Toronto spent nearly $2 million clearing homeless encampments in Trinity Bellwoods, Alexandra Park and Lamport Stadium

The city spent nearly $2 million to remove homeless people from three large encampments in parks this summer, clean up debris and erect fencing, according to a new report released Friday.The report details the final costs for the enforcement of trespassing notices to people who set up tents at Trinity Bellwoods Park, Alexandra Park and Lamport Stadium.The financial breakdown included money for city and private security, Toronto Police, fire and paramedics, the removal of debris, and personal protective equipment. That total came to $840,127, with Trinity Bellwoods enforcement responsible for nearly half of that total.The report notes that after the clearout, city staff had to take “unprecedented action” to clean up and remediate the three parks to enable general use by the public. That cost — $792,668 — included the removal of 30 tonnes of debris, and 25 tonnes of contaminated grass, soil and sand, the city report states.Landscaping included the laying of seed and fertilizer, aeration and the inspection and in some cases removal of damaged trees.Fencing costing $357,000 was put in place to keep people out of the parks and allow time to make the needed repairs, including landscaping, the city report says.Since the arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic, large numbers of homeless people set up tents and lived in these parks, with many complaining that they felt the city’s shelters were unsafe for them due their concerns about overcrowding, personal safety or the spread of the coronavirus.But residents who rent or own homes near these parks complained the parks were taken over by homeless people, depriving them of places to congregate, play sports, walk their dogs and for their children to play in.After simmer tensions came to a boil, the city along with Toronto police came in after issuing trespassing notices and removed the encampment dwellers — in late June at Trinity Bellwoods and late July at Alexandra Park and Lamport. The July 21 eviction turned violent with police using pepper spray on protesters and pushing them to the ground.Over 20 people were arrested.The parks were later opened to all residents, including for kids’ summer day camps at Alexandra Park that had been closed due to the encampments, a splash pad, pool, skateboard park and community garden. Permits to use Lamport’s sport field that had been cancelled during that encampment have since been resumed.“City staff continue to help people move to safe indoor spaces and out of unsafe, unhealthy and illegal encampments,” the city report says.The city says that since the start of the pandemic it has referred 835 people from four major encampments — including Moss Park, where tents are still in place — to indoor housing.A spokesperson for the city said the number of those people who remain housed wasn’t immediately available, but it’s a figure Coun. Kristyn Wong-Tam wants Toronto to work on getting.“I did submit an administrative inquiry letter, specifically asking (city staff) those questions — how many people were able to successfully gain a pathway indoors?” she asked.“At the end of the day the time and energy spent — did we get the outcomes and have those results been sustained — are people still indoors?“If the answer is no, that people left encampments but instead scattered under bridges or into ravines but not indoors to safe accommodations, then I don’t believe we entirely achieved our (goals),” Wong-Tam said in an interview.The encampments contravene several chapters of the city’s Municipal Code and are “not a solution to homelessness,” the city report says.“The city has released the costs of the three large encampment clearings so as to be fully accountable about what was needed to make sure city staff, homeless residents and the public were kept safe from protesters absolutely hell-bent on confronting authorities,” Mayor John Tory said in a statement Friday.“The information released also shows the cost of repairing our parks from the damage caused over time by the encampments, in addition to the sacrifice made by many Toronto residents who were denied use of these public spaces for an extended period of time,” he went on to say.But city councillor Josh Matlow took a different approach, tweeting that the money spent could have gone toward housing the homeless.“It cost Toronto taxpayers $840,127.00 for 3 violent encampment clearings that simply pushed vulnerable people to our city’s laneways, streets and other parks.“For the same cost, Toronto (could have) provided stable housing for 58 of these people in bachelor units at the CMHC average,” Matlow tweeted, referring to the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation, a national housing agency that helps Canadians access affordable housing options.Zoë Dodd, a harm reduction worker and a co-organizer of the Toronto Overdose Prevention Society, tweeted “the city admits they spent $2 million violently evicting about 60 people from the encampments in the parks. Imagine what we could have done with $2 mi

Toronto spent nearly $2 million clearing homeless encampments in Trinity Bellwoods, Alexandra Park and Lamport Stadium

The city spent nearly $2 million to remove homeless people from three large encampments in parks this summer, clean up debris and erect fencing, according to a new report released Friday.

The report details the final costs for the enforcement of trespassing notices to people who set up tents at Trinity Bellwoods Park, Alexandra Park and Lamport Stadium.

