& the early hours interactions I had with Officer Rikpoff* and a recap of the events that the media are told to NOT talk about; that the mayor refuses to own up to, and that citizens can’t believe were anything more than ‘angry protestors looking for a fight.’
*For protection of myself, I’ve obscured the name of the officer I had my conversation with. I’ve been relayed that ‘he’s literally the worst’ by other persons in Toronto, and do not wish any ill-will on his person or family.
It is not lost on me that, at the time of writing this, a massive thunderstorm system is going over my home. My home, in question, is now well away from the city that I have decided to temporary flee from after four years of personal character development, whether for the better or the worse. This piece is meant to be a reflection that I wanted to partake in, and a specific conversation I desire to bring to the public’s attention. Note that, under Bill C-13, “the Canadian Bar Association recommends that the following be added to section 162.1: “No person shall be convicted of an offence under this section if the distribution, transmission, selling, making available or advertising that forms the subject-matter of the charge is for the public’s information or is a matter of public interest” of which, I will argue, my statement falls under (rather than ‘cyberbullying’ that C-13 defines). I am recounting the truth from my memory and condemning the act of police brutality that took place Wednesday, July 21st, 2021 — which should be a matter of public interest. Furthermore, all references and links belong to accessible resources (I’m not ‘leaking’ anything so much as making connections that anyone with a stable internet connection can) — therefore, I am protected by the Canadian Copyright Act under Fair Dealing which states “People can use fair dealing for research, private study, education, parody, satire, criticism, review, and news reporting.” I will also be crediting all sources to the original source (to the best of my knowledge).
On Wednesday morning, I approached Lamport Stadium with an orange Trainspotting sweater, blue jeans, white mask, and my hair down — as I appeared in Trinity Bellwoods one month prior, on June 22nd.
Trinity Bellwoods was my first act of ‘civil disobedience’ (as some may say — I call it ‘community support’) and it taught me two crucial things:
- The police have employed vile, ruthless figures that do not serve and protect anyone lesser than the corporate structures that John Tory brings into his city.
- I should have covered my appearance better than I did with my blonde hair, orange sweater, blue jeans, and white mask (as you can see from my Medium profile picture). I should have protected myself on the internet better — privatizing the majority of my social media or clearing it of evidence of my private life lest Toronto Police Services target me as a suspicious individual and cart me away in one of their many, MANY court-services vehicles:
On July 21st 2021, police moved into Lamport Stadium starting at 6AM. By 7:30AM, when I arrived, the fences were already up. From my experience in Trinity Bellwoods, I made the decision to remain outside the fence line — and I am severely grateful that I did as the police instigated violence at approximately 1300h when they told media to leave the park ‘or they will get punched.’
TW: Police Violence to follow
They then proceeded to ‘[carry] out enforcement, responding proportionately and using minimal force’ by way of grabbing one young person by the throat and throwing them to the ground; breaking another human’s arm; tightening the handcuffs of another arrestee when they cried and asked for compassion; delivering several concussions and placing someone in the hospital for 8 weeks (you can watch video footage of this ‘proportionately minimal force’ happening here); shoving protestors to the ground; and deliberately putting a knee to someone’s neck despite Chief Mark Saunders announcing that this tactic is not taught nor enforced in the police academy.
But aggression is a pass-time for Toronto Police (like here; here; and here), right along with lying — even at Lamport Stadium when ‘an unknown noxious substance sprayed at police’ was used as evidence towards the protestors inciting the violence … even though Doug Johnson Hatlem, street pastor with SanctuaryTO, personally witnessed — along with a representative at ALAB Clinic — the rookie officer accidentally spraying himself in the face with his own pepper spray. This was, allegedly, met by hearty laughter from his coworkers — I use ‘allegedly’ because I wasn’t present to their bout of laughter. But I was present to others, and it doesn’t surprise me that people on the police force would find it hilarious that their comrade injured himself. It doesn’t surprise me because I heard another bout of laughter shortly after one officer watched a civilian leaving the fenced area and said ‘one less person to arrest for trespassing’. (Note: By 8AM, it was not formally announced that all those within the fence would be charged with trespassing — a $60.00 fine and slap on the wrist; a laughable offense when the ‘trespassing’ in question takes place in a public park, fenced off with cheap iron and zipties only a few hours prior — yet the police force had clearly been notified well before then what the situation was, and were apparently very excited to enforce it.)
