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City staff began removing hacked signs posted on fencing that read "city housing crisis is underway"
Toronto activists designed and posted signs at Trinity Bellwoods to call out the city’s behaviour following the forced and often violent response to people protesting encampment evictions at that park, Alexandra Park and Lamport Stadium.
In a statement, TOparks: Housing Not Violence, an advocacy group made up of Toronto residents living near the encampments, too credit for placing the signs at Trinity Bellwoods.
The activists’ signs, which city staff began removing Saturday morning, mimic the “park remediation underway” signage currently posted on the fencing erected when police, city staff and private security forcefully removed unhoused people.
Designed by Sean Martindale, the activists’ signs makes statements like “police brutality is underway” and “city housing crisis is underway.” The signs include QR codes to a TOparks website that challenges the city’s narrative on the forced encampment evictions with photos videos and first-hand accounts.
“A human-rights based approach to housing people is possible, because people who work with unhoused populations have already created the blueprint,” says the statement. “This makes the violence perpetrated by the police and the City during the evictions all the more devastating.
“TOparks: Housing Not Violence hopes to encourage park goers to learn more about the events of the forced evictions and why people are living in parks to begin with, in an attempt of driving compassion, understanding, and support for our neighbours.
City officials have said encampments violate several chapters of the Municipal Code, are unsafe and are fire hazards. On Friday, the city said in a statement that 152 people staying in encampments, including 43 people in the past week, have been referred to indoor spaces since June 15.
Following the clearing of the Lamport Stadium encampment on Wednesday, photos and videos of police pushing, pepper spraying and hitting protestors that formed a barricade around the encampments have gone viral. Police arrested 26 people after the city ordered police to clear protestors from the park.
In a statement to media, police said the crowds “became confrontational and hostile,” and that people threw objects at officers, an officer was spat at and an “unknown noxious substance” was sprayed at police.
In an interview on the CBC Radio program Metro Morning on Friday, Mayor John Tory said he hadn’t seen the videos and photos circulating online and suggested the protestors instigated the violence. “Who started it?” he said. “Who started the violence?”
City councillors Shelley Carroll, Mike Layton, Josh Matlow, Gord Perks and Kristyn Wong-Tam have since published an open letter condemning police violence.
“We demand an end to the violence and extreme show of force,” the letter reads. “There is absolutely no need for batons, pepper spray or even guns, not when the work should be done by the City’s Streets to Home staff and other outreach workers.”