OCAP protesters escorted out of City Hall peacefully
Sandie Benitah and Chris Kitching, cp24.com
Published Friday, February 15, 2013 4:47PM EST
Last Updated Saturday, February 16, 2013 12:03AM EST
Nearly 40 activists were escorted out of city hall one by one after spending the day outside Mayor Rob Ford’s office protesting the lack of shelter beds available to the homeless.
Toronto police arrived at city hall at around 10 p.m. and began escorting people out of the building at 10:30 p.m., one hour after the doors to the building closed to the general public.
At least one person was led out in handcuffs and another had to be dragged out but most of the protesters were led out peacefully and without handcuffs.
Staff Insp. Howie Page told CP24 that all activists who were led out of the building were given a ticket and then released from custody.
“No one was detained, everyone reacted respectfully,” he said.
The protesters, many who had been there since 12:30 p.m., refused to vacate the building after being asked formally to leave by security staff and police.
A sergeant at 52 Division told the crowd if they didn’t leave, protesters would be charged under the Trespassing Property Act.
About a dozen people left, according to Toronto police, but many protesters remained, chanting angrily in response, ““We’re hungry, we’re angry we won’t go away,” “No more deaths,” and “Stop the war on the poor, make the rich pay!”
At one point, one man in the crowd yelled, “The homeless are dying, we have nowhere to go.”
Police told John Clarke, leader of the Ontaro Coalition Against Poverty, in front of the crowd that people will be “treated with dignity” but they are being given five minutes to leave before officers will start making arrests.
Clarke said the activists are prepared to stay and told the officer, “Do what you have to do.”
Police met with security staff as well as Clarke at around 10 p.m., inside Ford’s office to discuss an overnight plan for the protesters.
A few lawyers were also present in the crowd, many of them representing various social groups as part of the Law Union of Ontario. They are there to provide emergency advice in the event anyone was arrested.
The city had said the protesters will have to leave at 9:30 p.m., but at 10 p.m., no one had been moved and the protesters remained inside, many sitting on the floor, some tapping a bongo drum.
The city says on a regular night shelters run at a high-occupancy rate of about 96 per cent.
Protesters with OCAP say that is simply not enough to shelter the number of homeless on the streets.
“We are demanding that the city stop lying about the situation and pretending that there are enough beds to meet the needs that exist,” OCAP said in a statement. “Lives have been lost because the shelters are full, many more are at risk and OCAP is taking the necessary action to challenge this appalling neglect.”
Coun. Adam Vaughan said earlier Friday he would call an emergency meeting of city council on Wednesday, saying the lack of shelter beds is at a “crisis” level.
Earlier in the day, Ford responded to the demonstration outside his office, saying he didn’t know why the protest was happening.
Speaking SSto reporters at the Canadian International Auto Show, Ford said there is enough space at shelters because some beds are not filled.
According to OCAP, 34 homeless people died in 2012 and six more have died this year.
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