City says residents have been offered spaces in shelters or hotels for months
Toronto police say they have made several arrests amid clashes with protesters as city crews dismantled part of a homeless encampment in the Liberty Village area on Wednesday.
Police showed up at the site near Lamport Stadium, south of King Street West near Dufferin Street, on bikes and horses on Wednesday morning.
Const. David Hopkinson, spokesperson for the Toronto Police Service, said one arrest is in connection with an assault on an officer. Others were for trespassing offences. None of the people arrested were residents of the encampment, he said.
Hopkinson said at least two officers have been treated for minor injuries.
According to the Encampment Support Network (ESN), an organization that has sprung up to help unhoused people living outside, five protesters were injured and two of those five were arrested. One person was detained at Toronto Police 14 Division and a large crowd waited outside until he was released.
Police confirmed that he is no longer at the station. There has been no word on charges.
A video taken near the encampment shows officers shoving at least one protester into a police vehicle.
Simone Schmidt, a member of ESN, described the treatment of protesters by police on Wednesday as “unconscionable.” She added: “Mayor John Tory has to answer for this. There has to be some kind of solution other than violence.”
The city has told those living in tents and makeshift structures near Lamport Stadium that they have to move to shelters or alternative housing instead of remaining in the west end park.
The eviction that began on Wednesday morning was met with protests, with dozens yelling “shame” as city workers, some dressed in hazardous material suits, broke down tents and loaded them into garbage trucks. At other points, demonstrators locked arms to make human chains around tents.
Encampment Support Network tweeted that people at the site did not want to leave.
“This is forced displacement,” the organization tweeted.
The city has been clearing encampments in recent weeks, noting they violate city bylaws. A trespass notice was sent to those living at the site last week.
City spokesperson Brad Ross said outreach workers have visited Lamport 107 times since January to offer alternative spaces. At one point, he noted, a propane tank exploded at the site resulting in a serious fire.
“Living outside has a significant, negative impact on overall health and the well-being of people,” Ross said in an email.
“Encampments are not an indefinite solution to unsheltered homelessness and the health outcomes for people who stay outside are complex and serious.”
Ross said the options for those being displaced include shelters or hotel rooms.
“By coming inside … people are provided with a number of supports, including a housing worker, meals, laundry, showers, harm reduction and medical assistance,” he said.
15 hours ago2:09On Wednesday, Toronto Mayor John Tory told reporters that encampments are unsafe, unhealthy and illegal. He said the city decided it was time to dismantle it. 2:09
It’s unclear how many people were living at the Lamport encampment or where they’ll go next — some suggested to a CBC videojournalist they’d prefer to remain outside.
Police, meanwhile, said in an email statement they sent officers to the scene as a “last resort” and warned if people refuse to leave they may be issued a trespassing ticket.