It all began on Friday afternoon when officers from the Toronto Police Department came to Occupy Toronto’s new occupation at Osgoode Hall. They told the occupiers that they must leave their space, despite the fact we had explicit permission from the property manager to stay there.
In the aftermath, four occupiers were arrested- two of them ended up being hospitalized due to the unnecessary violence of the arresting officers…
It is incidents like this that galvanize Occupiers- we are not the sort of people to let such ugliness fade away. So, we gathered our troops together and organized a demonstration on Saturday afternoon.
The day began at 15:30 with marches from two separate locations. The first march began at the old city hall. The second march started at the Toronto PD headquarters, where a number of us had just finished participating in the rally in support of truth for the Robocall scandal.
Both groups converged at University & Dundas. We spent 5 minutes there with Derrick Soberal leading us through some chants. (he’s really good at that)
We then marched one block west on Dundas and stopped in front of the 52nd division of the Toronto Police Department. Most of us then sat-down on the street- it was the beginning of a long day of demonstration.
After walking around the crowd and taking some pictures, I joined my fellow Occupiers sitting on the street.
There were cameras from most of the major networks- with the exception of the CBC. Somehow our national TV station didn’t find it important enough to come cover us until late in the afternoon. One has to wonder if this was due to budget cuts, or because they have a problem with Occupiers. Regardless, the most important media was there- the Occupy Toronto LiveStream team came too!
After about an hour sitting, chanting and communing together we decided it was time to get into circles and discuss potential demands for the police. Ideas were passed around like to request the police put more focus on de-escalation, to release our friends, and that when (in non-emergency situations) demonstrators say they are waiting for responses from pre-arranged legal counsel the police should wait until they get a response. In the end, we came up with a list of ‘demands.’
After about an hour and a half, several Occupiers decided they would lie in a chain and stay there until the police listened to our demands or dragged them away and arrested them.
Then, shortly before 6pm, we asked that the media broadcast our demands on their evening news shows. A couple of minutes later we were told that we “make a great backdrop” but they would not air our requests. This did not make the Occupiers happy- so, we decided we would chant out our demands as loud as possible while they were doing their broadcasts.
A short while after we made an announcement that we would be moving the day’s General Assembly to our location in front of the 52 Division. We all got onto our phones & PC’s and alerted other occupiers of the change in venue. Meanwhile, while we were busy organizing, I was told that the Toronto Police had gathered a group of horsemen one block away.
I went around the corner to get some pictures, and to have a short conversation with them. I explained how their colleagues brutally beat-up a woman, one of them using a pair of handcuffs as makeshift brass knuckles. I told them I don’t hold them responsible for the actions of their colleagues. But, equally, they should respect what happened to the beaten Occupiers and use discretion in their actions.
Later in the evening an Inspector from the Toronto PD joined us for a conversation, and to try to negotiate that we relocate off of the street onto the side-walk beside the police station. Early in the conversation an ambulance started to come towards us- the occupiers quickly gathered to try to make space for it to pass.
The negotiations continued for a couple of hours. Then, at around 2am, the Inspector gave the remaining occupiers an ultimatum- either get off of the street, or the police will forcibly remove them. Anyone removed would be charged with mischief. In the end, all but a couple of occupiers relocated to the side-walk. Two people were arrested without significant resistance.
In the end. all of the occupiers involved, and those who watched over the Internet agreed- last night was a re-unifying moment for Occupy Toronto. It was a tragedy what happened to our friends, and we will not forget- but, our movement gained a great amount of momentum last night. It looks like we will have an interesting summer ahead of us…
- Occupy Toronto: Blockade in Response to Police Violence (occupywallst.org)
- Occupy Toronto Re-Occupies Osgoode Hall! (www.genuinewitty.com)