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NEWS: Legal fights to stop Occupy evictions

CBC reports today, “A defiant group of protesters camped out at Toronto’s St. James Park have pledged to hold their ground despite eviction notices handed out early Tuesday. The notices call on the Occupy Toronto demonstrators, many of whom have been camping in the downtown park for more than a month, to vacate the premises between 12:01 a.m. and 5:30 a.m. Wednesday. …Some protesters reacted by taking down their tents, not wanting to risk confrontation or criminal charges, while others destroyed the notices and hunkered down. …Citing the Trespass to Property Act as the legal basis for the eviction, the notices also say the city ‘will take necessary steps to remove the tents and other structures’.”

“The protesters who have decided to stay are discussing their legal options, including calling on supporters to flock to the park late Tuesday in a display of solidarity. ‘Does constitutional law supersede bylaw? We’re working with lawyers to figure that out right now,’ said activist Taylor Chelsea.”

The Council of Canadians at this hour is assisting in a legal intervention that seeks to prevent the eviction. More on that soon.

Also at this hour, unfortunately, CNN reports, “New York Supreme Court Justice Michael Stallman has ruled not to extend a temporary restraining order that prevents the eviction of protesters who were encamped at Zuccotti Park…”

Earlier today, Sky News reported, “A New York City judge has issued a temporary restraining order against riot police preventing Occupy Wall Street protesters from re-entering the camp where they sparked an international movement against economic inequality. …New York State Supreme Court Justice Lucy Billings issued the temporary restraining order against authorities (meaning the New York Police Department) just hours after the eviction. The judge’s order effectively allows protesters back into the park, preventing police from evicting them and from enforcing new rules banning the use of tents by demonstrators. …New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg has erected a ring of steel around Zuccotti Park, keeping protesters out until a hearing later to clarify the order.” Now, as noted above, Justice Stallman has not extended Justice Billings’ temporary order.

In Canada, constitutional law experts have suggested in media reports that the rights to freedom of expression and assembly, within reasonable limits, may overrule a bylaw such as no camping in a public park. Significant leeway by cities is advised by University of Alberta law professor Peter Carver, given the ’significant possibility’ that a court could rule against cities, especially if the tents and gear of the protesters is confiscated.

Last week, Occupy London and Occupy Nova Scotia were dismantled by the police. Today, city officials in Calgary also issued an eviction order to Occupy Calgary. They were told to leave by Wednesday. In Vancouver, an injunction will be heard by the courts tomorrow to remove Occupy Vancouver from their site. In Victoria, the city is also expected to apply for an injunction to remove Occupy Victoria. And in Regina, police handed out tickets to seven people for violating the Regina Parks and Open Space Bylaw, which prohibits people remaining in parks between 11 pm and 6 am.

More soon.