Three people were arrested during a confrontation with police during the city’s attempt to clear a homeless encampment from Trinity Bellwoods Park today.
Advocates for the camps formed a human chain around the tents to protect them from being taken down and sported signs saying, “I support my neighbours in tents.”
Police erected six-foot-high metal fencing around the area to keep out the public while city staff talked with the camp’s residents.
Dozens of police were joined by about 100 private security personnel inside the fencing.
Despite early headlines about the the encampment being forcibly removed, the city insisted their staff were there there to talk to the camp’s two dozen residents and try to persuade them to move into safer, indoor homeless housing.
They were hindered by activists from outside the camp, according to Mayor John Tory.
“I don’t make decisions about where the police go, how many police show up, or how they conduct themselves when they’re there, that’s decisions that they make,” Tory told a later press conference.
“But I do think that the response yesterday was in response to the circumstances that were created there when hundreds of people showed up who were not the people experiencing homelessness that we were trying to help.”
These people were “unconnected to interactions of city staff and people living there,” Tory said.
The fencing was intended to protect the safety of city workers who were speaking to encampment residents to persuade them to come inside, he said.
The city’s efforts to clear camps is also to ensure the parks were available for the use of all citizens, Tory said.
He said the city had made up to 20,000 visits to all the different encampments in Toronto over the past several months to persuade residents living in parks to come inside.
The three people arrested were a 35-year-old woman charged with assault with a weapon, 23-year-old man charged with assaulting a peace officer and a 33-year-old man facing two counts of having dangerous weapons, according to a police press release.
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