Calm from both protesters and police as Occupy Toronto camp gets dismantled.
5:03 PM: City statement about today’s events, issued at 4:45 p.m.:
Just before 7 this morning, City staff entered St. James Park supported by the Toronto Police Service, who asked that protesters cooperate peacefully and remove all tents and structures. They were also asked to refrain from gathering in the park overnight from 12:01 a.m. to 5:30 a.m.
Our goal today was to remove tents and structures so that the park could be made safe for the enjoyment of all residents. A team of 100 City staff and 30 vehicles from Parks, Forestry & Recreation, Solid Waste, Municipal Licensing and Standards, Fire Services, Emergency Medical Services, Public Health and Shelter, Support and Housing Administration worked together to remove materials from the park and, with police, help to bring this situation to a safe and orderly conclusion.
The City expects that the majority of the cleanup will be completed this evening. We wanted to facilitate this peacefully and I am pleased that by and large this has been accomplished.
The clean-up is ongoing. We won’t have a sense of the costs of the clean-up or damage to the park until the work is completed. After the park is cleared, Parks, Forestry & Recreation staff will assess the damage and begin to make plans to restore the park. This will include estimates for restoration.
This has been a massive undertaking, given that the protesters have been in the park for five weeks. Staff will continue to clean and restore the park grounds and will winterize the sprinkler system. It will take a few days to do this work.
Tents and other belongings have all been numbered and inventoried so that they can be claimed by their owners. Starting on Friday, these can be picked up weekdays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. until Friday, December 2 at 50 Booth Avenue. Flyer.
The City respects people’s right to protest and people are welcome to gather in City parks to do this. But we ask that people respect the Court’s decision released on Monday. Tents, shelters and other structures are not allowed in City parks at any time. No City park can be used between 12:01 a.m. and 5:30 a.m. and the City will be enforcing this bylaw.
Shelter, Support and Housing Administration staff have helped several vulnerable people today who have been staying at St. James Park. Outreach staff and public health nurses have been in the park for anyone needing help, and drove some who lacked transportation to where they needed to go in the GTA.
In addition, City staff were at the Adelaide Women’s Resource Centre at 6 this morning and will be there until 9 o’clock tonight to help anyone who may need assistance with shelter, housing or other supports. After today, Streets to Homes staff will check the park as part of their routine outreach activities. In addition, people can stop by 129 Peter Street 24/7 to access shelter and other supports.
The City of Toronto thanks the protesters for their cooperation to ensure this clean-up of the park was peaceful.
City Manager Joseph Pennachetti thanks City staff and the Toronto Police Service for their extraordinary efforts in pulling together quickly to restore the park and make it safe and enjoyable again for all residents.
4:04 PM: Over the past hour a few flare-ups of tension as police try to negotiate with the last few Occupiers refusing to leave the camp. The library tent, now empty of books, is the remaining main structure, and City workers have just started dismantling it. There have also been a proteter or two climing trees, and a few more detained by police—though officers say most will be released without charges (though they will be receiving trespassing tickets.)
2:48 PM: There are still a few protesters at the gazebo. Right now conflicting reports about whether or not they’ve agreed to leave. We’ll update as that situation becomes clearer, but as things quiet down in the park so will this liveblog. Another batch of photos later this afternoon, too.
1:55 PM: Will be extremely interesting to see how this very measured evacuation of Occupy Toronto changes broader discussions of policing in Toronto. People have been saying all along that the police knew they had a fine line to walk here, and were very careful not to antagonize. The question is will it actually work in terms of restoring at least some of the faith that was lost last year.
1:49 PM: Police to media: “at least three-quarters of the park” has been cleared of tents, expect remainder will be cleared soon.
1:43 PM: Discussions between police and Occupiers at gazebo seem to be done. Some of the Occupiers are packing up.
1:39 PM: Solid ring of officers around the gazebo now. Police are negotiating with the Occupiers inside. Removal of books from the library well underway, with a human book chain expediting the process.
1:25 PM: Next step for police: moving on the gazebo. Those inside have received a 30 minute warning from officers, who are forming a perimeter around it. Meanwhile, police also telling us that those who were detained earlier will be released without charge if they stay calm.
