Toronto Police and housing coalition battle on Twitter over arrest at encampment
A debate over Toronto Police charges stemming from the recent dismantling of several encampments in the city has boiled over on Twitter.
But the battle on Twitter stems from an arrest, one of nine, made on July 20 at a tent encampment at Alexandria Park.
The Toronto Coalition for Housing, a coalition of housed and unhoused anti-poverty organizers, housing advocates and city residents, posted on Twitter that the "first of the criminal charges around encampment clearings has been dropped, as of this am."
The first of the criminal charges around encampment clearings has been dropped, as of this am. @Gruesomebrat, who was clearly targeted by @torontopolice in a ridiculous manner (photo below by @ChrisYphoto) including recent obnoxious visit to his shelter, is free of all of them! pic.twitter.com/aM7suXL19t— Toronto Coalition for Housing (TorCH) (@TOR_C_H) October 4, 2021
The post showed a photo of a person known as Gru being arrested on July 20.
Toronto Police Services took issue with the post and quickly fired back, stating: "Fact Check: He wasn't criminally charged in relation to encampments & so there were no encampment charges to be withdrawn. On July 20/21, he was removed from Alexandra Pk for trespassing. It was then learned he was wanted on 3 outstanding criminal warrants and he was arrested."
Fact Check: He wasn't criminally charged in relation to encampments & so there were no encampment charges to be withdrawn. On July 20/21, he was removed from Alexandra Pk for trespassing. It was then learned he was wanted on 3 outstanding criminal warrants and he was arrested. https://t.co/vf6JU2cwJl— Toronto Police Operations (@TPSOperations) October 5, 2021
Many people took issue with Toronto Police Service's Tweet.
"In what universe can a resident be TRESPASSING IN A PUBLIC PARK?? what utter nonsense," one person wrote.
🤨 Are you saying he was arrested for trespassing, but never charged?— Mike Stadler (@MikeStadler1980) October 5, 2021
Or, he was charged with trespassing but it wasn't "encampment related", somehow?
Or are you just splitting hairs because trespassing is a bylaw violation, not a criminal violation?
"So you're telling me that those open warrants were just sitting there all this time he has attended events less heated than the encampment actions, where officers were also present, and you suddenly decide to execute those warrants on the day of the encampment clearings?" one person asked.
But several others also sided with the police.
It's city property, they can close a park down for multiple reasons. Although it's public, it's run and operated by the city.— Thomas-Rylan Jenkins (@rylan_jenkins) October 5, 2021
"Thank you for clarifying. Not always easy to figure out this messy stuff!" one person said.
In the midst of the debate, Gru spoke out about the arrests and the charges. He says the outstanding warrant was a Fail to Appear for a Mischief Under $5,000 charge from three years ago.
In late 2018, a motorist nearly hit me while I was cycling on Spadina, just south of Front. When I caught up to him in traffic, a block later, I tapped his rear quarter-panel on my way past, which led the driver to exit his vehicle and tackle me off the bike.— Gru (@Gruesomebrat) October 6, 2021
He adds that he understood the case was resolved.
After completing the course and drafting an apology, I attended one last court date, where my understanding was that the charges were dropped. The next I heard from the legal system regarding the incident was when I was arrested on July 20 at an encampment clearing.— Gru (@Gruesomebrat) October 6, 2021
The decision to take this argument to Twitter is also being criticized.
As the debate rages on, Toronto residents can hopefully get some answers soon. Recently, Toronto's Ombudsman Kwame Addo launched an investigation into the City of Toronto's clearing of encampments from some of the city's parks.
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