TORONTO (Reuters) - Toronto officials have told Occupy Toronto protesters they must leave their encampment in a downtown park or risk forcible removal, raising the possibility of a police-backed eviction similar to the one in New York’s Zuccotti Park earlier on Tuesday.
However, the group vowed to stay in St. James Park - located just a few blocks from Toronto’s financial district - beyond the midnight deadline for clearing out.
Protesters first set up tents in the downtown park one month ago as the Occupy movement - conceived by Canadian magazine Adbusters and put into action in New York’s Zuccotti Park - went global.
Unlike protests in New York and Oakland, which have seen clashes with police since they began, the Toronto Occupy protest has gone off largely without incident.
However, the peace has shown signs of fraying of late, with Toronto Mayor Rob Ford suggesting last week it was time for the protest to end. The posting of eviction notices followed the expulsion of New York City occupiers earlier on Tuesday.
“The city recognizes the rights of Canadians to gather and protest. However, the city has determined that it cannot allow the current use of St. James Park to continue,” read eviction notices affixed by bylaw officers to tents in the park.
Earlier on Tuesday, before the eviction notices were handed out, two protesters were arrested during a downtown Toronto demonstration in support of the New York City activists.
The wording of Toronto’s eviction notices suggested the city will take action if protesters do not clear the park.
“Please be advised that if all tents and other structures, equipment and debris are not removed immediately, the city will take the necessary steps to itself remove the tents and other structures,” the notice read.
It also noted that use of the park must be discontinued between 12:01 a.m. and 5:30 a.m.
Late in the afternoon, Occupy Toronto posted a note on its Facebook page stating it was planning on “defending the occupation”.
“Pack the park with thousands of people between 12:00 am to 5:30 am, making it very very hard for them to forcibly remove protesters from the park,” the note said in a call for support.
Police spokeswoman Wendy Drummond would not comment on what the next move by police might be or when eviction notices might be forcibly imposed.
Reporting by Cameron French; editing by Rob Wilson