A few hours after the Occupy Toronto movement received an eviction notice, Mayor GÃ©rald Tremblay sent a message to Montreal Occupiers on Monday evening suggesting they leave Victoria Square, site of the occupation since Oct. 15.
“The time has come for the protesters to find another way to get their message out,” said Tremblay in a statement to OM.
The OM movement has existed in relative peace with Montreal authorities, unlike other occupations where protesters have clashed with police. As long as the movement’s camp was clean and safe, OM was free to stay. But Tremblay said that the safety of the site is now in question.
Recent media reports suggested that there is drug abuse at the sight, and that a knife fight had broken out over the weekend.
Organizer Natasha Hynes, however, denied the allegations, chalking them up to the media “looking for a story.” She also played down Tremblay’s statement, saying “It was more of a suggestion.” Tremblay left no ultimatum or deadline for OM to vacate.
His suggestion came shortly after protesters unveiled “Phase Three” of the occupation Monday afternoon.
“We’re collaborating, and we’re ready to move on to the new phase [which] hasn’t been determined yet. It will be set by a democratic process through the general assemblies,” said
organizer Paul Lebrun. A voluntary ban on alcohol and drugs at the site will continue.
Some reports suggested that people will be leaving the site, but protester Mathieu Tallard said most are staying put: “The people who are working here are not leaving. Some people will, maybe. It’s okay. They need to take a break, they need to take care of themselves.”
What’s next for those who stay?
“Learning, reorganizing, doing something beautiful, inspiring,” he replied.
Regardless, security patrols are being implemented with Phase Three.
“There are people who are going to continue to stay on the site as long as bloody possible, and there are other people who are going to start spending a lot of energy to grow the movement,” said Hynes. “And that’s what Phase Three is all about: more tangible, direct action, more communication with the public, getting people involved.”
With files from Athena Tacet