If you are scrolling passed my bit about the blatant police violence, stop here.
As someone that suffers ‘general anxiety and depression disorder’ with a tendency to become enraged by injustice, blatant abuses of power (and an overall show of sociopathy), I am, admittedly, grateful I left when I did (and recognize my immense privilege in being able to take care of myself in that capacity).
I walked away from Lamport at 11AM, determined to return but never did, and only watching the events unfold online. What happened after I left at Lamport and at the 14th Division has been heavily documented online (as you can see from my links above) and a statement has been released by the Encampment Support Network (ESN) specifically about July 21st. I encourage everyone reading this to add their name to the demands, which include:
1. John Tory’s immediate resignation for the violence he has inflicted on working class people in this city;
2. End encampment evictions: repeal the bylaws criminalizing people who reside in parks until they leave on their own terms to permanent housing they deem safe and accessible;
3. Drop the provincial and criminal charges against everyone arrested at encampment evictions, including at Lamport Stadium, and in the aftermath outside 14 division on July 21st, 2021;
4. Adopt the recommendations made by the Toronto Drop-In Network in “A Path Forward”.
But the protestors instigated all the violence! Some people just want to watch the world burn! The police wouldn’t have had to do all of that if the protestors weren’t causing issues and the encampment residents moved into the shelters John Tory provided!
There’s a lot to unpack about that statement and sentiment. For one, as a ‘protestor’ who has occupied more than one of these rallies, the protestors have never instigated violence against police officers from inside the fence — at Trinity Bellwoods, violence only broke out as we panicked, hearing that we may be pepper sprayed. At Lamport, “it seems very clear that the police initiated it” according to University of Toronto criminologist, Julius Haag (to the Toronto Star). And the reality is that Toronto has provided nothing more than inadequate closets festering with black mold and ‘safe shelters’ that are actually rife with violence and self-harm.
But but what kind of solutions are there!? There’s no magic wand John Tory has that can make this all go away —
No, but he sure is trying, isn’t he? 80% of the common Toronto pedestrians I happen across look scornfully at these encampments. There is no compassion or empathy in their eyes — just pity, if its a good day. Yet the reality is that any single one of them can experience being unhoused, especially with renovictions being on the rise.
Perhaps, instead of investing $22,477,605.51 in a security firm that preys on migrant workers by promising above-average minimum wage, Toronto can put that money into actual affordable housing. Perhaps, instead of dolling out hundreds of six-digit salaries to the Toronto Police Service for bullying and traumatizing civilians, Toronto can allocate those funds for mental health programs that the police service so obviously needs. Perhaps instead of blatantly disregarding Toronto Drop In Network’s A Path Forward, mayor John Tory can not only read it, but sincerely consider it. Alternatively, he can resign, and vacate the position for someone that has empathy, compassion, and the courage to defund capitalist venture missions and a paramilitary police force.
