Twenty-six people were arrested in Toronto’s Lamport Stadium Park on Wednesday as city and police forcibly evicted those living in a camp there, police say.
At the height of the confrontation, officers could be seen rushing to rise up against the metal barrier as they clashed face-to-face with demonstrators. At least one person appeared to have jumped the fence and was seen being arrested by police.
Nearby, police could be seen breaking down an improvised barrier of wooden pallets before several people were handcuffed.
By 2 p.m., police had completely cleared the area by physically removing those who would not leave.
Speaking to reporters afterwards, Toronto Supt Police Staff. Randy Carter said police were working to support the city and that their goal was to maintain public safety.
“We did a tremendous job today in trying to really, really help those who are most vulnerable,” Carter said. “We do our best to get to the place where no one is hurt and where we should not physically fight ‘people, but you were all witnesses to how we were to get to that place today.’
SEE: Violentscenes unfolds as city, police forcefully clear camp Lamport stadium:
Asked if there would be a better way to handle the situation, Carter replied, “Apparently, there is a better way. You just don’t let them set up a tent. But we’re not that kind of city.” .
In a press release Wednesday evening, police said the arrests were made for offenses such as gun attack, obstructing police, assaulting a peace officer and assault.
At least 1 camper was arrested, police say
According to police, officers assisted the city where needed and protesters gathered in the enclosed park to “intervene” in the city’s efforts.
Police said the efforts were great to talk to camp residents about reporting the violation, but added: “These efforts were largely ignored and the crowds became confrontational and hostile. Due to the dynamic situation, sources from other areas of the city were established to ensure the safety of all on the site and the general public. “
Police claimed they used “minimal force”. They added that they found agates, spears, metal items and more than 200 syringes from the site.
Three officers were injured, including one sprayed with a harmful substance.
‘You have to be angry’
The Toronto Campaign Support Network, an advocacy group that to support camp residents, wrote on Twitter that more than 25 people had been arrested, including one whose key had been broken in the process.
“A lot of people are in the ER.” “You have to be angry,” he wrote on Twitter.
Carter told reporters that an officer was sprayed with a substance through the temporary fence and suffered minor injuries. A member of the city security staff also suffered minor injuries, he said.
City officials and police began forcibly evicting those living in the country early Wednesday morning. The move came a day after a similar enforcement action led to the arrest of nine people in Alexandra Park.
The latest camp cleanups come after residents living in four major settlements, including LamportStadium, were notified of violations last month. They were warned that they could be removed if they refuse to leave and face fines of up to $ 10,000 if convicted. The city is estimated to have between 14 and 17 people living in LamportStadium and said they would be offered accommodation and other support.
Security guards and dozens of Toronto police officers arrived at LamportStadium, just east of the King and Dufferin intersection, around dawn. Workers built a temporary fence around the site.
‘Camping in parks is sick, unsafe,’ says the city
In a statement Wednesday night, the city said enforcing a breach notice was his decision, not that of the police, and that the purpose of the siege was both to “engage with the camp occupiers safely” and to allow teams begin “restoration and repair of park facilities for general use”.
“The objective of the city today was to peacefully encourage campers to accept safe accommodation, at home, as it does every day with people experiencing homelessness throughout the city. Camping in parks is unhealthy, unsafe and illegal.” it was said in the statements.
Increased cities living in camps are at risk of contracting COVID-19 and that emergency services have responded to more than 280 calls at Lamport Stadium Park this year.
The city statement went on to say that there were 11 homeless people in the park in the morning. By the end of the day, she said, two referrals received in a housing or hotel program, five already had a space in the housing system, three people left on their own accord and one person turned down an offer of housing permanent.
The statement also said the city removed 30 structures, as well as knives, an ax, a key, propane and car batteries from the site.
Several community organizations called on social media for concerned residents to demonstrate in the park Wednesday morning, and about 100 people showed up to give support to camp residents. Some who were volunteering with the Camp Support Network were passing water bottles and food packages to them behind the fence.
“Police told us we were not allowed to bring food and humanitarian aid, but we had to help,” Kortnee Sterr said. “We had to use this measure of community support and advocacy, throwing things over the fence.”
Police have now completely cleared the camp. Police physically removed those who would not leave. Several people were arrested, some injured, including supporters, residents, police and security guards. All the park dwellers are now on the other side of the fence pic.twitter.com/l8I0XuniWO
The mayor claims that ‘there is no involvement’ in press freedoms
On Tuesday, nine people were arrested seven for trespassing as staff and police destroyed a makeshift community in Alexandra Park. Among those arrested was a photographer for The Canadian Press, who was handcuffed by a city security guard and released with a report of misconduct.
Violation notifications do not incur any fees, but prevent a person from returning to a site for 90 days.
Of the 26 people living in the Alexandra Park camp, the city said 14 accepted “safe indoor accommodation” while 12 others decided to leave the park themselves.
In its statement, the city said the outdoor pool in Alexandra Park reopened Wednesday after it closed on Tuesday.
“City staff are working hard to open the splash, which was closed so far this summer due to the encampment,” he added.
Police and security forces used temporary sieges to keep the media and demonstrators away from the area being cleared and used the same access to Lamport Stadium this morning. The city said a television reporter and a photographer will be allowed in fencing today.
Speaking at a COVID-19 conference, Toronto Mayor John Tory said he believed it was “important that we have transparency” but also said he had “no involvement” in decisions regarding the suppression of freedom during cleaning.
He suggested the decisions were made to keep people safe, but did not explain why this included restricting media access to a public park.
Brad Ross, spokesman for the City of Toronto, suggested that the presence of media cameras frightens those living in the camps and impedes the ability of staff to talk to them about possible options.
‘We do not know where we are going’
Joey Mauger was among the camp residents who did not want to leave Lamport Stadium on Wednesday.
“Me and my friends, we do not bother anyone,” he said from behind the orange fence placed around the camp. “We like it here, we do not want to go and we do not know where we are going.”
Mauger said he had lived in the camp for six months with his partner. He said he had previously been staying at a hotel by the city but left because he did not feel safe due to random checks.
“I’m very scared and I’m not sure about anything anymore,” he said, adding that he wanted affordable permanent housing.
The clean-up of the anotheren camp at Trinity Bellwoods Parklast last month drew criticism for disproportionate use of force by police.
Tori defended that operation but promised a review of what happened.
At the start of the pandemic, hundreds fled Toronto’s homeless shelters for fear of contracting COVID-19, setting up tents in parks across the city.
Recent data obtained by The Canadian Press also show a significant increase in violent incidents in the Toronto housing system over the past five years.
The city maintains that the housing system is safe and has said it will eventually clean up all the homeless camps, which it says are unsafe. The City Council also recently passed a motion to end the campaigns.
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