Toronto Rally Demands “Drop the Charges”

by Rob M. and Daniel T.    

On Sept. 16, 2021, for the umpteenth time, protestors gathered outside Mayor John Tory’s luxury condominium at 1 Bedford Road.  This episode of the “The Mayor Tory Gong Show” was brought to you by the Toronto Police Service.  On July 21, cops stormed an encampment at Lamport Stadium.  With considerable violence, Toronto police and private security staff evicted the people living there.  Police dished out the same violence to those who defended their house-less neighbours from eviction.  Twenty-six encampment defenders were charged, including Socialist Action member Corey David.  The charges are standard cop nonsense: “resist arrest”, “obstruct a peace officer”, “assault officer”, “trespassing”, etc..  

Due to the overtly political character of this state repression, the great majority of these charges will be withdrawn before a trial.  But that’s little consolation for the victims of police abuse.  In capitalist Toronto, state persecution of leftists is not designed exclusively to get criminal convictions.  The process is the punishment.  The punishment includes being beaten, handcuffed and dragged by police.  The punishment is being told you aren’t leaving the jail cell any time soon by a sneering, impetuous pig.  It’s listening to the crude, disgusting, prejudiced comments of the “officers” while they gloat about their bloated, undeserved salaries.

The state has been dragging encampment defenders through this sadistic process for months.  Lawyer Sima Atri, Indigenous land defender Skyler Williams, and many other speakers eloquently addressed this injustice to hundreds of supporters at the Stop, Drop, and Rollout the Housing press conference held outside John Tory’s luxury condo building.  Many of the other indignities and struggles faced by disabled, working poor, and racialized folks were called out as well.  The speakers’ passion and eloquence can be summed up in the simple demands;

“Stop the criminalization of encampments!”  “Drop the charges now!”  “Rollout affordable housing!”

Never happy to be embarrassed or inconvenienced, the capitalist cops took this opportunity to snatch three demonstrators from the crowd.  They were grabbed by undercover cops, and stuffed into black vans — seemingly straight out of a cloak & dagger spy show.  The charges are such a farce – approaching absurdity.  Skyler Williams was charged with “fail to comply with recognizance”.  Police charged the two others with weapons and assault offenses.  Not for anything they did today, but rather for actions they are alleged to have done two months ago.

Immediately following the conclusion of the ‘Stop, Drop, and Rollout the Housing’ news conference, the gathering of supporters learned that police arrested Skyler Williams.  Speculating that they took him to 14 Division, people began walking, biking, and driving there in droves to demand “Let our People Go!”

About a hundred people showed up at 14 Division, where they chanted together, fed each other and stood side-by-side!  While we kept each other safe, the police brandished their tools of violence.  Peaceful, unarmed protestors faced dozens of armed police officers, a contingent of horse-mounted cops, and circling helicopters and drones. 

Police issued a news release while protestors gathered outside 14 Division with photos of eight other encampment defenders that they seek to arrest on dubious charges.  At the press conference earlier in the day, one encampment defender described being concussed and arrested by police before later being charged with having a weapon.  What weapon?  A bottle of milk used to cleanse pepper spray from the eyes of protestors.  Trumped up charges are being used to target people resisting the City of Toronto’s continued attempts to make invisible our house-less neighbours.

Despite intense police intimidation and surveillance, people refused to leave 14 Division until police released all of our comrades.  We won this fight as all three people arrested walked free after a six hour standoff. Although a victory, protestors made clear that our fight is not over until all charges are dropped and the housing crisis in Toronto is resolved.

As we stumble through this fourth wave of COVID, the property-owning class and their cops are now more openly displaying their surreal arrogance and moral deficiencies.  More eyes will see this, as all is laid bare during the “new normal.”  Many people will begin to demand de-funding the police.  That is one quick way to address the sickness and decay that is evident everywhere in capitalist society.