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Occupy Toronto activists choose not to talk to police for now

The Occupy Toronto movement is temporarily closing lines of communication with city police, one day after a member of the group opened them.

Beginning next week, activists in Toronto say they plan to occupy a public space near the city's financial district, with the broad aim of calling attention to the gap between the world's wealthiest and the rest of the population. They are modelling their movement after Occupy Wall Street in New York, where demonstrators who took over a downtown park have sparked a growing global movement.

Similar gatherings have already cropped up in Boston, Los Angeles, and other U.S. cities, and organizers in dozens of other countries say they will begin their own protests on Oct. 15.

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Tom Zaugg, who ran for the People's Political Party of Ontario this fall and is among the loose group of people working to bring the Occupy movement to Toronto, said he spoke with police at Toronto's 52 Division about the protest movement.

He told nearly 300 people who gathered in Toronto's Berczy Park for the Toronto movement's first public planning meeting that he thought working with police would help keep protesters safe.

Inspector Howie Page, who is handling queries about the Occupy Toronto movement for 52 Division, was not immediately available for comment.

Sensitivities about working with police run high in the city's activist community, in large part because of the confrontational tactics used by police during the G20 protest last summer.

The topic of co-operation with police came up multiple times in the three-hour meeting. Some argued that letting police know what they were doing in advance might help protect them from tear gas or arrest, while others took a more cynical view. "They're going to beat us anyway," one man shouted.

Ultimately, the group agreed to halt talks with police until activists are more organized and can make the decision as a group.

The Occupy Toronto group is operating on consensus, a decision-making tool that aims to ensure everyone agrees with a proposal before moving ahead on it.

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Parliamentary reporter

Kim Mackrael has been a reporter for The Globe and Mail since 2011. She joined the Ottawa bureau Sept. 2012. More

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