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26 arrested, violent clashes erupt as police evict homeless at Lamport Stadium encampment

Last Updated Jul 21, 2021 at 11:22 pm EDT

A total of 26 people were arrested as attempts to evict people from a homeless encampment at Toronto’s Lamport Stadium Park led to violent clashes on Wednesday afternoon.

Video from the scene shows police scuffling with a line of apparent protesters who set up makeshift barricades around the encampment.

Police were seen tossing some of the protesters to the ground. A woman can be heard screaming as police drag her from a group and handcuff her on the ground.

A release from police said three officers were injured and 26 people were arrested.

There were 19 people charged under the Trespass to Property Act while six others are facing criminal charges.

One person, a 38-year-old man, living in the encampment was among those criminally charged. The rest of those charged did not live at the site and are facing charges of either assaulting a police officer or obstructing police.

Police say most of those charged have since been released.

Later in the evening, a large group of protesters gathered outside 14 Division at Dovercourt Road and Dundas Street, awaiting the release of those arrested at the Lamport Stadium encampment.

Social media posts reported officers were using pepper spray and batons on the protesters.

Police said at least one officer was injured when protesters allegedly threw projectiles at officers.

Three people were arrested outside 14 Division, but no details on charges have been released. The crowd has reportedly since dispersed.

A police bus also appears to been involved in a collision with parked vehicles outside of 14 Division.

Supt. Carter said they attempted to approach the situation at Lamport Stadium with “the least amount of force.”

When asked if there was a better way to handle these trespass notices, Carter said, “We work with the city and the city is the one who addresses the original problem and tries to get people to move on.”

“There is another way to do this, you just don’t let them put a tent up, but we’re not that type of city,” he added.

In a tweet, police said that “protesters are refusing to leave the park” and say an update on arrests will come later in the day.

Joey Mauger was among the encampment residents who didn’t want to leave the park.

“Me and my friends, we don’t bother anybody,” he said from behind the orange fence set up around the encampment earlier in the day. “We like it here, we don’t want to go and we don’t know where we’re going to go.”

Mauger said he and his partner had been living at the park for six months. He said he was previously put up in a hotel by the city but left because he didn’t feel safe due to random check-ins

“I’m too scared and not sure about anything anymore,” he said, adding that he wanted affordable permanent housing.

Sedulea Holland, who said her brother has experienced homelessness, was among those who showed up to support encampment residents.

“Where are they going to go? All the homeless people in the hotels get kicked out and end up on the street,” she said. “They need help, not law and order.”

The City of Toronto said there were 11 encampment occupants at the park when they arrived. Two people accepted a referral to a shelter or hotel program, five people already had a space in the shelter system. Three others left and one person declined an offer of permanent housing at the end of the day.

A total of 30 structures were removed from the encampment.

It’s the second day in a row that City of Toronto workers along with police and corporate security hired by the city were at the site of an encampment to enforce trespass notices. On Tuesday, those living at the Alexandra Park encampment were made to leave the area, with few accepting offers of housing in shelters or hotels.

As evictions began of those living at the encampment located on King Street east of Dufferin Street on Wednesday, the city once again reiterated in a release that “The Toronto Police Service will be present today to ensure the safety of encampment occupants, City workers and the public.”

 

Police and security guards told those who remained in the fenced-off encampment that they were trespassing and had to leave. Many ignored those instructions and some encampment residents could be seen barbecuing as music played from a speaker.

Outside the fence, roughly 100 people had gathered in a show of support for the homeless residents. Some who were volunteering with the Encampment Support Network, an advocacy group, were passing bottles of water and packages of food to those behind the fence.

The trespass notices were issued on June 12.

The City said there are more than 30 structures at the park and up to 17 homeless people living there are being offered safe, indoor space with access to meals, showers, physical and mental health supports and a housing worker.

Park residents are allowed to take two bags of belongings with them. All other belongings were to be collected and stored for up to 30 days, to be picked up at a later date.

Emergency crews have responded to 283 service calls to Lamport Stadium Park so far this year.

The recent encampment clearings come after residents living at four large encampments, including Lamport Stadium, were issued trespass notices last month, warning they could be removed if they refused to leave and face fines of up to $10,000 if convicted.

Back in May, a violent confrontation erupted as the city dismantled another homeless encampment at the stadium. Three police officers suffered minor injuries and one man was charged with assaulting an officer.

Encampments have popped up throughout the pandemic as more shelter-users take to the streets instead, citing safety concerns and COVID-19 outbreaks in shelters.

The city maintains the shelter system is safe and has said it will eventually clear all of the homeless encampments, which it says are unsafe. City council also recently passed a motion to end encampments.

“The city remains focused on providing a human services response to encampments and peaceful, voluntary referrals for people sleeping outdoors to safer, indoor accommodation,” the city said.

“Since June 15, 108 people staying in encampments, including eight people this past week, have been referred to safe inside space. Since last spring, the city has referred more than 780 people from Moss Park, Lamport Stadium, Alexandra Park and Trinity Bellwoods Park to safe inside space.”

Police said nine people were arrested on Tuesday during the clearing of the encampment at Alexandra Park. A photographer from the Canadian Press who was inside the area fenced in by city crews was among those arrested.

In June, three people were charged after confrontations between police and protesters as City crews evicted those living in encampments at Trinity Bellwoods Park.