EDIT as of August 15th 2021:
Another suggestion can be to revise the article “City of Toronto continues to support people experiencing homelessness” by reviewing a dictionary of words, as ‘continues’ implies ongoing action and ‘support’ (verb) is defined as:
- bear all or part of the weight of; hold up
- give assistance to, especially financially; enable to function or act
and I find it incredibly alarming and Orwellian that Toronto implies sending in militant police forces to extract unhoused people, arresting journalists when they attempt to document the footage, and displacing peoples that have functioned communally until police have raided encampments. They can further review the UN’s National Protocol for Homeless Encampments in Canada; the CDC’s Interim Guidance on People Experiencing Unsheltered Homelessness; Public Health Ontario’s own Health Protection Actions for People Experiencing Homelessness during the Covid-19 Pandemic; and the Toronto City Council’s own CC34.1 Motion 2: “City Council reiterate its commitment to taking a housing first and human rights approach to housing those experiencing homelessness and ensuring that City staff develop and implement a response consistent with the findings of the Faulkner Inquest, specifically as it relates to the health and safety of those currently living in encampments” all as suggested by Health Providers Against Poverty. I would be remiss to not nod at A.J. Withers’ speedy Rapid FactCheck and give them a round of applause and commendations for the work they have done and continue to do for Toronto. Lastly, in reviewing the dictionary, you can review words like ‘Remediation’; ‘Restoration’ as it pertains to the environment; reflect that your remediation and restoration is actually a discontinuation of support for the resident’s that have called their parks ‘home’ and, if all else fails, you can (in Gru’s own words) ‘[leave them] the hell alone’.
A Conversation with Ripkoff
… a true story written as though it were television because honest-to-God it felt like it
EXT. LAMPORT STADIUM ENCAMPMENT
KORTNEE stands outside a flimsy orange-iron fence next her partner, [REDACTED]. Police officers are clustered in groups of 5–7 on the inside of the fence-line. RYAN-FNB approaches from behind, focusing on the clusters of police officers and the crowd of people that have gathered further inside to protect the encampments.
Hello! I have humanitarian aide I’d like to bring into the park!
The officers ignore the man’s words.
Can I please talk to someone who is willing to bring supplies into the encampment? I have food, water… gatorade… sandwiches…
The other officer’s laugh. There is an air of calloused, asshole energy — which is appalling given it is 7:30AM on a Wednesday.
Okay can… I … talk to anyone else about this? I have humanitarian aide: water, food, gatorade, sandwiches — for the people at Lamport Stadium.
A city worker in sunglasses approaches. His sunglasses do not obscure the stress wrinkles on his forehead and strained eyebrows, in a look one can only describe as ‘mildly, perpetually, constipated’.
I can assure you that everyone inside has plenty. They don’t need anything.
Maybe you shouldn’t speak on behalf of the residents who live-
CITY WORKER walks away. It is apparent no one has any desire to engage with those outside the fence. A news crew from CBC watches nearby. KORTNEE opens her phone camera and turns to RYAN-FNB:
Hi — do you mind if I get what just happened on camera? For documentary purposes?…
So … Just to reiterate.. uhm.. What just happened?
So I have humanitarian aide… food.. water, gatorade, sandwiches… and other supplies like that. I’d like to bring it into the people at Lamport Stadium. Uhm… I asked the … one of the police officials, who just said ‘No’. And then a city of Toronto official spoke on behalf of the residents inside and said ‘They don’t need anything.’ … And I said ‘perhaps maybe the city of Toronto people don’t speak on behalf of Lamport Stadium residents’ and I think that is exactly what’s going on.
KORTNEE puts her phone away as a Honda CRV backs up towards the officers on the inside of the fence. The hatch opens, revealing granola bars, bottles of water, and other supplies for the officers. One makes eye contact with [REDACTED] as he unwraps a no-name granola bar.
Thats disgusting. Hey — we’re sticking around for awhile, would you like a hand?
Yeah, that’d be great, actually. My name is Ryan.
I don’t like giving my name with these folks around…
That’s completely understandable and I respect your privacy and paranoia. Can you give me a hand to get some things to the fence? We’re just going to pile it up in anticipation of bringing it in.
The trio set off to RYAN-FNB’s vehicle and help unload. It is revealed he is with an organization in Toronto known as Food Not Bombs. The trio brings food to the south-east corner of the fence, near the respite shelter on the corner of Liberty Street and Fraser Avenue.
Hey! No! We’re not doing this!
We’re not allowing humanitarian aide into the fenced area?
As are you.
We have humanitarian aide here for the people inside the fence! We’d like to talk to someone!