1:17 PM: “At some point, the actions and discussions that protect the camp become removed from the actions and discussions that address the society-wide issues the camp was built to publicize.” Ed Keenan at the Grid with some thoughts on where the Occupation should go from here.
1:09 PM: More details on library evacuation from the Star, which apparently was the result of a negotiated agreement: “Police and protesters calmly, rationally and seriously negotiated a resolution to the issue of the barricaded library yurt. Supt. Jay Tanouye called the yurt ‘the St. James library.’ The protesters and the police thanked each other, shook hands and smiled. ‘The books will not be destroyed; we will take care of them,’ Tanouye said, and again thanked the protesters.
1:03 PM: Spacing editor Shawn Micallef: “Another body removed. Very physical. Obscured view — lots of yanking. And another body. Helicopter sounds above. People running to fortified yurt library. Others yell to get back to arrest scene. Humans climb out of library.”
12:53 PM: Police van backed up near tent with some remaining protesters—we believe the fire tent. Police making arrests now.
12:47 PM: CityNews is reporting that the protesters who had chained themselves to the library tent have left.
12:26 PM: It’s generally a bit of a sad scene in the park by now. Feeble anti-Ford chants. An abandoned food station, stacks of dirty plates and all. Final tents (besides the fortified one) getting packed up.
12:02 PM: Sid Ryan and many OFL supporters starting to make their way out of the park. Ryan says he brought OFL to the park to make sure that there was no violence involved in the evacuation of St. James Park. “I thought the police are doing very well, they’re taking a very low-key approach. Much different than the G20,” he says. OFL marching back over to their convention at Queen and University.
11:56 AM: And now, “Kumbaya.” Some clean-up work still proceeding. The protesters who are chained in the library tent are telling reporters that they don’t have the keys to unlock themselves—they couldn’t leave even if they wanted to.
11:51 AM: “Mic check!” “This movement cannot be killed because of an eviction notice.” Speakers calling for peace, asking protesters not to engage with police. OFL says they will stay “for a while” until they need to return to their convention.
11:43 AM: OFL supporters have just arrived from their convention, being held at the Sheraton Centre. Police have formed a circle around the tents that remain in the park. Many blue flags waved by the OFL, several hundred new people now in the park.
11:36 AM: Currently being sung: “The people have the power / Occupy, Occupy / And now has come our hour / Occupy, Occupy.” Many many verses. Also, Occupy representatives are saying that many CUPE supporters are on their way, will be joining them in the park soon.
11:18 AM: CityNews is reporting that police have told those Occupiers still in and around the library yurt that they have until sundown to remove it, and themselves.
11:10 AM: True to their word, police have released the woman they detained a few minutes ago. She is, thus far, the only Occupier to be arrested today.
10:59 AM: Police now speaking with Occupiers. Woman has been arrested, for trespassing on Jarvis Street. She will be released shortly. Using people’s mic to answer questions from the protesters.
10:56 AM: Woman now detained in police van.
10:51 AM: One woman has been removed from the park by police. She is currently surround by officers on the sidewalk. No arrest confirmed however.
10:15 AM: “As the yurt’s soft inner layer is removed, tiny strands of fur from an unknown Mongolian animal waft through the park.”
10:07 AM: Police expecting “eight or less” arrests, according to CityNews. (You can watch their livestream here.) Tent removal proceeding apace. Primarily City workers in the park, police officers on the periphery.
9:34 AM: Official release from the City of Toronto this morning, in full:
At approximately 6:30 this morning, City staff entered St. James Park, supported by the Toronto Police Service to remove all tents and structures and to post notices asking protesters to refrain from gathering in the park from 12:01 am to 5:30 a.m. The City’s goal today is to remove tents and structures and make the park safe for the enjoyment of all residents. Our intent is to facilitate this peacefully.
Shelter, Support and Housing Administration staff will continue to be available at the Adelaide Women’s Resource Centre to assist anyone who may need assistance with shelter, housing or other supports.
9:32 AM: “Mic check!” Man offering a quantity of food he’s collected “to anyone who can keep it from being thrown in the garbage.”
9:13 AM: Deputy Mayor Doug Holyday on the phone with CityNews: “Hopefully saner heads will prevail”—regarding the Occupiers who are saying they are determined to stay and protect the library.
