the protestors are lucky that it has not yet snowed, and that we are experiencing unseasonal highs. What happens when the temperature drops, how are these protestors to remain warm?  Already there has been a discussion about open fires within the city limits, and I believe that plan can reasonably be perceived to represent a true health hazard. Only one fire needs to get out of control, for there to be an issue. There have been problems with drugs and alcohol at St. James as well.


Deputy mayor Doug Holyday said in a press conference earlier today, "I think the city and the mayor have exercised great patience in this whole matter, and certainly the people who live and work in that area have as well.It’s come to a time where we have to do the winterizing of that park, and [the demonstration] has to come to an end. We’ve tried our best to let it go on and get a peaceful resolution and I think the vast majority of the people there will agree. I just hope they all do. We just don’t want to throw them out on the street...we want to accommodate them in city facilities."

Given what happened in Toronto during the G8, I don't believe that there is anyway that this can possibly end without violence or arrests.  Unleashing the police on these people will be a license for them to engage in all kinds of illegal behaviour.  If the eviction goes ahead as planned, I think there is a very real threat that someone will be hurt, possibly very badly, and I have no doubt that civil rights will be violated.

Counselor Norm Kelly followed up by saying, "If the question is why now, I think it's because two things have come together. One is the public's interest to reclaim their park, and the other is that we have to prepare the park of winter".

A few years ago, there was a tent city in Toronto, in the exact place that the tent city existed during the great depression.  Basically, a group of homeless people built temporary structures using materials that they had scavenged.   They lived together peacefully, until they were evicted by the city.  The purpose of their gathering was because of the high cost of rent and lack of available government housing. They came together, created a community in which they felt safe.  I supported this movement and was saddened when their homes were bulldozed to the ground.

The difference between these two groups, is the fact that the Toronto tent city movement was absolutely focused on affordable housing - a right I think that we can all get behind, while the occupy movement is simply generally talking about economic injustice.  The lack of organization is going to be the downfall of the movement.  Even saying that, I fully recognize that corporate interests are behind the current desire to evict occupiers across North America.

Writing for the, Toronto Star, David Olive had the following to say:
The Occupiers are a threat to that wrong-headed conventional wisdom. And the first impulse of a status quo is to resist progress. That was the fate of the Depression-era “On-to-Ottawa Trek” and the U.S. Bonus Army marchers on Washington, each violently suppressed by the powers that be. Their “crime” was to protest a periodic failure of capitalism.

Every progressive movement, from the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (later the NDP) to workplaces organizing drives to correct a power imbalance between employees and the owners of capital, has been vulnerable to mischaracterization by the ultra-comfortable few.

The CCF was accused of harbouring communists. As recently as the George W. Bush administration, the president’s education secretary was referring to teachers’ unions as “terrorist organizations.” Recently the ostensibly centre-left opinion journal New Republic dismissed the Occupiers as “an unfocused rabble of ragtag discontents.”

Certainly this is the hour of our discontent. That discontent is income inequality. The spectacular disparity between the super-affluent and the rest of us is a leading, if not root, cause of widespread ill health, stunted education opportunity, and intolerably high rates of crime and racial discrimination in our communities. You don’t have to look far even in multicultural Canada for a rise in resentment toward New Canadians in times of economic distress.

Economic injustice is not an act of God, but of man. The now-tattered social safety net we built we can repair. The wealth of nations is jeopardized by allowing the middle-class backbone of our communities to corrode, a process already too far along.

Those now working to shut up and shut down the Occupiers are in denial about the real threat to civil society. And it’s not the tents and yurts of Occupy Toronto’s peaceful encampment in St. James Park. 
Whether or not Toronto evicts the occupiers, or they move to Queen's Park, this issue will not go away, because economic inequality is built right into the fabric of our current mode of exchange.  There is a tendency to always look in doubt at those who are agitating for change.  As popular as Dr. King is today, during his lifetime, many were very critical of the changes he tried to bring about.  The occupiers may not have the solution to bring about change, but I think that we can all agree that the current distribution of resources and wealth is not only unbalanced by highly unfair.