By A.J. Whiters and Amie Tsang—originally posted in briarpatch
At the end of the third wave of COVID-19, the City of Toronto forcibly evicted about 30 unhoused people from Trinity Bellwoods Park. Videos from that day show police using pepper spray on supporters who showed up to protect their unhoused neighbours. New documents obtained through Freedom of Information requests show that in order to legitimize the violent evictions, City staff worked to control the media narrative around encampments, pre-determining media exclusion zones and inflating fire safety concerns in press releases.
Early in the morning on June 22, 2021, people living in and around Trinity Bellwoods Park noticed a temporary fence being erected around large areas of the park. The public would later find out that this fencing cost $139,109, while the private security and police protecting it added another $305,711. The fence was the physical enforcement of an exclusion zone, an area where police block public access – in this case, separating encampment residents from their supporters. And while members of the media are sometimes allowed inside exclusion zones (albeit with a police escort) to document what’s happening, at least five journalists say they were prevented from entering the exclusion zone that day.
Willms suspects his arrest was intended to “scare other journalists from crossing that fence.”