People in Toronto are furious about the eviction of homeless campers from Trinity Bellwoods
Police helicopters have been audibly circling the area above Trinity Bellwoods Park since at least 7:30 a.m. this morning.
As of 3 p.m., they're still up there, hovering away, monitoring hundreds of officers and corporate security guards as they attempt to clear multiple homeless encampments from one of Toronto's largest parks.
The point I'm trying to reflect is that there is one hell of an expensive operation taking place at Bellwoods today, the likes of which many people haven't seen in Toronto since 2010's G20 riots.
Why all the fuss to clear out an estimated 20 - 25 people who happen to be living in the park?
It's almost as if city officials were expecting trouble — like, more trouble than one might logically expect, which is ironically making people angrier.
Toronto residents have been openly airing their disdain on Twitter all day as photos and videos circulate of the city's latest encampment dismantling mission, many remarking that it all seems a bit heavier — and pricier — than necessary.
This is Toronto’s housing crisis response. Use paramilitary tax payer funded police to the tune of over a billion dollars a year instead of put its residents in affordable livable permanent housing with dignity. @ESN_TO #topoli #onpoli #DefundThePolice https://t.co/jhiTUBdBay— Maya Menezes (@MayaLillianM) June 22, 2021
"Every police badge and security vest represents funds that could have been allocated to building affordable housing," tweeted one person at the scene.
"The amount of money poured into this 'enforcement' could be going to creating safe places for people to live, but this performative policing is more important to the City," wrote another in one of hundreds of tweets containing similar messages.
How much money was spent on this show of force this afternoon at Trinity Bellwoods?! How many people could have been housed for that amount? This is not a solution… this is an attack on human rights. @JohnTory @joe_cressy #TrinityBellwoods #TOpoli pic.twitter.com/ZzPmPcxpvi— Summer Leigh (@by_summerleigh) June 22, 2021
People all over the city are growing furious to learn that their tax dollars are being spent to erect tall fences, guarded by private secruity guards, all along the western edge of Trinity Bellwoods Park.
Toronto is basically kettling encampment defenders at Trinity Bellwoods park right now. Shameful! https://t.co/ytwEl7vTQT— Camille Labchuk (@CamilleLabchuk) June 22, 2021
The fences, meant to keep protesters away and presumably make clearing the encampments easier, have become an even more contentious issue inside the park, where hundreds have now arrived to show support for the residents being kicked out.
The City of Toronto has built fences around the homeless encampment at Trinity Bellwoods to evacuate them out of their area. Citizens are protesting and standing by their house less neighbors to make sure it doesn’t get violent with the police. pic.twitter.com/zwt494jgvo— anna🍓 (@xarrissa) June 22, 2021
When asked what the fences were for, one private security guard (of hundreds) told blogTO that he "thinks it's because they're moving the people."
Another further down the line said that "there's supposed to be some riot or protest."
While the situation hasn't yet devolved into riotous chaos, tensions are high between protesters and police (who, for the record, did not initiate the encampment clearing, but are on hand to support the City of Toronto in doing so.)
Mobs of protesters screamed at police and city enforcement officers as they moved through the park's northern encampment, shouting such things as "shame!" "your parents are disappointed" and "everybody hates you!"
"Who do you protect?" they chanted at times, while spontaneously telling cops to "get a real job!" and "go back to Milton!"
Protesters at one point formed a human chain to try and stop the dismantling of the dual encampments, but to no avail.
Trinity Bellwoods Park: Supporters of the encampment formed a human chain to try and stop city officials from evicting the occupant of a tent. There are dozens of police and other municipal enforcement staff here, they've given people two hours to leave. #Toronto @CBCToronto pic.twitter.com/wduPdLYoLB— Jeremy Cohn (@JeremyCohnTV) June 22, 2021
The tents and surrounding debris are coming down, despite the efforts of advocates.
do not look away. encampments are a symptom of a chronic policy failures on homelessness. we cannot police people out of poverty — need all levels of government committed to ending this public health crisis with housing for all. pic.twitter.com/IKxxd90nG4— Andrew Baback Boozary MD (@drandrewb) June 22, 2021
Protests continue within the park at press time, with more and more people appearing to arrive as the afternoon goes on.
Toronto Police report that there have been "several arrests of protesters" so far, including one for assaulting a peace officer and one for assault with a weapon.
The city, for its part, continues to tout its Streets to Homes program, which it says has helped almost 5,800 people experiencing homelessness "move from the shelter system into permanent housing."
How is sending paramilitary into a public park to forcibly arrest and remove human beings residing there as a last resort “helping the homeless”. You have all got to be ashamed of yourselves. They are human, like you and I, the only difference is you hate poor people. pic.twitter.com/W6ArNocNHz— Yukon DeRosa 🍒 FEAR ALL MEN! OUT NOW (@yukonderosa) June 22, 2021
"All individuals experiencing homelessness in this encampment, estimated at 20 to 25 people, will be offered safe, indoor space, with access to meals, showers and laundry, harm reduction, physical and mental health supports, and a housing worker," wrote the city in a release issued Tuesday morning announcing the enforcement of eviction orders issued June 12.
"Occupants will be given time to pack two bags of belongings to take with them. All other belongings will be collected and stored for up to 30 days for future pickup. There are approximately 65 structures on-site."
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