Occupy T.O. protesters expect to be evicted overnight
Only a few Occupy Toronto protesters stubbornly clung to their tents in St. James Park Tuesday night braving freezing rain, to defy the city's eviction order.
After a general assembly around 8 p.m., protesters at the rapidly shrinking encampment were reporting that there were indications police would move in on the camp in the pre-dawn hours.
Only about 12 activists are expected to remain overnight.
Earlier in the day, senior police officers walked through the park, sending a tense wave of agitation through the crowd.
The officers said they had a plan on how to clear the Occupy Toronto demonstrators from the downtown park but would not elaborate, marching through the thinning tent rows in relative silence as crowds gathered to jeer their presence.
The sudden presence of authority caused a stir after protesters spent a cold Monday night anticipating some form of police action.
CTV Toronto's Austin Delaney reported that tensions were rising on Tuesday in the camp, with at least one fight between protesters breaking out.
Protesters were also dismantling some of the larger structures in the encampment and one of the three yurts was also gone.
At about 5 p.m. on Tuesday, the protesters marched west on King Street, blocking rush hour traffic on their way to City Hall.
By the afternoon, Toronto police had taken no action to clear the downtown park, the day after protesters were warned that their month-long occupation was coming to and end.
Toronto Mayor Rob Ford told reporters on Monday that the St. James Park encampment had run its course and told protesters to leave the park quickly and peacefully.
The proclamation came after Ontario Superior Court Judge David Brown ruled the city's request to clear the park was "constitutionally valid."
Brown said the protesters were trespassing and that allowing them to camp in the park overnight would be the equivalent of supporting anarchy.
According to the court ruling, protesters are free to use the park between 5 a.m. and midnight but are not allowed to maintain tents or other structures.
St. James Park, located a few blocks east of the city's financial centre on Bay Street, has been overrun by tents and other structures since Occupy Toronto protesters flooded the site during a rally on Oct. 15.
Toronto police and city bylaw enforcement officers visited the park Monday afternoon, handing out eviction notices and warning protesters that they had to clear out overnight.
Protesters gathered in the park to count down to a midnight deadline, with many of them promising to remain in the park until they were forced to leave by police. A handful of others took more drastic steps, temporarily chaining themselves to structures and carrying gas masks in anticipation of police intervention.
Municipalities across Canada have begun cracking down on local protests, one month after the global demonstration over corporate greed and social injustice began in New York City.
Camps in London, Ont. and Saskatoon have already been cleared out, while Calgary police cleared an Occupy protest on Tuesday.
An Occupy demonstration in Vancouver relocated on Monday while protesters in Montreal have stated they will stay despite a mayor's request that they relocate.
With a report from CTV Toronto's Austin Delaney