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Activist Communique: Occupy Toronto came back - Update

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One of my favourite songs as a child was "The Cat Came Back."  I loved the scrappy spirit in the lyrics. It reminds me so much of the spirit of the Occupy movement.

OK, I've modified the lyrics a bit.

Now, [Old Mayor Ford] had troubles all his own.
He had [occupiers], who wouldn't leave his home.
He tried, and he tried to give the [activists] away.
He gave it to [Police Chief Blair] going far, far away.

But the cat came back the very next day.
The cat came back. They thought he was a goner,
But the cat came back. He just couldn't stay away. Meow.

Thus sums up the city's relationship to Occupy Toronto.

At the conclusion of Tuesday, January 17's Occupy the Budget protest, 10 tents were pitched at Nathan Phillips Square as part of a larger Toronto Stop the Cuts protest organized around the City of Toronto's 2012 operating budget.

That evening, after the demonstration, City of Toronto bylaw officers handed out letters of eviction noting that tenting on property belonging to the Corporation of the City of Toronto was a bylaw infraction, and security suggested those who wished to remain move their tents onto nearby provincial property instead -- between City Hall and 361 University Avenue.

After a quick General Assembly, the decision was made to move the tents on provincial land and a small tent city was re-erected on what was actually discovered to be Ontario Ministry of Infrastructure land where they currently remain.

That night, the small tent city declared they would remain until at least Thursday as first promised despite receiving a verbal warning at 5:30 p.m. on Wednesday, January 18, 2012.

On Thursday, Occupy Toronto's mini tent city had survived the cold winds and winter weather. They received another eviction notice in writing this time that they were trespassing under the Trespass to Property Act, R.S.O. 1990 c. T21.

It reads: "You are hereby given notice that you are prohibited from installing, erecting, maintaining or occupying a tent, shelter or other structure on the lands and premises municipally known as 316 University Avenue, Toronto, Ontario, M5G 1T3 and the portion of 130 Queen Street West, Toronto, Ontario, M5H 2N5, as more specifically shown as 'MOI LANDS' on the map attached.

Her Majesty the Queen in right of Ontario hereby directs you to cease installing, erecting, maintaining or occupying any tents, shelters or other structures."

If activists don't remove their tents, the letter reads, "all debris shall be removed from the premises by or on behalf of Her Majesty the Queen in rights of Ontario."

Jokes immediately began as to whether the Queen in all her prissy glory was going to evict them herself.

An eviction deadline of 5:00 p.m. on Thursday January 19, 2012 has come and gone. At the bottom of the eviction notice, occupiers were warned they faced up to a $2,000 fine for trespassing if they remained on site.

The first thing that comes to mind is the statement by Occupy Toronto that they were going to Occupy the Budget from the three-day period starting Tuesday, January 17 to Thursday, January 19, 2012.

As of Friday January 20, 2012, at 3:00 p.m. EST, they remain.

That said, while the 2012 Toronto operating budget was passed quickly on Tuesday night, those occupiers without housing can't just pack up their lives and move on.

Perhaps this is not what most people expect "activists" to be -- the stereotypical white male university students -- the occupiers on site at the mini-tent city are anything but stereotypical, but all have a unique story that brought them to the Occupy movement.

Simply put, those staying at the Occupy Toronto camp near City Hall have nowhere else to sleep at night. After St. James Park was shut down last year, they have been sleeping at City Hall or couch surfing. Much of the city-promised housing help never materialized, leaving them to fend for themselves.

It's a subculture of a subculture at Occupy Toronto but also part of the larger whole that makes up the Occupy movement.  Scrappy and resourceful, they remain committed to the cause as they live their poverty every day. They just can't go away. They have nowhere else to go.


UPDATE: Occupy Toronto participant, John Erb, was named as a plaintiff in the Ontario court case challenging the eviction notice the camp recieved on Thursday January 19, 2012. But he could not confirm his permanent residency at the 361 University Avenue location, so his lawyer Omar Ha-Redeye withdrew the case.

Those currently camping at the site are in the process of deciding their next location, as they are without housing and have no where else to go.

The Occupy City Hall protest occured last week and was originally announced as a three day occupation. Occupy activists feel they had made their message clear with Mayor Ford's defeated budget.

This said, Occupy Toronto GAs still continue at City Hall at 7:00 pm daily.

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