The financial breakdown included money for city and private security, Toronto Police, fire and paramedics, the removal of debris, and personal protective equipment. That total came to $840,127, with Trinity Bellwoods enforcement responsible for nearly half of that total.

The report notes that after the clearout, city staff had to take “unprecedented action” to clean up and remediate the three parks to enable general use by the public. That cost — $792,668 — included the removal of 30 tonnes of debris, and 25 tonnes of contaminated grass, soil and sand, the city report states.

Landscaping included the laying of seed and fertilizer, aeration and the inspection and in some cases removal of damaged trees.

Fencing costing $357,000 was put in place to keep people out of the parks and allow time to make the needed repairs, including landscaping, the city report says.

Since the arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic, large numbers of homeless people set up tents and lived in these parks, with many complaining that they felt the city’s shelters were unsafe for them due their concerns about overcrowding, personal safety or the spread of the coronavirus.

But residents who rent or own homes near these parks complained the parks were taken over by homeless people, depriving them of places to congregate, play sports, walk their dogs and for their children to play in.

After simmer tensions came to a boil, the city along with Toronto police came in after issuing trespassing notices and removed the encampment dwellers — in late June at Trinity Bellwoods and late July at Alexandra Park and Lamport. The July 21 eviction turned violent with police using pepper spray on protesters and pushing them to the ground.

Over 20 people were arrested.

The parks were later opened to all residents, including for kids’ summer day camps at Alexandra Park that had been closed due to the encampments, a splash pad, pool, skateboard park and community garden. Permits to use Lamport’s sport field that had been cancelled during that encampment have since been resumed.

“City staff continue to help people move to safe indoor spaces and out of unsafe, unhealthy and illegal encampments,” the city report says.

The city says that since the start of the pandemic it has referred 835 people from four major encampments — including Moss Park, where tents are still in place — to indoor housing.

A spokesperson for the city said the number of those people who remain housed wasn’t immediately available, but it’s a figure Coun. Kristyn Wong-Tam wants Toronto to work on getting.

“I did submit an administrative inquiry letter, specifically asking (city staff) those questions — how many people were able to successfully gain a pathway indoors?” she asked.

“At the end of the day the time and energy spent — did we get the outcomes and have those results been sustained — are people still indoors?

“If the answer is no, that people left encampments but instead scattered under bridges or into ravines but not indoors to safe accommodations, then I don’t believe we entirely achieved our (goals),” Wong-Tam said in an interview.

The encampments contravene several chapters of the city’s Municipal Code and are “not a solution to homelessness,” the city report says.

“The city has released the costs of the three large encampment clearings so as to be fully accountable about what was needed to make sure city staff, homeless residents and the public were kept safe from protesters absolutely hell-bent on confronting authorities,” Mayor John Tory said in a statement Friday.

“The information released also shows the cost of repairing our parks from the damage caused over time by the encampments, in addition to the sacrifice made by many Toronto residents who were denied use of these public spaces for an extended period of time,” he went on to say.

But city councillor Josh Matlow took a different approach, tweeting that the money spent could have gone toward housing the homeless.

“It cost Toronto taxpayers $840,127.00 for 3 violent encampment clearings that simply pushed vulnerable people to our city’s laneways, streets and other parks.

“For the same cost, Toronto (could have) provided stable housing for 58 of these people in bachelor units at the CMHC average,” Matlow tweeted, referring to the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation, a national housing agency that helps Canadians access affordable housing options.

Zoë Dodd, a harm reduction worker and a co-organizer of the Toronto Overdose Prevention Society, tweeted “the city admits they spent $2 million violently evicting about 60 people from the encampments in the parks. Imagine what we could have done with $2 million.”

In an interview, Cathy Crowe, a street nurse in Toronto, referred to the $840,000 price tag for the trespass enforcement and compared that to rent supplements for people in Toronto.

“If you take $600 for a (monthly) rent supplement and give that to people over a year, over 120 people could have been housed. That’s how I first looked at that number when I saw it,” Crowe said.

