Three people have been arrested after members of Toronto's homeless community and their supporters gathered to protest charges previously laid against them after authorities cleared encampments from city parks this summer.
The group gathered outside Toronto Mayor John Tory's condo Thursday, vowing to fight charges laid in connection with police officers removing homeless encampments in Toronto parks.
One of the largest confrontations happened on June 21, when 26 people were arrested at Toronto's Lamport Stadium park.
The group says more than 50 people in total face a variety of charges and tickets, which they argue should be dropped.
They say the operations left some people with broken bones, concussions and cuts after they clashed with police.
On Thursday, during a planned protest against the charges, which began at Tory's condo and ended outside 14 Division police station, three more arrests were made.
Police say one man was charged with failing to comply with a recognizance, while another man and woman were arrested for assault with a weapon and weapons dangerous.
During the event, four officers stood behind barricades protecting the entrance to Tory's condo, with more officers on police horses standing a block away.
Crowds shouted their approval as those who had been arrested at Lamport Stadium, which was described several times as a "militarized siege," spoke about their experience while calling for long-term solutions to homelessness. One suggested solution was for all three levels of government to work together to create not-for-profit homes that will help ease the housing crisis.
Tory's spokesperson Lawvin Hadisi criticized the demonstrators for gathering outside Tory's home, branding it "political theatre."
"I have no idea why anyone would organize a protest outside the mayor's private home on a weekday while he is working at city hall – a public place where people can and do come and protest," she said.
"This is definitely not the best way to engage in any serious dialogue.
"Protesting outside someone's private home won't help get affordable housing built."
Hadisi said the city had allocated $663.2 million to "homelessness and housing-first solutions" in 2021, almost double the amount spent in 2019 at $365.8 million.
More than 1,858 people staying in encampments have been referred to "safe inside spaces" since April 2020, she added.
Police also said Thursday they are searching for eight other people in connection to the Lamport Stadium park encampment clearing.
They say the people are wanted for several offences, including possessing a dangerous weapon, assault with a weapon, assault and obstruction after "crowds became hostile" outside 14 Division station on June 21.
While arrests were made at the time, police say investigators had been "actively working to identify others involved who are wanted on a variety of charges."
Early in the pandemic, hundreds fled Toronto's homeless shelters for fear of contracting COVID-19, setting up tents in parks throughout the city.
However, the city says its shelter system is safe, and has been working to move people into indoor accommodation, such as hotels and rent-geared-to-income units. The city's Streets to Homes workers provide outreach and support for those sleeping rough to find suitable housing, it says.
People experiencing homelessness, however, say they struggle to find suitable housing amongst the thousands of others living in the city's shelter system, spending years on waiting lists for permanent housing.
Many turn to pitching tents in parks where they feel safer and more comfortable than in overcrowded shelters. The city's shelter data indicates it has 6,514 temporary spaces for more than 8,300 people actively experiencing homelessness.