A small group of protesters who identified themselves as members of Occupy Toronto were evicted from the basement of an historic Queen Street building on Monday afternoon, after squatting there since Friday.
Four men left the building at 238 Queen Street West by a back entrance at 3:43 p.m. Staff from the city’s real estate division, escorted by several police officers on bicycles, delivered a notice under the Trespass To Property Act.
A member of the Occupy Toronto food team who only identifies himself by the alias Antonin Smith had hoped the group would become the legitimate lessor of the space. He said the protesters chose to leave peacefully after an eviction notice was slipped under the barricaded door.
Mr. Smith said they decided to leave partially out of concern that the city would “damage its own property” and cut through the wall.
The notice informed the squatters, who say they first moved into the space on Friday evening and built barricades over the weekend, that entering the building could result in a fine of up to $2,000.
Police spokeswoman Wendy Drummond confirmed that there were four squatters inside the building.
“We spoke to them and they agreed to leave on their own accord.”
According to Const. Drummond, there were no injuries and no charges laid.
“Several members of Occupy Toronto peacefully left with some of their belongings,” city spokeswoman Margaret Dougherty wrote in an e-mail.
A locksmith was present and changed the locks on both entrances to the basement.
Earlier Monday, the protesters had released a statement outlining their demands for the building and outlining the purpose of their squat.
The statement reads, “We want a 36 month lease, at 99 cents a year.” The document states that the group would “repair and store the basement to safe and hygienic conditions,” feed the hungry, and “work in tandem with Grange community groups on collective action.”
The city granted Market Inc. a 50-year lease in 1989 based partially on the understanding that it would use the space to create an “ambience similar to the St. Lawrence Market.” The city, which was supposed to collect 10 per cent of the profit generated by the building’s business, took legal action against Market Inc. over its alleged failure to pay rental arrears.
The squatters’ document referred to the city’s stipulations about the retail space resembling St. Lawrence Market.
“These conditions have consistently been violated,” the document states.
Special to the Globe and Mail