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Activist Communique: Breaking a law is not the same as breaking a law that breaks you

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Breaking a law is not the same as breaking a law that breaks you.

I overheard that statement at the Occupy Toronto's 11:00 p.m. General Assembly the night the movement had beaten back their impending eviction.

Like the song about the cat who came back, Occupy movements everywhere may get evicted, but they keep coming back in one form or another. You can't evict an idea.

Whether Occupy Toronto gets evicted in the next few days, we will always carry that fire in our hearts.

After a month at St. James Park, eviction notices were handed tent to tent by Toronto bylaw officers escorted by the police on Tuesday, November 15, 2011, notifying all that they had to remove all tents and related infrastructure by the city imposed deadline of between 12:01 a.m. and 5:30 a.m. Wednesday, November 16, 2011.

Activists rushed to the court to seek an injunction. The main argument was that city bylaws should not trump Section 2 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which guarantees "freedom of conscience, freedom of religion, freedom of thought, freedom of belief, freedom of expression, freedom of the press and of other media of communication, freedom of peaceful assembly, and freedom of association."

Tomorrow when the case is heard in court, the city will argue the right to enforce its bylaws. The activists instead will argue that their right to freedom for expression and freedom of peaceful assembly hold precedence, since the ability to occupy a section of Toronto is essential to the nature of the Occupy movement itself.

In the interim, Justice David Brown ruled that the city of Toronto must halt the eviction order handed down to Occupy Toronto until he can have a chance to review the case in court on Friday, November 18, 2011. A final decision is expected by Monday, November 21, 2011 by 8:00 am.

In an interview in this morning's Toronto Star, Ranjan Agarwal, a Toronto lawyer with expertise in public and constitutional law, "believes they have a good chance of success on Friday because the Supreme Court of Canada has extended a high degree of protection to political speech and because public encampment is a key component of their message."

"This is very different from the G20 protest or some of the other protests we've had around the World Trade Organization or poverty, because the very method they're using is an occupation," he said. "If they're allowed in the park during the day but can't put up a tent, that isn't much of an occupation anymore, is it?"

The Canadian Civil Liberties Association (CCLA) has also weighed in on the situation. In a media release on Friday November 11, 2011, the "CCLA has been writing to city officials urging them to respect constitutionally protected rights to expression and peaceful assembly. Unilateral enforcement action by police is unacceptable and dangerous."

Serious concerns about health and safety should be raised with the protest groups, but unilateral evictions may violate constitutional guarantees. The enforcement of municipal bylaws or trespass notices may be unconstitutional as these actions may unjustifiably violate Charter rights. Where recourse through the courts is being considered or currently underway, protesters must be given ample notice and time to respond."

In other Occupy Toronto news -- the site is quite cheerful and not darkly bracing itself for eviction as reported in the right-wing media -- as people debate tactics, winterize tents and serve food to those who find themselves poor and homeless. I will continue reporting for rabble.ca and acting as the Town Crier. You can follow my coverage on Twitter @krystalline_k.

Residents of Occupy Toronto found out today that although St. James Cathedral has been supportive of the Occupy site, it cannot provide sanctuary for activists on the site in response to any court ruling forcing its eviction.

That said, Rev. Douglas Stoute has also urged occupiers to resist any attempt of eviction by the city.

At Tuesday's 11:00 p.m. General Assembly, Ontario Federation of Labour President, Sid Ryan, told the crowd that, "there's nothing wrong with a little civil disobedience. Do not go down without a fight," to defend what you believe.

Support for Occupy Toronto for the next few days is crucial, and no, you don't have to be a resident to support the anti-capitalist movement down at St. James Park, King Street and Jarvis Street.

The positive reaction at the camp right now cannot simply be explained by stating we're all putting on a brave face for the media. For me, I carry the spirit of the movement in my heart as I'm sitting by the Sacred Fire here. I have tucked that spirit inside me because I'm wise enough to know that at this point -- being an activist since 1994 -- that the anti-capitalist ideals of the movement are constructed of more than just tents and infrastructure.

Here, I have listened to traditional stories, drummed and sang Sacred Songs. The women and men by the fire -- Ogichidaa-Kwe and Ogichidaa in their own right -- have pledged to protect the Sacred Fire from the violence of the police if it comes down upon the camp. The fire will burn bright and it reminds us that there is goodness, respect and responsibility in this world.

The Sacred Fire burns in front of us as inside of us to remind us that a better world has to be possible is possible. This feeling is born from the unability to resolve the uncomfortable feeling that is awaking in society right now, shouting that business as usual isn't working, that the 1 per cent is killing us and killing the earth.

That there has to be something better than this for us. Better than this.

Because we're better than this, killing the earth and missing our families as we have to work two jobs or work impossible overtime to survive.

Better than choosing tax cuts over funding vital social programs in the arrogance that we will never be affected by sickness or job layoffs and therefore would never need such social programs ourselves.

Better than believing this land was uninhabited and just waiting for us to land on its shores and start exploiting it.

Better than having to choose between feeding the kids and paying the rent.

We're better than this.

**

You can't evict an idea.

Important upcoming events, as Judge Brown will return his decision regarding the eviction of St. James Park by Monday at 8:00 am.

Friday November 18, 2011
Rally at 11:00 a.m.
St. James Park

Saturday November 19, 2011
Evict Ford rally and march
2:00 p.m.
St. James Park

Also on Saturday is the Toronto Free Library 'Grand Opening' at St. James Park.

If you would like to support Occupy Toronto: Contact the city: 416 397 3673 or mayor_ford@toronto.ca
Contact Chief of police Bill Blair: 416-808-8000 or officeofthechief@torontopolice.on.ca

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