A 40 day protest Rob Ford would like to forget
The mayor has declared that Occupy Toronto is over, and he’d like to keep it that way.
At a press conference at city hall Wednesday afternoon, Rob Ford commended protesters, police, and city staff for bringing a peaceful end to the occupation of St. James Park, but promised that he would not allow the occupation to set up camp in any other part of the city.
“If they do go to another park, we will ask them to leave immediately,” he said.
In what City Manager Joe Pennachetti described as a “massive undertaking,” shortly before sunrise on Wednesday morning 100 city workers and 30 city vehicles descended on the park where protesters have been camped out for the past five weeks, and began dismantling their tent city with the help of police.
The operation has gone relatively smoothly with most protesters cooperating, although there have reportedly been 11 arrests.
From Ford’s description of the operation, he didn’t have much input into the city’s plans for removing protesters from the park, which he said were drafted by city staff and the Toronto police.
“Prior to the beginning of the operation, I was briefed on the plan, including its objectives, timelines, and contingency plans,” Ford said. “I agreed with the approach that was presented to me.”
Ford, an incendiary figure for most of the protesters, has largely stayed out of the spotlight since the occupation began, and sent city staff and Deputy Mayor Doug Holyday to an initial press conference on Occupy Toronto last week.
On Wednesday, although he reserved most of his praise for city staff and the police force, he struck a rare conciliatory tone and acknowledged the cooperation of the occupation.
“I’d like to note that members of Occupy Toronto have been largely peaceful in their protests, and remained so today,” he said. “The protesters were well-behaved, and we appreciate that.”
The extent of the damage that’s been done to St. James Park is still not known, but Ford said it was “disturbing” that taxpayers will pick up the bill. At one point, city staff estimated the cost of the cleanup at $30,000.
Pennachetti said that all tents and other belongings had been photographed and inventoried so that they could be retrieved by their owners. According to information posted on the city’s website Wednesday afternoon, protesters can pick up confiscated property at 50 Booth Avenue, between the 10 am and 2 pm.