[Hpn] OCAP squats former Toronto Police HQ

Graeme Bacque gbacque@colosseum.com
Sun, 14 Nov 2004 02:00:42 -0500

The former Toronto police headquarters on Jarvis Street was briefly 
occupied by several hundred protesters during a spirited rally on 
Saturday afternoon.

The event, which included involvement by numerous homeless people, was 
organized by the Ontario Coalition Against Poverty. Following a meal and 
speeches at All Saints Anglican Church, the lively group of over 400 
people made its way  through the streets north to the Jarvis St. site. 
Banners were deployed from several windows of the six-storey building as 
the demo arrived, and more people scrambled inside through the opened 
front doors.

The police response was swift and drastic as yellow-jacketed  cops 
barged into the crowd, pepper-spraying several people and forming a line 
between demonstrators and the building Around the back more cops in full 
riot gear entered the building, threating to arrest those who didn't 
leave. In the end, 14 people were removed by the  police and taken to 
Toronto's 51 Division. As of one o'clock Sunday morning all but one had 
been released after being charged with trespass. A bail hearing will 
take place later Sunday morning for the one remaining arrestee.

This building (which still had heat, electricity and running water) is 
just one of many publicly-owned structures the City of Toronto has been 
trying to divest itself of.  After the police moved into their shiny new 
HQ on College St. in the late 1980's, this site found use as a Social 
Services office until its sale to a developer for over eight million 
dollars a couple of years back, since when it has sat empty The site is 
currently slated for condo development.

During the municipal election campaign last fall Toronto's new Mayor 
David Miller came into power on promises to  start addressing the issue 
of homelessness by (among other things) developing a plan to retrofit 
old City-owned buildings for use as housing. A year later and nothing 
has happened toward this goal, and homeless people who congregate for 
safety  under the City's bridges or parks are facing escalating 
harassment by police and city bylaw officers.

One right-wing City Council member has even recommended banning homeless 
people from sleeping in City Hall Square, although even the cops 
themselves have sometimes advised street people to go there as it is 
considered one of the safer places to spend the night. (On average there 
are fifty to eighty people sleeping outside Toronto's City Hall on any 
given night). Another action involving an overnight sleepover outside 
City Hall by housing activists is being planned for next Sunday night 
(November 21) by the Toronto Disaster Relief Committee.

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