toronto encampment

People have started installing anti-City of Toronto signs in parks

Following the encampment clearings that have quite violently gone down in Toronto public parks in recent weeks, activists are enraged with how the city is dealing with its affordable housing and homelessness issues, which have become harder to ignore than ever over the course of the pandemic.

The action to enforce eviction notices to residents living in tent communities in Trinity Bellwoods Park, Alexandra Park and Lamport Stadium has inspired many to rally in support of those who've resorted to the public green spaces instead of alternative housing options, which have been at times few and far between or unsafe thanks to COVID-19.

People are finding it impossible to accept the dramatic show of heavy police and security presence witnessed last week at Lamport in particular, which resulted in dozens of arrests after chaotic clashes with protesters on the scene, the documentation of which has been shocking, to say the least.

To further drive home the sentiment that authorities' actions were not okay, one group has started to install some very anti-City of Toronto signs around parks where encampments were recently dismantled.

"Police brutality is underway," "city housing crisis is underway," "park gentrification is underway" and "city residents under served" are among the messages on the bold signage, which mimics official City of Toronto placards in colour and font.

The signs even bear a version of the City of Toronto logo in the top left corner, which upon closer inspection has the outline of a tent beside the word "Toronto," rather than the usual outline of City Hall.

The design is intended to conspicuously imitate the posters the city set up around the parks in question — which are still fenced off from the public and guarded by private security — to inform residents that "park remediation is underway" in the wake of the encampment removals.

The signs were designed by Sean Martindale for TOparks: Housing Not Violence, and started popping up over the weekend.

"TOparks is a group of Toronto residents who witnessed violent encampment evictions and the behaviour of police at Trinity Bellwoods, Alexandra Parkand Lamport Stadium," the organization states on its website, adding that it feels a "human-rights based approach" to housing residents is indeed possible.

"[We] hope to encourage park goers to learn more about the events of the forced evictions and why people are living in parks to begin with, in an attempt of driving compassion, understanding, and support for our neighbours."

While advocacy groups, everyday residents, city councillors and others continue to decry the steps taken by politicians and police to rid parks of the homeless, Mayor John Tory and the Toronto Police Service still stand by their methodology and execution, arguing that police presence was only due to the vast number of protestors who showed up in each case.

Tory referred to "hundreds of people who showed up and involved themselves who were not the people experiencing homelessness that we were trying to help," adding that he believed such demonstrators were simply "trying to make a statement" and were getting in the way of the city's efforts to rehouse people.

"[We're] trying to help the people experiencing homelessness by putting them in a place where they can get more supports, and also establish the principle that public parks are not places people can legally, safely or in a healthy way live and that everybody is entitled to the use of those parks," he explained in a press conference last week.

According to a few accounts on social media, at least some of the TOParks signs have allegedly already been removed.

Lead photo by

Martin Reis 

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