trinity bellwoods

Here's what Toronto police have to say about the clearing of the Bellwoods encampment

It's been two days since Toronto police and the city moved forward with enforcing tresspass notices to individuals who have been living in the tent encampments in Trinity Bellwoods Park, which ended in shocking clashes betwen authorities, residents experiencing homelessness and demonstrators.

In the wake of Tuesday's dramatic display, a swath of the popular green space remains fenced off and guarded by private security as the public continues to reflect on and circulate the glut of photo and video footage taken at the scene that is still making its rounds on social media.

The Toronto Police Service is also apparently reflecting on the incident, deciding to release a formal statement to the public on Wednesday afternoon about how the evictions unfolded, albeit only due to requests from multiple media outlets.

Criticized en masse for an overtly heavy-handed presence, the force says that while the morning started as they'd planned, "resources were adjusted throughout the day as more protestors travelled to the site for the purpose of interfering with the clearing of the encampment."

"Protestors out-numbered encampment residents, creating an increasingly unstable and unsafe environment for them and for City staff," the release continues, adding that the focuses of cops' actions on the scene were de-escalation and maintaining the safety of all present.

TPS continues to stand by what it considers a measured and proportionate response to the situation, and believes officers used "the least amount of force necessary."

Mayor John Tory shared similar sentiments in his press conference on Wednesday, stating that the ramped up police presence was simply in response to the "hundreds of people who showed up and involved themselves who were not the people experiencing homelessness that we were trying to help."

He also confirmed that the city will continue to clear out other park encampments that have cropped up over the course of the pandemic, which the mayor called "unsafe, unhealthy and illegal" and said interfere with wider public use of the spaces, including summer programming.

Also touched on from both Tory and the TPS were concerns brought up by the Canadian Association of Journalists that those trying to cover the events of the day were restricted from properly doing so.

The cops say in their statement that one photojournalist who was notably detained had not followed directives from the police that if they left the fenced-in area of the park, they would not be permitted re-enty.

"The Toronto Police Service respects the media's right to report on police activity and recognizes the media as an essential service. It is clear from the widespread media coverage that visible access to the area was not compromised."

Three people protesting on behalf of those living in the encampment are now facing charges related to their individual altercations with police in the park, including assault with a weapon and assaulting a peace officer.

Per the Encampment Support Network, all citizens living in the Bellwoods encampment agreed by Tuesday afternoon to vacate the area and accept the housing and other supports — whic include job help and mental health services — that were being offered by the city.

Their belongings, if not taken with them at the time, will be kept in storage for up to 30 days for collection.

Any citizen who believes they were mistreated by authorities has been invited by the force to complain through the Office of the Independent Police Review Director.

Lead photo by

Hector Vasquez

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