Hundreds of activists showed up at Lamport park in Toronto's west end Wednesday in an attempt to stop the city and police from removing dozens of homeless people from the park who had been encamped there since last year.
Camping is illegal in city parks, and as the pandemic eases, the city plans to clear out larger homeless encampments in order to give the spaces back to the residences of the neighbourhood.
Last week, the city went around the homeless encampment and posted trespass warnings and warned campers that they could face a $10,000 fine if they did not leave. The city offered assistance to the homeless members of the camp in an effort to move the squatters to hotel rooms or approved homeless shelters. According to the Canadian Press, only one woman took the city's offer and moved into a hotel; the others decided to press their luck.
For many, the rules and restrictions they must abide by in a city-run hotel or shelter is a non-starter. Many campers have also expressed the sense of community created in the encampment. "This is freedom, there is love here," said Bailey Kelly, a former occupant of the site. "I'm going to miss my new friends here. I don't have family, they've become my family." "They're criminalizing everyone living here, this is scary and traumatizing and just absolutely unnecessary," Kelly added.
Dozens of police officers, including eight on horseback, city security officials, and clean-up crews, appeared at the site, met by at least 100 activists. Several activists were arrested when they attempted to stop a bulldozer from removing a make-shift wooden house. The city only managed to remove one tent and two wooden structures. There remains other camps spread throughout the park, but the city says they left them "for the safety of all concerned."