When the city announced the Sunday, July 17 deadline for those sleeping in Meagher Park (AKA People’s Park) to vacate the premises, many feared a repeat of last year’s eviction disaster on Spring Garden Road that resulted in 24 arrests and a child getting pepper sprayed. Now the deadline has passed, and so far, nobody has been evicted from People’s Park.
According to park volunteer Calista Hills, there are four people living there on and off, and two residents are staying in a hotel but still have belongings in the park. Hills believes they haven’t had the chance to speak to service providers yet about alternative accommodations. For that reason, she thinks the city will wait a few days before stepping in. Rumour has it that municipal staff will show up on or after Wednesday to take down any remaining tents and shelters.
According to the city’s plan, if there are no housing options available, the city will help residents of the park move to one of the four designated encampment spots. There are spaces left at some of them as of Monday. If a resident refuses to leave the park, the plan says “a negotiated settlement with municipal staff will be attempted,” and police will be used only as a last resort.
So far, police presence at People’s Park has been low. Volunteers keeping watch at the park did not see any cops on Monday or Sunday night. Police came by once on Sunday during the day, and a member of one of the freedom convoy-type groups that showed up to defend the space asked them to move down the street because they were making the park residents nervous. The police listened.
Going into Sunday, the freedom convoy groups were a bit of a wild card. “I was worried that them being here would cause escalation with the police earlier than it otherwise would have happened,” Hills says. But the reality was “the complete opposite.” “It was very peaceful. They brought a barbecue and hot dogs,” she says. Members of the group parked their cars around the perimeter of the park, and didn’t get ticketed. Park volunteers have been ticketed in the past. Hills says it was helpful to have presence from a group the police are reluctant to arrest—freedom convoy participants—because police are fine with arresting park residents or volunteers.
Hills says there’s a good chance that community members will show up to defend the park whenever the city does come in to try and take the shelters down, but of course it’s not possible to predict that with certainty. We’ll keep you updated either way.