8:59 AM: On the gazebo, a guy with a ukulele and another with a bongo keep the tunes coming.
8:28 AM: Police using the Human Mic to make their announcement. “The police are now asking for your cooperation in complying with this order by removing your belongings and vacating this park.” Asking again for people to leave via the northwest corner of the park. “Anyone in need of shelter, support, or assistance is invited to go to the Adelaide Women’s Resource Centre at 67 Adelaide Street East.” Someone gave the officer making all the announcements a flower.
8:19 AM: Another police announcement, confirming protesters will be free to resume political expression once the park has been cleared of the camp.
8:00 AM: Mood is still calm as church bells ring out, marking the hour. Protesters thanking each other for their efforts as City crews continue working on the clean up effort. The media yurt is now nearly empty as well.
7:52 AM: “We support 416! Please support Occupy!” Protesters to City workers doing clean-up at the park, saying they have right to refuse this work.
7:43 AM: “It does not seem / that we have the cavalry coming / to protect these yurts. They will be destroyed / unless we remove and dismantle them.” At the Human Mic, planning to take the yurt down; they’ve been told they have an hour to work on that. “We will reoccupy! We but can’t lose everything that we’ve worked so hard to build.” OPSEU sending help to work on dismantling yurt.
7:37 AM: In the park as daylight spreads, a few smiles:
7:26 AM: Things are fairly uneventful at the moment. Remnants of food tent being loaded into City garbage truck. Mood is somewhere between resigned and resolute, with the exception of more strident protesters at the library.
7:06 AM: Numbers being affixed to tents: 2-5, 2-9, and so on. “I guess this is the way Canadian evictions go.” Protester commenting on police photographing, tagging, but not (yet) removing belongings.
7:00 AM: Bylaw officers on site as well, checking the tents. And…CORRECTION: spray cans appear to be construction/spray paint, not pepper spray.
6:58 AM: Police have now withdrawn from portions of the park. Also, confirmed that some are carrying pepper spray. Chant of the moment: “Whose library? Our library!” Funny aside: cop, slipping in the mud. “You’re not going to put that on YouTube, are you?”
6:56 AM: Toronto Star reporter Niamh Scallan: “Cops headed toward church beside yurt. Turned off generator.” Also, police have been towing media vehicles, but just around the corner.
6:55 AM: Police tow trucks are removing media trucks.
6:48 AM: Police now circling the hill that’s west of the gazebo, going around the tents. Going to individual tents right now, knocking on tents and asking people to leave. Looks like anything more intense will be at the library. (Very difficult to tell the police/protester/media ratio, but police in the park itself don’t appear to be outnumbering protesters.) No violent altercations, so far polite, slow and steady progress.
6:45 AM: Police officers in the line on the south side slowly moving into the park. Protesters: “This is what injustice looks like!” East side officers seem to be staying put. More chants: “Whose park? Our park!”
6:43 AM: Police announcement number now happening. Asking people to exit park via northwest corner of the park.
6:41 AM: 15-20 protesters assembled in front of the library, looking resolute. Looks like they’re not planning to go anywhere.
6:38 AM: Second police announcement. They will be “facilitating an orderly removal of all structures from the park in accordance with the court decision.”
6:34 AM: Police over the loudspeaker asking Occupiers to leave the park. Occupy responds: “Thank you for being here on such a beautiful morning.” Officers are armed, but not in riot gear (no shields or helmets).
6:32 AM: “Stay in groups!” Occupy Toronto marshall talking remaining protesters through tactics for handling police. Officials are moving the portable toilets out.
6:29 AM: Police also lined up on the east side of the park; looks like they might be planning an L-shaped movement to try to force people out. From Star reporter Brendan Kennedy: “Nice and easy, guys,” Sgt. tells officers. “It’s a filter, so you can let ppl come and go.”
6:26 AM: About 40 officers in yellow jackets proceeding west along King on foot. Assembling in a line on King Street.
6:15 AM: Tour buses full of officers now parking on King.
6:09 AM: Streetlights are on, cruisers lined up. A Star reporter is noting that the officers he’s seen are wearing soft hats, not riot gear/helmets. A thought: if—if—police wanted to move past G20 anger, a well-leaked, thoroughly covered, slower-than-expected operation might help. That is entirely contingent on how they actually interact with people in the park in the coming hours though.
