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Occupy Toronto Evicted; Police Show Protesters Respect

What Occupy Toronto protesters and police learned from each other when the encampment was shut down.

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It was agreed that there would be no effort to stop city workers from taking down the tents. And the workers were very respectful, folding and tagging clothing and other items found in the tents and carefully taking them down. These are workers from CUPE 43, a union under threat of privatization and imminent lock out. No doubt many of them hated what they were doing but they were told they would be terminated if they refused to do the work and there was one supervisor for every three workers. They were also working very, very slowly.

At first it was just regular police around watching the workers and occasionally chatting with some of occupiers. People watched them work and from time to time began chanting but no-one screamed at them as was reported in some media. To my eyes, the occupiers didn't seem very organized. But they moved to where they were needed and when spirits were failing someone showed up to sing or lead a chant or do a mic check. The live stream guy with his laptop hanging from a string around this neck and an assistant walking beside him was filming everything including doing interviews, excited that more than 1,000 people were watching his broadcast.

The people in the gazebo and around the fire seemed in good spirits most of the time. The people defending the library yurt were firm and determined, some of them outside the yurt shivering in the cold. I was pretty sure the police were clearing the tents before they were going to approach taking down the barricaded structures so I suggested they take a walk. "No," one young woman replied, "We are resisting." But you are shivering I replied, your body temperature is getting too low. "I don't resist with my body," she replied pointing to her head and smiling. And I remembered what it was to be 20 years old and went to look for blankets or sleeping bags that might keep them warmer. That they accepted.

Around 10 a.m., a young woman sat in front of a city truck barring its way and she was arrested. The entire park moved towards the vehicle chanting, "Let her go, let her go." In an incredible scene they surrounded the in charge police officer and began talking to him as a group using the human mic method of repeating what people were saying, including him. This group of people without any visible leader negotiated that she would be released. When he said, she will just be given a $75 fine for trespass, someone asked, "How can you be ticketed for trespassing in a public park during the day." And the crowd repeated it. I couldn't believe that the police officer allowed himself to be surrounded like that or that the crowd would be so bold as to do that. But both he and they understood that there would be no violence here. There was no threat.

Around 11 a.m., most of the tents were down and we noticed that riot police were massing on the east side of the park. They weren't wearing helmets or shields but you could tell by their uniforms and their stance that they were riot cops. Some of the union people on site had been asking Sid Ryan to adjourn the Ontario Federation of Labour convention and march over to the site. Now those efforts became more intense. There had been a wonderful rally the night before with about 1,000 union brothers and sisters. Great speeches from labor leaders acknowledged the inspiration that the Occupy movement is to their movement. But this was the moment that solidarity was needed. Most of the people in the park had been there all night and a reinforcement of energy was needed before the tough part came. Then at 11:30 a.m. we got word that the OFL had voted to adjourn the convention and march over to the park. A huge cheer went up.

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