For a time I was able to argue the Occupy Toronto situation either way. I agreed with those encamped at St. James Park that there are wrongs in society and within the economy that need to be addressed. But once attention has been drawn, then what? They have no plan, no leader, not even an ideology to keep them warm.
And yet I don’t want the rough-and-ready police response that we have seen in some cities. The protesters are not terrorists although they did charge through a few downtown office towers a couple of weeks ago. As a result, access for the rest of us was limited, security beefed up, and I had to be taken a circuitous back route to my destination because of all the locked doors. No big deal, and I was not much bothered.
But the ruling by Justice David Brown, released yesterday, has crystallized my thinking. I thought he wrote common sense when he said, “The Charter does not permit the protesters to take over public space without asking, exclude the rest of the public from enjoying their traditional use of that space, and then contend that they are under no obligation to leave. By taking that position and by occupying the park, the protesters are breaking the law.”
Nor have the protesters gained support from the Cathedral Church of St. James by arguing that church land abutting the park should be made available for their tents. No, said the Very Reverend Douglas Stoute, the land in question is not two separate pieces, it is a “seamless garment.” The church will obey the court’s ruling.
In fact, I guess I made up my mind about the situation when I walked through the encampment last Friday. It is familiar ground to me. I am a regular visitor, particularly during summer, when the garden is in full bloom. Any previous approval I might have offered the Occupiers evaporated when I saw what they had done to this beautiful space. To be sure, no flowers are in bloom at this time of year and the fountain is dry, but still it seemed an inappropriate use of the fountain to have a circle of protester sitting on its rim, winter boots scraping the bottom.
Worse, they have brought in items using heavy equipment that they ran across the park grass thereby creating muddy ruts. They have marred and marked the magnificent Victorian gazebo. They have damaged trees with wires and tie-downs. They have broken branches by pitching tents high above the ground. They have painted signs with no care or concern about the mess they left behind. Irrigation equipment has been rendered inaccessible and will be damaged if not properly prepared for winter.
These don’t look like crunchy-granola eco-people who care about the world, they just seem like the usual hooligans who have broken windows and torched police cars on other occasions. Here’s my bottom line. We have listened to you; now it’s time for you to listen to us. It’s time to move on … or be moved out. Your trespassing ways are no longer welcome.