6:02 AM: Large mobile command unit truck blocking off Jarvis Street at King. And now a police press release: the following road closures are in effect until further notice—
- Jarvis Street, between Richmond Street East and King Street East
- King Street East, between Jarvis Street and Church Street
- Adelaide Street East, between Jarvis Street and Church Street
5:59 AM: Police cruiser blocking off street access at Adelaide and Church.
5:58 AM: “Can you tell those guys to hurry up? All night we’ve been waiting!” An Occupier cracking jokes about publicly funding police taking their time.
5:54 AM: Video services unit just arrived at the park.
5:44 AM: Coach bus with hazards blinking just left 51 Division.
5:43 AM: Silent meditation in the gazebo.
5:37 AM: Sidenote: this is day 40 of the Occupation. So, 40 days and 40 nights, if you’re into biblical jokes.
5:35 AM: At 51 Division a mobile command centre has been set up; much more activity than even 40 minutes ago. Emergency logistics support vehicle present.
5:31 AM: Deadline’s passed, now legally permitted to assemble in parks. (Camping prohibited at all times.) At the gazebo, belting out Auld Lang Syne.
5:28 AM: A general assembly has been called for 5:30 a.m., when the prohibition on gathering in City parks is lifted for the day.
5:17 AM: Still no police in evidence in the park. The bylaw prohibits assembling from midnight to 5:30 a.m., so if officers arrive after 5:30 might they remove the tents but not the protesters themselves? Meanwhile, the drums are still going strong. Photos from the gazebo a few moments ago…
We respectfully disagree with the court’s decision… This should in no way be considered a defeat but as a sign that we must bring this movement to the next level. We will continue to work together, not just as a movement but as a community to build a better future not just for you, not just for us, but for the whole human family and our future generations. The Occupation is spreading and the people united will never be defeated.
5:00 AM: “Mic check!” “I love you guys!” “I love you women!” Gearing up for police arrival at the people’s mic.
4:55 AM: Buses at police hq have their lights flashing, seem to be getting ready to leave. We’re heading back down to the park in anticipation. One last shot of police loading gear onto their vehicles…
4:46 AM: Meanwhile, at the camp still a steady drum beat going, and a few people dancing a bit.
4:43 AM: Buses and paddy wagons have just shown up [at police headquarters].
4:38 AM: Still at police headquarters. More cars have pulled in including special operations supervisor’s car and a public safety car.
4:30 AM: Police cars, about six or seven, assembling at the back of police headquarters at College and Bay; looks like more are arriving.
4:27 AM: “I can’t imagine myself living the apathetic life I was living before.” Occupy Toronto protesters speaking to the livestream camera.
4:27 AM: Twitter chatter is that police are mobilizing at the College and Bay headquarters; sending someone there now to investigate.
4:24 AM: City Hall is also a ghost town.
4:22 AM: At last night’s general assembly protesters decided they would meet again today at noon, if possible in St. James Park and if not in Nathan Phillips Square.
4:15 AM: Report from Adelaide: more police cars driving around, people starting get nervous police.
4:07 AM: 51 Division headquarters looks quiet, Dundas Square is empty, Allan Gardens is empty. Essentially, every place that we know of that police might assemble to stage a large raid is right now looking empty.
3:54 AM: One police vehicle and a second unmarked car have just pulled up by the park, but there’s no heavy police presence yet.
3:30 AM: Nobody is sleeping in the Occupy Toronto camp tonight. It’s cold, for starters, with a fine coat of freezing rain over everything. And more urgently: last night Global reported that police would be forcibly evicting protesters in a 4 a.m. raid. Most protesters had gradually been leaving the park since Monday morning, when a judge decided that the City of Toronto was within its rights to remove the camp if it chose, but a small contingent of a few dozen—most expressing a willingness to be arrested, if need be—have stuck around. Two are chained to the library yurt—now fortified with wooden pallets and other campsite materials—while many of the rest are currently taking shelter in the park’s central gazebo. Hanging over it all: the spectre of the G20, which soured many Torontonians’ relationship with and perceptions of the local police force, and has left Occupiers bracing for the use of force.
Reporting by Christopher Bird, Dean Bradley, Hamutal Dotan, Christopher Drost, and Kelli Korducki.