People condemn Toronto Police actions as more encampment protest footage emerges
More and more photo and video documentation of the most recent tent encampment eviction in Toronto — at Lamport Stadium Park in Liberty Village on Wednesday — continues to emerge on social media as the public, shocked, criticizes the actions of police facing protesters on the scene.
As was the case in the wake of the city's move to clear a similar tent community in Trinity Bellwoods Park last month, residents are shocked by the sheer number of police and private security guards employed to enforce trespass notices against those experiencing homelessness who have been living in the public green space.
Also, the tactics of authorities on the scene, who violently clashed with protesters who had set up physical barricades in an attempt to stop the clearings.
Officers were seen pushing, hitting, dragging, pepper spraying, and arresting advocates as authorities took apart the makeshift structures that some 11 people were residing in.
Police were dispatched by the city to help get the homeless out of the park and offer them "safe, indoor accommodation and supports" that included meals, a housing worker and mental health assistance — and also to see to the large number of protesters who oppose the city's dismantling of encampments that have cropped up during the pandemic.
Mayor John Tory and the TPS have defended action on multiple occasions, saying the heavy-handed police presence was simply a response to protesters that "outnumbered encampment residents, creating an increasingly unstable and unsafe environment for them and for city staff" who were tasked with offering housing to those residents living in the park.
"Compare the experience [at Alexandra Park on Tuesday] where streets-to-homes workers were relatively unobstructed offering indoor housing without interference of protesters to today, where you had many, many more protesters, which necessitates the presence of more police officers in order to make sure that [everyone] can be kept safe," Tory said in a presser Wednesday.
"We're trying our very best to do this in a way that is compassionate, but also firm — firm in the sense that we must find safer, more healthy, legal indoor accommodations for people who have many needs for support in their lives, provide those supports and do it in a way that preserves everyone's safety."
Following the Bellwoods encampment clearing in June, Tory chalked the violence up to "hundreds of people who showed up and involved themselves who were not the people experiencing homelessness that we were trying to help," referring to them as people "trying to make a statement" rather than actually help those experiencing homelessness.
"The City's objective today was to peacefully encourage encampment occupants to accept safe, indoor accommodation, as it does daily with people experiencing homelessness across the city. Camping in parks is unhealthy, unsafe and illegal," reads a release issued Wednesday following the Lamport drama.
"Protesters indicated they would not leave the fenced area, preventing City staff from doing their jobs in assisting encampment occupants and making the park safe and accessible for all.," it continues.
"As protesters remained in the area and refused to leave, the City requested TPS assistance in clearing the fenced area of the park. When the area was cleared by police of protesters, the City re-engaged with any encampment occupants who remained, and began the removal of structures and debris."
A total of 26 people were arrested at Lamport on Wednesday, and face criminal and provincial charges including assault with a weapon, assaulting a peace officer and obstructing police.
Protesters were also pepper sprayed in a tense demonstration outside TPS 14 Division on Dovercourt following the day's earlier events.
The city has said it intends to move forward with the dismantling of the remainder of the encampments it identified as priority locations to ensure that they can be used for things like summer camp programming.
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