n Wednesday, dozens of Toronto Police officers broke their own barricade in front of 14 Division. to pepper spray the crowd, beating demonstrators at the front with their fists and nightsticks.
The peaceful crowd of roughly 200 people assembled in front of the police station at 350 Dovercourt Rd., just north of Dundas St. West. They had waited several hours for information about friends and demonstrators who were arrested around 2pm while defending homeless encampments at Lamport Stadium. Officers can be seen here shoving non-violent and unarmed people on Dovercourt Rd. and spraying several people with pepper spray.
A full thread of the afternoon from 14 Division onwards is viewable here: https://twitter.com/TheHoserMedia/status/1417979587695452161
The violence began around 6:30pm, over 12 hours after hundreds of residents and supporters arrived at Lamport Stadium to defend 14 encampment residents.
The final speaker who addressed the crowd before this was Sam Nithiananthan from People’s Defence TO. He stressed the need for the coalition and community members present to commit themselves to whatever is necessary to free their people, and make sure this cannot keep happening. The full video is available below:
According to the Encampment Support Network (ESN), 25 people were arrested that afternoon before the violence broke out at 14 Division. This number was repeated several times by a liaison relaying information between the police and ESN's lawyers. He updated the group several times, at one point clarifying near 5pm that the police could not release any information because those arrested and sent to 14 Division were “still in booking” four after their initial arrest.
Their lawyer was present and “ready to talk” to the police. He added that the four encampment supporters inside 14 Division were likely to face criminal charges.
At least two people were hospitalized during the earlier encampment defence actions, including Skyler Williams from 1492 Land Back Lane.
TPS supervisors with white shirts could be seen inside the glass-fronted building standing and watching the crowd, but did not come out. A black Chevrolet surveillance van loitered beside the crowd from 3pm to 5 pm.
Several demonstrators made large neon signs and blocked the surveillance van’s white top-mounted camera, as well as the two occupants’ cell phone camera lenses.
Around 5pm the crowd learned that the detained people at 11 Division were released. Many of them came over from 11 Division to support detainees at 14 Division. One speaker addressing the crowd said that “this type of support is essential,” adding that the police said nobody would be released today, and yet detainees at 11 Division were now free.
The police violence that began at 6:30pm but slowed down within a few minutes. Police in riot gear arrived from elsewhere in the city and carried shields.
The number of police quickly escalated from around 40 at the police-bike barricade to at least 100, bolstered by riot police and officers with orange-clad shotguns and ammunition labelled “non-lethal,” which an officer pointed to several times when an unarmed man approached them. “Please don’t shoot me,” he said on the sidewalk several meters away from the police line. Five officers on horses also arrived behind the police line.
By 7pm the crowd reorganized and walked east to Ossington Ave., moving north to avoid a rumoured police presence and van at Dundas St. and Ossington Ave.
As the crowd walked north on Grace St. approaching Christie Pits Park neighbours waved at the crowd, and so did occupants of several cars that were held up on the street due to heavy foot traffic.
At the park, a handful of organizers and Indigenous activists spoke about the urgency to continue showing up and defending the unhoused people in Toronto. Almost all of them used the word “proud” in their speeches to the community around them. At this point, nearing 8pm, there were dozens of people at Christie Pits who had been working to defend the unhoused people at Lamport Stadium since 4am — a 16-plus hour commitment.
Among the speakers were activist Miguel Martin Avila-Velarde, professor Beverly Bain, and author and activist Desmond Cole. An organizer who updated the crowd said there will be a demonstration outside Toronto Police Headquarters at 40 College St. at 5pm on Thursday, July 22, and suggested that this will be happening “every Thursday'' for the foreseeable future. The organizer urged people to come out and bring the flags of any marginalized and dispossessed people, including Indigenous and Palestinian flags.
Organizers urged people not to leave alone, offering friendly escorts from organizers and money for rides if necessary.
Skyler Williams of 1492 Land Back Lane spoke to The Hoser about his experience after a brief speech to the crowd. He was hospitalized for five hours earlier that day after being hit in the face by police officers at Lamport Stadium. His lip was visibly cut and swollen Wednesday evening.
“Our people have been showing that when we stick together [...] we do whatever it takes for our people to be able to stand our ground. It really is an amazing thing to see, because there’s just too goddamn many of us. As long as we push forward with that bit of love, that bit of unity between our nations, and really talk about what that means,” he said in response to questions about the future of encampment defence, and #LandBack. “All of this ‘Happy Indian’ bullshit we’ve been getting from the federal government and the province around reconciliation, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission calls to action, all of these issues that these politicians like to talk about? Those issues are dead if we’re not doing something to bring our brothers and sisters home that have been stolen.”
An Indigenous knowledge keeper was the last of the planned speakers before the sacred fire was lit in the park. In accordance with their customs, this final segment of the day was not recorded or photographed.
As of Wednesday evening there were still eight people detained, and two more newly released.
The Hoser is committed to continuing coverage of these stories, both live on Twitter as police actions happen, and afterwards in our reporting and investigations.