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Canadian News Jul 20, 2021 7:19 PM EST

9 arrested as Toronto police dismantle Alexandra Park homeless encampment

Staff Supt. Randy Carter said around 100 officers assisted in the homeless encampment eviction at Alexandra Park.

9 arrested as Toronto police dismantle Alexandra Park homeless encampment
Alex Anas Ahmed Calgary, AB

Toronto police arrested nine individuals at Alexandra Park while dismantling the site's homeless encampment Tuesday morning.

Private security defended the perimeter of Alexandra Park as occupants were evicted by local law enforcement. The park was closed Tuesday to "ensure the safety of encampment occupants, city workers, and the public" during the operation, reports CTV News. Press was also restricted access.

Mayor John Tory said that the operation's success depended on keeping people out of the park, but commented that he had "no part whatsoever" in the decision to not allow media into the encampment. He maintained that previous evictions were peaceful for the most part.

On June 22, the city arrested around 25 homeless occupants living predominantly in tents. Protesters defended the occupants and three people were arrested following clashes with law enforcement.

"I stand by what we have done which is a reasonable, firm, but compassionate way of dealing with this where we offer, and we offer, and we offer ways to take people safely indoors to housing, but there does come a time when it comes to camping in parks, which is unsafe and illegal, where you have to take action," said Tory previously about the Trinity Bellwoods encampment.

Occupants at Alexandra Park received time before their eviction to pack two bags of belongings on site. The remaining items were collected and stored for pick up by its owners. "All individuals experiencing homelessness in this encampment … are being offered safe, indoor space, with access to meals, showers and laundry, harm reduction, physical and mental health supports, and a housing worker," wrote the city via press statement. The city added that law enforcement evicted 26 occupants, including seven who accepted refuge indoors.

Toronto police confirmed the nature of the nine arrests, who they intend to release at the end of day. One person was arrested for public intoxication, while another was arrested for an outstanding warrant. The remaining seven were trespassing.

"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 statement continued.

One encampment resident said he did not feel safe going to a shelter because they are "overloaded" and "unsafe." Like previous operations, dozens of police officers occupied the park, including members of the mounted unit.

Brad Ross, a spokesperson for the city, said the police were on the scene only to maintain the peace. "This is a city-led operation and city staff are working to get people to come inside. The police presence is to ensure that people remain safe and that the peace is kept," he said, adding that the encampment "significantly" impacted the surrounding area that cancelled a regional summer camp.

"We've officially closed the park today but for all intents and purposes, the park has not been accessible," Ross said.

The encampment resident continued: "All of this is not necessary. For the city to have their park back? This is the city’s fault for why this is all happening." Ross added: "All parks in the city need to be accessible and safe for everybody across the city and Alexandra Park is certainly no different."

Staff Supt. Randy Carter said around 100 officers assisted in the eviction. "We have resources in the background," Carter said. "I understand that all of the residents of the encampments have been served notice … This day was not, I don’t think, a surprise to the residents."

Carter clarified that the need for that many officers was a precaution in light of the altercations at previous evictions.

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