A lawyer for the Ontario Coalition Against Poverty will stand in a Toronto courtroom today to argue that bail conditions blocking John Clarke from doing his job as a paid organizer violate the antipoverty activist's constitutional rights.
Outside the courthouse, at a press conference yesterday that attracted more police officers than journalists, social-justice activists and trade unionists calling themselves OCAP Allies insisted bail conditions that prohibit Mr. Clarke and three colleagues from contacting anyone associated with the coalition infringe on their rights of free association.
Onerous conditions such as these have more to do with police intimidation and silencing the bothersome antipoverty crusade, activists said, than upholding law and order.
"John Clarke has been prohibited from doing the job that he gets paid for," said Peter Rosenthal, a University of Toronto mathematics professor and lawyer who occasionally defends coalition activists in court.
"This has nothing to do with crime. It has to do with suppressing political comment. Let's put an end to the kinds of police action whose only purpose is to suppress political dissent."
Mr. Clarke, whose guerrilla activism has pitted him against police countless times during the past decade, was pulled over by police and arrested three weeks ago while riding his bicycle across the Bloor Street Viaduct on his way to work.
He was charged with inciting a riot for his high-profile role in the antipoverty rally at Queen's Park in June that dissolved into a violent frenzy of demonstrators throwing rocks and smoke bombs and police waving truncheons while other officers used their horses to contain the crowd.
The day Mr. Clarke was arrested, long-time OCAP activist Gaetan Heroux, volunteer organizer Stefan Pilipa, and activist Patricia Lilley were also charged with taking part in the riot.
All were released from their holding cells after agreeing to a long list of bail conditions that included avoiding other coalition activists, not attending any rallies, and remaining at least 500 metres away from Queen's Park and 50 metres from Allan Gardens, the rallying point for many OCAP demonstrations.
A few minutes before yesterday's press conference began, an officer recognized one of the OCAP supporters, Mark Hiller, as a demonstrator from the riot still wanted by police, and charged him with assault with a weapon.
At the same time, Mr. Clarke said in an interview from his home yesterday, the riot and his subsequent arrest have unleashed an "unprecedented" tide of financial and moral support from trade unions and ordinary people on the street.