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Somali-Canadian community condemns 'Project Traveller' raids

Members of the Somali-Canadian community publicly condemned last week’s Project Traveller police raids, saying Tuesday that they were not executed in a lawful manner and that officers destroyed property that belonged to “impoverished” people.

“In the aftermath of the raids, many community members feel victimized, vilified and traumatized as a result of the reckless manner in which officers forcibly entered their homes,” Mahad Yusuf, executive director of Midaynta Community Services, said in a statement.

“Community members are angered by the destruction of property and disrespectful remarks made by some officers and the police brutality that they were subject to,” he said.

One victim was 100-year-old Faduma Hersi who was sleeping in her home at 340 Dixon Rd. when police busted down her door last Thursday and roughed her up,a family friend told CityNews. She had to spend two days in hospital, and has been bedridden and incontinent since the incident. She is in such a state of shock that she’s been calling for her son to protect her. But he’s been dead for 24 years.

“She’s in a different world of hurt and trauma,” family friend Fosia Duale told CityNews.

Toronto police as well as officers from across southern Ontario raided several apartment buildings on Dixon Road in north Etobicoke early Thursday morning as part of a year-long investigation into illegal gun trafficking and other crimes.

The raids saw 19 people arrested in Toronto and nine in Windsor, and in the investigation overall, 44 people now face 224 charges.

However, the Dixon raids unfairly targeted the Somali community and portrayed them all as possible criminals, argued the executive director of the African Canadian Legal Clinic.

“The community has been further stigmatized by the careless actions of some officers involved in the raid, and the irresponsible conduct of Toronto’s disgraced mayor,” Margaret Parsons said.

Parsons added the community was already dealing with racism and Islamophobia, and the raids portrayed the entire community as possible criminals.

Toronto police spokesman Mark Pugash said it was a legal police investigation.

“This is a project that took a year to prepare. We put together information which showed many of the people we were going after were violent, had guns and other weapons and were prepared to use them and we had to plan for all eventualities,” he said. “I take comfort from the fact that there were no serious injuries.”