The pan-Canadian wall of corporate resistance erected by Occupy protesters five weeks ago was crumbling Monday as camps in several major cities were dismantled or told by the courts staying put was futile.
The day began with a judge in Toronto decreeing protesters in a city park were trespassing. It saw Vancouver’s activists feverishly tear down their mini-village before some relocated across the street at the courthouse. And it closed with the mayor of Montreal for the first time asking his city’s group to vacate.
Protesters in Ottawa were also handed their notice of eviction.
Regardless of a hasty retreat or some bastions hunkering down a little longer, activists in many locations vowed the movement would live on – perhaps in some other incarnation.
“It’s nowhere near the end and I have a strong feeling that this will be a catalyst for a global revolution, but I would like to call it evolution,” said Jordan Aleister-Malcolm, 18, as he smeared green “peace paint” on people’s faces and the tents came down in Vancouver.
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“Other cities in North America are trying to force us out and it just shows that the state is afraid of us threatening their way of life and their way of doing things.”
London, Halifax and Saskatoon camps were cleared earlier in the month, while most protesters in Victoria have headed home. The Edmonton camp was still up despite a midnight Sunday deadline to tear down from a development company that owns the park.
Tents were pitched in Canada on Oct. 15 in solidarity with a protest that began a month earlier on Mahattan’s Wall Street, decrying the world’s concentration in the hands of rich elites.
Protesters were weighing their options in Montreal and Toronto, as individuals considered whether to risk police reprisals.
“We have no intention of leaving,” Natasha Hynes, 25, said from the camp set up in a square across from Montreal’s stock exchange tower.
“We’re providing a better quality of life for a lot of the homeless people and people in need, so we absolutely want to keep something here.”
Mayor Gerald Tremblay had steadfastly supported the cause from its inception, but on Monday said he’s no longer convinced the site is secure.
In a carefully-worded statement, he paid tribute to the group for voicing their social justice message and then encouraged activists to find another way to continue.
The headline in the statement from the mayor’s office was, “The protesters can leave with their head held high.” It followed reports of fights and drug abuse in the encampment over the weekend.
In Toronto, a judge gave occupiers the boot by upholding the city’s trespass bylaw. Ontario Superior Court Justice David Brown ruled that allowing protesters to remain in a downtown park would amount to supporting anarchy, something Canadians have rejected.
There was no immediate word on when the demonstrators might be evicted or whether they would appeal, but Mayor Rob Ford said the protesters should get out immediately.
“We’d appreciate their co-operation,” Ford told a news conference.
Protesters jeered and police watched closely as bylaw officers went tent-to-tent as they did a week ago to issue eviction notices. There was some pushing and shoving but no incidents.
“I’ll rely on the good judgment of people here and I’ll see if they comply with that first,” said Insp. Gary Meissner, as he contemplated whether to use stronger measures.
“I won’t make that decision until I see what’s remaining.”
Hundreds of union members rallied against the ouster at the park late Monday afternoon.
Sakura Saunders, a volunteer with Occupy Toronto, said some will be “non-violently resisting.”
“That’s simply us standing our ground,” Saunders said. “We do have charter rights to be here.”
In Vancouver, a small number of city workers sporting neon vests moved in with a modest-sized frontloader to assist protesters who scurried about outside the art gallery clearing away their gear.
Several groups picked up empty tents and attempted to relocate to a covered area outside the provincial courthouse, with one arrest being made. Police were watching closely over the developments.
Two people obstructed traffic during rush hour by sitting in the middle of a major intersection with an umbrella.
Vancouver lawyers won a court-authorized injunction on Friday compelling the group to vacate, and police were given authority to enforce the order.
Participants touted its benefits to the city earlier Monday, estimating the group had provided 30,000 meals, cared for 100 patients – mainly non-protesters – at a medical tent daily and housed about 30 street homeless.
“An amazing thing happened at Occupy Vancouver,” said Eric Hamilton-Smith.
“While we pursued our political goals, we ended up housing, feeding, caring for and socializing people that the current system has failed.”
He said the group is moving into “Phase Two,” in response to the injunction, which could include “flash occupations” of buildings, public transit and shopping malls.
While most of the global protests have been peaceful, there have been violent clashes as police moved to evict the demonstrators in places such as Oakland, Calif., and mass arrests in New York City.
With files from Paola Loriggio in Toronto and Peter Ray in Montreal