Twenty-six people were arrested on Wednesday as City of Toronto officials and police officers cleared out a homeless encampment at Lamport Stadium.
The action comes a day after the city cleared an encampment in downtown at Alexandra Park.
City staff supported by police were at the stadium encampment, located in the area of Dufferin and King streets, enforcing trespass notices issued to people last month.
A fence was erected around the encampment prior to the operation.
A number of protesters were on scene with signs in support of the encampment residents and also formed a barricade around the park using pallets. Some signs read “safer here” and “we need to take care of each other.”
Just before 2 p.m., police said protesters refused to leave the park and at least one officer was sprayed by an “unknown substance.”
Global News observed protesters forming human chains and police breaking them up. Tents were being ripped down and Global News saw some people being led away by officers in handcuffs.
Scuffles broke out and officers were seen pushing some individuals.
Officers eventually cleared out demonstrators from the park.
Police said a total of 26 arrests were made, some for criminal offences.
Three officers were also injured after objects were thrown at police, an officer was spat at, and an “unknown noxious substance” was sprayed, police said.
No one had to be taken to hospital to be treated for injuries.
Police said to date, there have been more than 200 calls for service “generated from the encampment.”
In a news release issued Wednesday evening, City of Toronto officials said that when staff went to Lamport Stadium park in the morning, there were 11 people living there.
A total of 30 structures were removed “as well as knives, an axe, a hatchet, propane tanks and car batteries.”
Two people eventually accepted a referral to a shelter or hotel program, while three left on their own accord, five already had space in a shelter, and one declined an offer of permanent housing, the release said.
“Protesters today at Lamport Stadium park indicated they would not leave the fenced area, preventing City staff from doing their jobs in assisting encampment occupants, and making the park safe and accessible for all,” the release continued.
“Protesters inside the fenced area were cautioned multiple times throughout the day that they needed to leave the area or would face possible arrest. As protesters remained in the area and refused to leave, the City requested TPS assistance in clearing the fenced area of the park.
“When the area was cleared by police of protesters, the City re-engaged with any encampment occupants who remained, and began the removal of structures and debris.”
City officials said people staying in an encampment are able to take two bags with them if they are going to a shelter or hotel, while items they can’t keep will be stored for 30 days.
Joey Mauger was among the Lamport 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.”
Violence flares as Toronto police clear homeless encampment
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.
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.”
Hundreds fled Toronto’s homeless shelters for fear of contracting COVID-19 when the pandemic hit and dozens of encampments popped up throughout the city.
Many who live in the camps previously told Global News the shelters and hotels offered by the City of Toronto aren’t a desirable option in part due to the limit on belongings and the rules and curfews imposed as well as other safety-related issues.
Toronto Mayor John Tory told reporters at an unrelated press conference Wednesday morning that there has consistently been “more than enough” vacancy in housing options for encampment residents.
“We have been making a continuous effort every single day,” Tory said about offering housing options.
The city has cited the risk of fires and the need to make parks accessible to everyone as factors behind the encampment clearings.
Officials also said the City continues to work to vaccinate those experiencing homelessness and has “an increased focus on infection and prevention control” measures in shelters. The City says the housing options offer food, washrooms and laundry facilities, and “the opportunity for strengthened community connections.”
Demonstration at 14 Division
Later Wednesday, a Tweet from the Encampment Support Network Toronto called for demonstrators to attend Toronto police 14 Division to demand that those who were arrested at Lamport Stadium park be released.
A heavy police presence was later observed at the police station, including officers on horseback and carrying riot shields.
Police said in a tweet shortly after 8 p.m. that “crowd members threw projectiles at officers” including soup cans and frozen bottles, injuring at least one officer. Three arrests were made there.
Police added that the crowd has since dispersed.
Meanwhile, police said nine people were arrested during the eviction of Alexandra Park encampment residents on Tuesday, seven of them for trespassing.
The city said 11 people from that encampment were referred to other housing spaces and 15 who left the site declined referrals.
A Canadian Press photographer covering the Alexandra Park clearing was arrested by Toronto City Corporate Security and removed from the area on Tuesday.
Tory said there were restrictions in place for media covering the evictions due to “safety” concerns. He said he asked for the arrest of the journalist to be looked into.
When asked whether the evictions will continue, Tory said the “option to safely rehouse” people will continue. But did not provide more details.
—With files from Nick Westoll and The Canadian Press
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