Council was told security hired to prevent encampments wouldn’t make arrests. One councillor is questioning why city documents say otherwise.
On a cold February night last year, members of the Friends of Toronto and its affiliated groups occupied a small field east of Union Station, standing along the perimeter in a display of community unity and a bid for legal access to parks and recreation spots.
That night was supposed to be the first time the four groups would try to establish a presence in Toronto. The next morning, things would get ugly, something the organizers expected but didn’t prepare for.
They were outnumbered and outgunned overnight by roughly 1,000 people in police and security vehicles, wearing riot gear, who began their search. They arrested four people, including two women.
It was a brazen police action that shocked even the organizers, for it was clear the police had no intention of stopping the group.
The only thing more surprising than that evening’s police action was a document released to the Star by City of Toronto spokesperson Brad Ross.
It shows that, for the few months leading up to that January night, the city had decided to turn its back on a group that was intent on establishing a homeless encampment in the city’s downtown parks.
The city had begun to work with groups that opposed the encampment known as the City People’s Park Network, and had sought the services of a security company to assist with those efforts.
But on the night of Feb. 24, 2019, when the group first arrived at the Union Station site on Leslie St., security hired to stop the group didn’t carry out their plan. Instead they made arrests.
The police had also decided on that night not to make arrests against the four who had been arrested the night before. And they would not intervene to support the group or its efforts to establish a presence in Toronto parks.
“We believe the actions of the police on 24th January, 2019 and in the hours immediately afterwards did not reflect the decisions of the city,” the document says.
The document, which was part of a Toronto Parks, Forestry and Recreation department application to apply for a business licence for a homeless encampment in Leslie St. Park, says the city was acting on information provided by the security firm.
The document does not reveal the company’s contact with the city.