Source : Toronto Star More   

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Washington braces for a second gathering of ‘domestic terrorists’

WASHINGTON—The fences went back up around the Capitol building on Thursday. The city is on high alert over a protest scheduled for Saturday in support of the insurrectionist rioters arrested on Jan. 6. The D.C. Metro Police Department will activate its entire force for the day. The Capitol Police have requested the National Guard be at the ready to assist. As the fences went up, neighbourhood resident Veronique Singh, who served in the Air Force during the time of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, choked up a bit when speaking to a Washington Post videographer about the Jan. 6 riots. “It was hard to see. Yeah, I think most veterans recognized the insurrectionists for what they were, domestic terrorists, you know. And — yeah, I never expected to see that happen here.”“Domestic terrorists.” The link she drew — between the Jan. 6 rioters and the foreign terrorists who have for two decades dominated U.S. security policy — was one also made by former president George W. Bush in his remarks on the anniversary of 9/11 in Shanksville, PA last Saturday. “There is little cultural overlap between violent extremists abroad and violent extremists at home,” Bush said. “But in their disdain for pluralism, in their disregard for human life, in their determination to defile national symbols, they are children of the same foul spirit.”As you might guess, Trump himself doesn’t see it that way. In a statement Thursday, Trump said “Our hearts and minds are with the people being persecuted so unfairly relating to the Jan. 6 protest concerning the Rigged Presidential Election.”For their part, Saturday’s protest organizers have tried to distance themselves from both Trump and the threat of violence. They’ve asked attendees not to wear any Trump clothing or bring signs or flags supporting him (or any other partisan political messages), and have emphasized calls for non-violence.Matt Braynard, the former Trump campaign staffer organizing the event, says it is focused on due process concerns for what he says are the “vast majority” of those arrested who did not personally commit any violence. “They’ve been charged with expressing their first amendment rights in a public building at the wrong place at the wrong time,” Braynard told CNN on Wednesday. Of course, in this case those people got into the public building by trampling police fences, smashing windows, and brutalizing police during hours of hand-to-hand combat. Their purpose inside the building was to prevent Congress from certifying the results of the election, and they invaded the Senate chamber and ransacked congressional offices to do it. They chanted for the deaths of elected officials. They erected a gallows on the front lawn. But there’s a fair chance Braynard’s promise of a peaceful demonstration Saturday will be realized: after intelligence reports raised significant fears about the protest over the past month and authorities mobilized in preparation, it has been reported that online chatter in extremist groups has encouraged the most militant from skipping the event. Congress is still in summer recess, the building will be empty. Yet the potential for political violence, and the memory of the recently demonstrated capacity to use it, still hangs in the air. On Thursday, an Ohio Republican congressman who voted to impeach Trump over Jan. 6 announced he would retire from politics, citing threats of violence to his family from Trump supporters as a main reason. The same day, a video went viral showing a New York City restaurant hostess being beaten by Texas tourists because she’d asked to see their proof of vaccination as the city’s laws require. Through the summer, there were waves of reports of school administrators being assaulted or threatened over mask mandates. Well before Jan. 6, election officials in many states were inundated with threats to themselves and their families. Prominent COVID health officials such as Dr. Anthony Fauci had their lives threatened. Last year, six men were arrested for a plot to kidnap Michigan’s Democratic governor.Some of this is explicitly tied to Trump and his false claims of election fraud (claims which about 78 per cent of Republicans now believe according to a recent CNN poll). Much of it is more generally tied to the conspiratorial right-wing circles in which a huge chunk of Trump’s supporters reside — those who see a tyrannical plot in every COVID-19 measure, Black Lives Matter protest, or plane full of immigrants.The upshot is that the threat of violence, on behalf of Trump specifically and the Republican party more generally, is now an implicit part of everyday U.S politics. Some Republicans try to disavow it: Sen. Lindsay Graham said if protesters get out of line on Saturday police should be ready to “whack ’em.” Others essentially embrace it. Rep. Madison Cawthorn told his supporters this month they should be “storing up ammunition,” because there would be “bloodshed” coming. Rep. Matt Gaetz said earlier this year the U.

Washington braces for a second gathering of ‘domestic terrorists’

WASHINGTON—The fences went back up around the Capitol building on Thursday. The city is on high alert over a protest scheduled for Saturday in support of the insurrectionist rioters arrested on Jan. 6. The D.C. Metro Police Department will activate its entire force for the day. The Capitol Police have requested the National Guard be at the ready to assist.

As the fences went up, neighbourhood resident Veronique Singh, who served in the Air Force during the time of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, choked up a bit when speaking to a Washington Post videographer about the Jan. 6 riots. “It was hard to see. Yeah, I think most veterans recognized the insurrectionists for what they were, domestic terrorists, you know. And — yeah, I never expected to see that happen here.”

