Inside Toronto: Protesters remain in St. James Park

With speculation rising that the City of Toronto may try to pull the plug on the Occupy Toronto movement's stay in St. James Park, those in the camp remain steadfast in their determination to draw attention to financial inequalities between society's haves and have-nots.

Despite rain and cold, the downtown park remains packed with dozens of tents, and spirits remain high among those staking out the space as the protest nears the one-month mark.

Even rumblings that Mayor Rob Ford has intimated that the occupiers should move on have not dampened the protesters' resolve.

"They've had a peaceful protests but I think it's time we ask them to leave," Ford said during a news conference held to discuss the Eglinton LRT Wednesday morning, "Again I have to confirm this with the chief and I'm not here to speak on the chief's behalf ... I think everyone can appreciate it's been a peaceful protest but I think it's time that we ask them to move on."

Ford's statements were backed by non-specific comments by city manager Joe Pennechetti that the City was looking into "appropriate steps" to deal with the site.

"The city's made statements, but the city has no choice but to make statements," said one protester, going by the alias Noble Forever Humble, or N.F.H. "They can take all the steps they want, but we're going to keep getting the message out."

N.F.H. added he would like to see more people visit the site - even if they do not plan on protesting - to get a better idea as to what it entails.

"People are making opinions and making assumptions about (the occupiers) who haven't been here and that's not fair ball," he said.

Fellow protester Marty Climenhaga had heard rumblings that some were looking to shut the camp down, noting she had seen deputy mayor Doug Holyday's comments that arrangements should be made for occupiers who are homeless or underhoused.

"Now they care about the homeless?" she said. "Where was this before?"

She added, as far as she has heard, the protesters are not breaking any city bylaws by camping out in St. James Park.

Climenhaga got involved in the protests because she is appalled at the way society is going. As with the rest of the protesters, she feels the growing gap between the most privileged one per cent of the population and the rest of society must be eliminated.

"I have a respectable job and degrees from Stanford and Southampton, but that doesn't mean I'm happy about everything with the system," she said.

Edward Lantz, of the anti-poverty group ACORN [Canada], noted even if the city were to get police involved and essentially evict the occupiers, it would not put an end to the Occupy Toronto protests.

"Ford's looking to get the park cleared out, but I've heard there are backup plans - a few other locations where Occupy Toronto can go," he said.

Through Thursday, Nov. 10, however, the site remained intact, with protesters singing, hanging signs and chatting peacefully and amiably.

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