Again, the words are fallen on deaf, apathetic ears. The police continue to stand in groups of 5–7, clumsily unwrapping granola bars and shooting water like it’s beer (at 7:50AM on a Wednesday). They have set up a pseudo-barricade with their bicycles that prevents anyone from approaching the fence properly.
KORTNEE [loudly to the camp]
HEY! DO YOU WANT WATER?!
Some of the officers turn. A voice from the encampments calls ‘Yes!’ back.
DO YOU WANT FOOD?
DO YOU WANT SANDWICHES?!
Hey hey what do you think you’re doing!?
RIPKOFF huffs and puffs and walks over to KORTNEE, [REDACTED], RYAN-FNB.
We aren’t doing this today!
We aren’t providing humanitarian aide today?
You know what you’re doing — yelling to those people, starting stuff. C’mon. Hey- I know you!
Yeah, and I know you. Kiproff, right?
Listen, guys… Its so early in the morning. The people inside these camps have food and water — they have a freaking barbecue going. They don’t need anything else. The sun has barely come up yet.
Yeah, I don’t believe you. I’d like to talk to the people at the camp — that’s why I was yelling.
You’re allowed food and water now so why aren’t they?
Yeah, I have a granola bar and a bottle of water because I have been here since 5AM and I haven’t had breakfast.
Oh, so you’re assuming the people there HAVE had breakfast?
Yeah, I am. And I don’t want to be here! You people just make us seem like the bad guys all the time, casting judgements and stuff on us police officers when we’re just like you. We don’t know why we’re here and we don’t want to be here-
Yeah, I don’t want to be here this morning either arguing with you-
Then you’re free to leave.
As are you. But I am here today to support my neighbours in tents. Why are you here today? Nobody is making you stay there.
Because my boss wants me to be here so I have to be here.
Who’s your boss?
Why are you so angry?
I’m not angry. Right now, I am terrified of you.
This makes RIPKOFF pause momentarily. KORTNEE makes eye contact with the body camera secured to the front of his vest and blinks. It does not blink back.
Exactly. Casting judgements.
Listen, this food is sitting in the sun and we’d really just like to bring it in.
It’s too early right now but, tell you what, in about an hour I’ll negotiate with my boss and see what I can do for you.
RIPKOFF walks away without response.
At 8:50AM, one hour after RIPOFF vaguely promised to negotiate bringing humanitarian aide into Lamport Stadium park, the food was still sitting at the corner of the fence. At this time, a crowd of 4 people total have gathered and the same message was relayed: “They are not letting anything come into the fence — I think they’re waiting the people out.”
“They’re starving them out?”
By 10:00AM the food remained outside the fence. At this time, the ambient temperature was already 25°C. Attempts of bringing our supplies over the fence was met with hostility and push-back under the guise of it ‘not being safe’ and reasons that, at Trinity Bellwoods, hurling supplies over the tops of fences caused harm. Police units followed us as we ran to the side, away from our stash at the corner, to prevent us from getting aide to the residents inside the fence. It felt like a game of capture the flag, in that one team was working strategically to get the flag from one side of the arena to the other — having infiltrated both sides — and the other team blundered about in armor, batons, tasers, pepper spray, and rubber bullets, willing one of us to step out of line so they have an excuse to use their new toys on us.
At 10:30AM it seemed the blue team was tuckered out, so we managed to successfully toss the warmed, fermenting supplies over the fence to the encampment (three hours after it originally arrived). This was to the great disapproval of a short man in a gray shirt, ball cap, and sunglasses — clearly irate and compensating for something he missed in his childhood — to yell at us, ‘We aren’t doing this again this time!’ To which a chorus of ‘We aren’t allowing humanitarian aide into the park?’ chimed back, to which he belligerently spat back ‘People got hurt last time stuff came over the fence!’ to which we replied, ‘Things wouldn’t have to go over the fence if we were free to enter the compound and leave our supplies in there.’