A group of protesters who have been camped out at Nathan Phillips Square for over two weeks have been ordered to clear the area by Monday.
City of Toronto officials say the group Afro-Indigenous Rising Collective has led a protest in the square on Queen Street since approximately June 19.
“We’re here occupying space in Nathan Phillips Square as Afro-Indigenous Rising Collective to push for the defunding and abolition of the police force. Specifically against Crown-sanctioned violence that we see towards Brown and Black bodies,” protester Shar told Global News on Wednesday.
Shar said the campout has been symbolic of the support the group has received.
“For me, it really represents the momentum that we’re seeing at this specific point in time, at this specific point in history, that all across Canada and the United States is really a pivotal moment and a turning point for motions like this where we’re seeking to create more equitable and reasonable solutions for communities that don’t involve police violence,” Shar said.
City officials have sent a trespass notice to the protesters. In a letter sent Friday, officials said the tents could be removed as part of enforcement action if the protesters don’t comply by Monday.
Demonstrators could also be found guilty of a trespassing offence and face a fine of up to $10,000, the letter said.
“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 letter read.
It said a notice was first handed to demonstrators on Tuesday asking them to comply with bylaws. Officials said they asked the protesters to request permission to continue some activities in the square that are normally in violation of bylaws, but said they had not received any requests.
“The square is a common urban space and must be shared as such, in a fair way. The City anticipates an upcoming planned public use of the square, scheduled to commence July 8, 2020, that conflicts with the protesters’ current set-up and activities,” the letter said.
Demonstrators said they were concerned with the City’s remarks given some protesters may be experiencing homelessness. The City said shelter support is available for those individuals if needed.
Anti-racism protests were sparked throughout the world by the death of George Floyd in May, a Black man who died after a Minneapolis police officer knelt on his neck during an arrest.
In Toronto, the death of Regis Korchinski-Paquet has also led to calls for change. The 29-year-old Black woman died on May 27 after falling from her balcony during an interaction with police after a call for mental health assistance.