[Hpn] OCAP squats former Toronto Police HQ
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
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
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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