City orders protesters to remove tents from Nathan Phillips Square by Monday in trespass notice

Protesters in front of Nathan Phillips Square have been served a trespass notice, two weeks after they first occupied the area, and ordered to remove all tents by Monday.

The notice, delivered Friday morning, states that people cannot camp or set up tents in the area. People cannot light fires, candles, torches or stay in the square for longer than an incidental period and while social distancing, under the order.

On Thursday, there were 43 tents huddled in the square between the arched pool and city hall’s front doors. The popular Toronto sign in the square has also been vandalized but it’s not confirmed who did it, or when it took place.

Protesters with the core organizing group, the Afro Indigenous Rising collective, have been occupying the square to protest police brutality and urging “the abolition of the police” since June 19. There was no timeline for the end of the protests.

“We have been respectful of both the groups themselves and their right to protest. People have the right to protest for a period of time, albeit this protest is a little more unconventional in the context of things that normally take place in the square, specifically as provided for under the law,” Mayor John Tory told the Star earlier this week.

On Tuesday, a letter was delivered to the group that contained a pre-notice with a willingness to consider “special permissions” to accommodate the protesters, provided they comply with bylaws and health protocols, said Patrick Matozzo, the city’s executive director of real estate management.

“To date, the protesters have not complied with all of the requirements under the notice letter,” Matozzo told the Star in an email.

“In particular, the protesters have refused to observe the prohibitions regarding camping and erecting tents in the square.”

Matozzo said the square is a common urban space and needs to be shared in a fair way. The square is booked for a farmer’s market on July 8.

The notice under the Trespass to Property Act prevents tents, fires, generators, obstruction of public access, cooking, defacing of city property and physical distancing for COVID-19 must be observed among other prohibited activities.

“Members of the public should be aware of, and comply with, all laws that may be relevant to their activities on the square,” read the notice.

People who engage in the prohibited activities can be fined up to $10,000.

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With files from Rosie DiManno

Raneem Alozzi is a breaking news reporter, working out of the Star’s radio room in Toronto. Follow her on Twitter: @r_alozzi