Man charged as City dismantles homeless encampment at Lamport Stadium

Police and protesters clashed as city crews removed a homeless encampment from the Lamport Stadium area Wednesday. Mark Douglas reports.

By News Staff and The Canadian Press

Toronto police have confirmed a man has been charged with assaulting a police officer after City of Toronto crews began dismantling a homeless encampment at Lamport Stadium near King Street West and Dufferin Street on Wednesday.

Reporters on scene described violent clashes between police and advocates who tried to stop the dismantling, with several people being thrown to the ground by police.

“I can confirm that several arrests have been made, with at least one relating to the assault of an officer, as well as trespassing offences,” Const. David Hopkinson told CityNews.

Police later said three officers suffered minor injuries.

None of the people detained or arrested were residents at the encampment according to police, but protesters at the site said one of the people arrested was a resident. Police have not confirmed that information.

Advocates gathered outside 14 Division to demand the arrested person’s release.

“An unhoused person was arrested trying to defend the encampment and we are here demanding his release because they have been arrested and criminalized for being unhoused,” said Charlotte Smith with Encampment Support Group.

Police confirmed the man charged was later released and is facing a charge of assaulting a peace officer.

The City said it moved into the area on Wednesday to enforce trespass notices that were issued last week.

“All residents are being offered safe, indoor space at a shelter or hotel program where people are provided with a number of supports, including a housing worker, meals, laundry, showers, harm reduction and medical assistance,” City spokesperson Brad Ross said in an email.

Ross added that Toronto’s streets-to-homes teams “have engaged with residents there 107 times encouraging them to come inside where it is safer.”

Mayor John Tory said that it was time to take some action at the encampment after outreach efforts failed.

“I understand that no one would seek to be homeless,” he said. “But I will say that the encampments are unsafe, they are unhealthy and they are illegal.”

Tory said there was a fire at the encampment at Lamport Stadium recently and a man was rescued from a tent that exploded moments later, thanks only to outreach workers who happened to be there at the time.

“We cannot have people living continuously in unsafe, unhealthy and illegal circumstances in our public parks,” he said.

Police said they were called to the scene at around 9:20 a.m. to “keep the peace.”

Tory said he found it “unacceptable” that people on the scene were assaulting and throwing bottles and rocks at police officers.

Last week the city cleared encampments under the Gardiner Expressway, leading to a standoff with advocates.

Encampments have popped up throughout Toronto during the COVID-19 pandemic as more shelter users take to the streets. The City had instituted a moratorium on clearing out encampments during the pandemic but began clearing them out a few weeks ago.

The City is also in the midst of a massive program to move as many people as it can out of congregate living situations such as shelters into hotel rooms and apartments.

It has recently bought or leased numerous hotels to give people their own room in an effort to curb the spread of COVID-19.

The City also recently signed an agreement with a developer to rent out 125 furnished rooms for those living in encampments, and has moved 97 people from tents into the apartment buildings in midtown Toronto.

Advocates have criticized the city’s actions on the homeless front, accusing it of moving too slowly and leaving those inside shelters vulnerable to COVID-19.

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