Toronto demonstrators camped out in Nathan Phillips Square issued trespassing orders
Tents sent up by demonstrators in Nathan Phillips Square are shown on Friday, July 3rd. (Craig Wadman)
TORONTO -- The city has issued a trespassing notice to a group of demonstrators who have spent two weeks camped out in Nathan Phillips Square as part of a protest against anti-Black and anti-Indigenous racism.
The protesters, who are part of the group “Afro-Indigenous Rising Collective,” set up dozens of tents in the square following a peaceful protest on June 19 and have been there ever since.
They have called for the defunding and abolishment of the police service and have said that they are occupying the square as a way to “maintain momentum” in the fight against police brutality.
The protesters have also raised more than $47,000 through a Go Fund Me campaign to support their efforts and have invited members of the public to join them for a “night or a week.”
The city, for its part, allowed the non-permitted demonstration to continue for weeks but on Tuesday
it issued the protesters a notice asking them to “immediately” comply with nine specific requirements, including “prohibitions regarding camping and erecting tents in the square.”
The protesters, however, did not comply with the notice and on Friday city spokesperson Brad Ross confirmed that the city has taken then next step by issuing trespassing notices to those still gathered in the square.
In its notice the city says that it expects the protesters to immediately remove all tents from the square and to cease camping by no later than Monday.
The notice says that the city’s “enforcement steps may include removal of any property, including tents.” Violators of the order could also face fines of up to $10,000.
“The City of Toronto has been working, and is continuing to work, to balance the protesters' freedoms of expression and assembly with various health and safety concerns, the general public's rights to access and enjoy the square, upcoming anticipated conflicting uses of the square, and protecting the physical integrity of square property.” the notice reads. “The square is a common urban space and must be shared as such, in a fair way.”
The issuance of a trespassing order to the demonstrators comes less than a week after the Toronto sign inside the square was spray painted with messages protesting anti-Black and Indigenous racism.
It also comes as officials in several American cities, including Seattle, opt to dismantle encampments that were set up by protesters in the wake of George Floyd’s death last month.
In a letter accompanying the notice, Toronto’s Executive Director of Corporate Real Estate Patrick Matozzo said that the city has invited the protesters to request special permission for activities that are prohibited in the square, such as erecting signs or day-use canopy tents, but has not received any requests.
He said that the protesters use of the square also conflicts with a permitted use of the square that is scheduled for July 8.
“The City of Toronto recognizes the rights of any group or individual to participate in lawful expression and gatherings at the square. To be clear, the requirements of the attached notice do not prevent any person from engaging in lawful gatherings and protests,” he says.