Occupy Toronto Evicted; Police Show Protesters Respect
Photo Credit: rabble.ca
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It's hard to create a community based on love and compassion in the middle of a society based on greed and fear. The hippies tried it without much success even in the backwoods. We tried it in the women's movement but even in all-women groups, the training we received in a patriarchal society restricted our ability to achieve it. The Occupy camps are the closest I've seen to that beloved community that has so escaped our grasp.
It was never clearer to me than on Wednesday, when Occupy Toronto was taken down by the city, the courts and the police for the terrible crime of camping in a city park. Oh excuse me, it was for violating a city by-law that they mobilized 100 city staff and uncounted number of police. This we were told was to restore the park to its original beauty so that citizens could use it unimpeded, at the end of November. When one reporter asked me about what a mess the park was, I responded, well if authorities are so worried about that, why do they support the tar sands and mining exploration which destroy trees and water. The only thing destroyed in this park was some of the grass. As one tweeter put it: "Occupy 2.0 will include the right to walk your dog."
In some ways Occupy Toronto was the poster child of the Occupy movement. They negotiated consistently with city officials, fire department and the police, never receiving a single citation for health and safety or fire hazards. As with other Occupy sites, there was a growing number of homeless people, some of with serious mental health issues, who arrived because Occupy created such a welcoming environment in which they could be fully part of the community. It wasn't easy and there were incidents but from what I could see they were handled with compassion and intelligence. They built alliances with like-minded groups around the city from the labor movement to the disability rights movement. St. James Park became the center of activism in an increasingly activist city.
There was not a shred of an excuse to shut down the camp except for the complaints of a few of the neighbors. As we know, the threat of the Occupy camps was political; the emergence of a movement that not only challenged the greed and lack of democracy of neo-liberal capitalism but also demonstrated on a micro level that it was possible to build a community based on different values and a deep democracy. That's why they shut down the camps.
The occupiers had every right to be angry. And they were angry but they behaved with amazing discipline, militancy and calm. I got a text at 5:15 a.m. from a friend on the site asking me to come down. I'm not much good at midnight but I wake up early so I told him to feel free to text me as soon as the cops were coming. I got there about 5:45 just before the police moved in. There were not a lot of people spread out on the very large site. Despite requests on Twitter and texting for people to come down, at first there were not very many who came.
There were people barricaded in three locations around the fire, in the gazebo and of course in the famous library yurt. When I arrived, I asked what the plan was and people just shrugged. There wasn't so much of a plan as an attitude. The people barricaded were prepared to get arrested. Everyone else was there for support probably hoping to avoid arrest.