“Domestic terrorists.” The link she drew — between the Jan. 6 rioters and the foreign terrorists who have for two decades dominated U.S. security policy — was one also made by former president George W. Bush in his remarks on the anniversary of 9/11 in Shanksville, PA last Saturday.

“There is little cultural overlap between violent extremists abroad and violent extremists at home,” Bush said. “But in their disdain for pluralism, in their disregard for human life, in their determination to defile national symbols, they are children of the same foul spirit.”

As you might guess, Trump himself doesn’t see it that way. In a statement Thursday, Trump said “Our hearts and minds are with the people being persecuted so unfairly relating to the Jan. 6 protest concerning the Rigged Presidential Election.”

For their part, Saturday’s protest organizers have tried to distance themselves from both Trump and the threat of violence. They’ve asked attendees not to wear any Trump clothing or bring signs or flags supporting him (or any other partisan political messages), and have emphasized calls for non-violence.

Matt Braynard, the former Trump campaign staffer organizing the event, says it is focused on due process concerns for what he says are the “vast majority” of those arrested who did not personally commit any violence. “They’ve been charged with expressing their first amendment rights in a public building at the wrong place at the wrong time,” Braynard told CNN on Wednesday.

Of course, in this case those people got into the public building by trampling police fences, smashing windows, and brutalizing police during hours of hand-to-hand combat. Their purpose inside the building was to prevent Congress from certifying the results of the election, and they invaded the Senate chamber and ransacked congressional offices to do it. They chanted for the deaths of elected officials. They erected a gallows on the front lawn.

But there’s a fair chance Braynard’s promise of a peaceful demonstration Saturday will be realized: after intelligence reports raised significant fears about the protest over the past month and authorities mobilized in preparation, it has been reported that online chatter in extremist groups has encouraged the most militant from skipping the event. Congress is still in summer recess, the building will be empty.

Yet the potential for political violence, and the memory of the recently demonstrated capacity to use it, still hangs in the air.

On Thursday, an Ohio Republican congressman who voted to impeach Trump over Jan. 6 announced he would retire from politics, citing threats of violence to his family from Trump supporters as a main reason. The same day, a video went viral showing a New York City restaurant hostess being beaten by Texas tourists because she’d asked to see their proof of vaccination as the city’s laws require. Through the summer, there were waves of reports of school administrators being assaulted or threatened over mask mandates. Well before Jan. 6, election officials in many states were inundated with threats to themselves and their families. Prominent COVID health officials such as Dr. Anthony Fauci had their lives threatened. Last year, six men were arrested for a plot to kidnap Michigan’s Democratic governor.

Some of this is explicitly tied to Trump and his false claims of election fraud (claims which about 78 per cent of Republicans now believe according to a recent CNN poll). Much of it is more generally tied to the conspiratorial right-wing circles in which a huge chunk of Trump’s supporters reside — those who see a tyrannical plot in every COVID-19 measure, Black Lives Matter protest, or plane full of immigrants.

The upshot is that the threat of violence, on behalf of Trump specifically and the Republican party more generally, is now an implicit part of everyday U.S politics.

Some Republicans try to disavow it: Sen. Lindsay Graham said if protesters get out of line on Saturday police should be ready to “whack ’em.”

Others essentially embrace it. Rep. Madison Cawthorn told his supporters this month they should be “storing up ammunition,” because there would be “bloodshed” coming. Rep. Matt Gaetz said earlier this year the U.S constitution’s second amendment was to protect the ability to “maintain an armed rebellion against the government” and said “I think we have an obligation to use it.” In January, immediately after the insurrection attempt, a Wisconsin GOP chairman told supporters to “prepare for war” and a California GOP official posted on social media “The war had begun! Citizens take arms!” Trump has spent months portraying Ashli Babbitt, the insurrectionist who was shot on Jan. 6, as a martyr.

What do you call the threat of violence for political ends? You could call it terrorism. You could also call it a fact of contemporary American politics.

That threat feels vivid to many in Washington this week. The fences are back up. Even after they are removed, no one is likely to let their guard down.

Edward Keenan is the Star’s Washington Bureau chief. He covers U.S. politics and current affairs. Reach him via email: ekeenan@thestar.ca

Source : Toronto Star More   

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