A violent crackdown on a major homeless encampment in Toronto, Canada, led to 26 arrests and several injuries. On Wednesday, July 21, at the orders of the conservative Toronto city administration, the police broke through the fence and barricades to evict an encampment at the park of the Lamport Stadium where several homeless people had been staying for weeks. The violence follows a similarly forceful eviction of dozens of homeless people at the city’s Alexandra Park.
The Encampment Support Network Toronto, a coalition of activists that has been mobilizing support for the inhabitants of the city’s homeless encampments, strongly condemned the police action. According to the organizers of the protest against the eviction, hundreds of people were estimated to have converged at the Lamport Stadium, most of them being neighboring residents and activists. Protesters formed human chains around the tents and camps and some residents had already placed fencing around as evictions escalated. Many held banners and placards that read “Safer Here Together” “I Support My Neighbors in Tents” and “We Need Permanent Housing Now!” among other things.
The altercation between protesters and the police went on for more than eight hours on Wednesday, leading to multiple injuries, especially to protesters. According to the statement released by the Encampment Support Network Toronto, among the 26 arrested, one person’s wrist was injured by the police and “multiple people are in the ER (emergency medical services).” Of those arrested at least one person was a resident of the encampment. Residents and protesters were also threatened with serious trespassing charges. If convicted, a fine up to CAD 10,000 (around USD 8,000) could be imposed.
“You should be outraged,” the statement read “This is what happens when we don’t give up. The police use violence. The police protect private property. We protect each other. The people will stay united.” The police have charged those arrested with several charges including obstructing and assaulting police officers, along with trespassing charges.
The city had given trespassing notices to four major encampments in Toronto, based on public spaces, with Lamport Stadium being one of them which housed between 14 to 17 people. During the eviction of Alexandra Park earlier this week, the police arrested nine, including a journalist who was later let go and over 26 people were evicted. The city administration justified the decision in the wake of a looming surge in COVID-19 cases in the city, and argued that those living in the encampment are vulnerable.
The protests continued to the Toronto police’s 14 Division, where the 26 arrested people were held. The protesters demanded their unconditional release, but another altercation with police led to three more arrests and the crowd was violently dispersed.
Over the past few months, homeless people have been exiting the homeless shelters and accommodations because of increased and random check-ins, strict restrictions on their movement, restrictions on the amount of belongings they can possess while in the system, and alleged insecurity of the accommodation with them eventually winding back in the streets.
Even among those who have been evicted from these encampments so far many refused to go back into the homeless accommodation the city provides. 15 of the 26 people evicted from the Alexandra Park encampment refused city referrals for accommodation, while the city confirmed at least nine residents of the 11 homeless people at the Lamport Stadium encampment refused.
Activists have been demanding that the city come up with more sustainable and affordable housing solutions for the homeless.