Anti-racism protesters who've camped out at Nathan Phillips Square for 2 weeks must leave by Monday

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A group of about 20 to 30 anti-racism protesters, who had been camped out at Nathan Phillips Square since June 19th, have moved their tents off to the side of the square, for now.

As of Sunday afternoon, the encampment had been transformed into a sit-in demonstration, with about a hundred supporters in attendance. 

The group, Afro-Indigenous Rising Collective, had been warned to pack up their tents and leave by Monday or face fines. 

The City of Toronto first issued notices to the group on Tuesday for violating city bylaws, including acts like camping, having open flames, using generators and marking up the square.

While Mayor John Tory had the weekend off, he spoke to Newstalk1010 about the situation late Friday.

"We're respectful of the fact that they are protesting legitimate issues and we have a legitimate right to protest in this country, but on Nathan Phillips Square, as you might expect, there are laws dealing with all kinds of things...it is specifically prohibited for example to camp in a tent. It is prohibited to have a fire and so on.  So, we've set out in a letter that is very reasonable to them and I think we've treated them very respectfully over the time they've been there, that they can't go on not complying with these laws."

Members of Afro-Indigenous Rising Collective were issued trespassing notices on Friday morning.

Tory went on to say that the group's encampment will soon interfere with other permitted uses of the square that were planned a long time ago, including a farmer's market and things like that, that are "legitimate public uses", adding they followed the law in issuing the trespass notices.

A visit to the square by Newstalk1010 around 11 a.m. Sunday showed the encampment's set-up over the last two weeks - that was before the tents were moved off to the side Sunday afternoon.

Heather Seaman

The group has been calling for substantial and meaningful change, including defunding the police by reallocating funds from the police budget to other public services like mental health.

Speaking to Newstalk1010 host Knia Singh this afternoon, one of the protest organizers, named "Char" explained where they'd like to see the funds go.

"Specifically we want to look at ways we can be proactive, instead of reactive. Typically, when you call the cops, it's after something has already happened and they show up, guns blazing  and things are very likely to go wrong, but we'd like to see some of those resources from defunding go towards proactive solutions for things like mental health support, food security, housing security, community programming after school for youth in at-risk neighbourhoods - all those types of things that have been shown to prevent crime from happening."

Just last week, Toronto city council voted in favour of a number of reforms, including the development of a non-police response team for mental health calls. They also voted in favour of a mandate that would require all officers to have body-cameras.

However, council voted 16-8 against a 10 per cent cut to the police budget for 2021.

Meantime, the city is hopeful that those protesting peacefully will leave and protest in a way that doesn't go against the bylaw, adding like all citizens, they have the right to protest in the public square.