Ford wants 'Occupy' protesters out of St. James park
Published Wednesday, November 9, 2011 9:05PM EST
TORONTO - Residents and businesses have "had enough" of Occupy Toronto protesters camped out in a downtown park and it's time to ask them to leave, Mayor Rob Ford said Wednesday.
"Obviously I'm here to represent the businesses and the taxpayers of the city, and I've been getting numerous calls from people who have told me they've had enough," said Ford.
"I think it's the right thing to do, to ask them to move on, and that's what people want me to do and that's what I'm going to do."
The mayor did not set any deadline to get the protesters out of St. James Park, but said he was trying to schedule a meeting with police Chief Bill Blair to decide on the best way to end the protest.
"I'm going to set up a meeting with the chief as soon as possible," said Ford.
The city tolerated violations of numerous bylaws because the protest has stayed peaceful, but the park needs to be prepared for the winter and the protesters should leave, added the mayor.
"They've had a peaceful protest, but I think it's time that we asked them to leave," said Ford.
Ford's comments came just hours after police and bylaw officers in London, Ont. dismantled tents set up in a local park by Occupy protesters, some of whom remain in the park without shelter.
No violence or arrests were reported when the tents were dismantled about 1 a.m. , hours after Tuesday's 6 p.m. deadline set by London Mayor Joe Fontana.
"There comes a time when the people of London said 'enough is enough' and we needed to deal with it, and I'm so grateful that it went well," Fontana told Toronto radio station AM640.
"The police did a great job along with our administration so you can deal with this in a very professional and peaceful way."
Meanwhile, in Vancouver, the battle to move the protesters from their encampment in front of the city art gallery is being waged in the courts.
The city's police chief warned Occupy protesters earlier this week to disperse after saying black-masked people pushed around firefighters, kicked and punched police and sent two officers to hospital with bite wounds.
Chief Jim Chu said the melee unfolded at the encampment in a downtown square around midnight Monday.
"If you wish to avoid arrest and avoid whatever violence will be initiated by those among you, we urge the legitimate protesters to leave now," Chu told reporters Tuesday, only hours before city lawyers began a process in B.C. Supreme Court to obtain an injunction to legally force the camp's removal.
Chu was joined by the city's Fire Chief John McKearney as he said the tone of the camp has transformed from an initial "non-violent spirit of co-operation" to one with an "increasing number of problem people."
A scuffle broke out when firefighters moved in to extinguish a fire in a barrel.
Police stepped in when people in black masks and others "who are intent on violence" formed a human chain to prevent the firefighters from doing their job and began to push them around, Chu said.
Officers were then punched, kicked and bitten, while one had his ammunition clip stolen. No arrests were made.
Chu wouldn't give any timeline or say when his force might move in to clear the site, noting the force is waiting on the court's ruling before making any decisions.
But he stressed police still have a goal of ending the encampment peacefully.
The escalation of tensions in Vancouver came as the Occupy Halifax camp voluntarily cleared out.
The public square in front of Halifax city hall was unoccupied Tuesday for the first time in nearly a month as the anti-capitalist protesters relocated ahead of Remembrance Day ceremonies.