As the 24-hour mark passed for the eviction deadline at the Regina tent encampment, several members of the Regina Police Service (RPS) were busy dismantling tents and arresting residents who became belligerent.
Regina city councillor Daniel Leblanc, who is offering assistance to folks who were arrested, said it’s saddening to watch the events at the tent encampment unfold.
“It’s sad that this is what it comes down to,” he said. “Not only will (they) not help these vulnerable people but (they) actually knocked them down when they try to help themselves. It’s a disappointment. It’s a disgusting and a disheartening use of city resources.”
Regina City Manager Niki Anderson released an email statement saying for public safety, fencing will be temporarily installed around the courtyard while cleanup is undertaken.
“The temporary fencing will remain in place until property repairs can be completed. City Hall will reopen to residents on Monday during regular business hours, and access to the front doors will be available from Victoria Avenue,” stated Anderson.
According to Regina police, 11 people were arrested Friday, on charges primarily related to obstructing a police officer. Police say around 50 calls for service were made during the time of the encampment.
Lorilee Davies, the deputy chief of the Regina Police Service, said police were contacted Thursday by Regina Fire to assist in the decommissioning of the camp.
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“Our role is simply public safety and to keep the peace,” Davies said. “If everyone was compliant and moved out, we would have had very little to do today.”
Earlier Friday, a man in a wheelchair was reported to have been arrested causing outrage by many.
Davies said police originally arrested him for obstructing a police officer, but after the man told police he needed help moving and that he was injured, he was put in a wheelchair and taken by EMS to hospital. He was released facing no charges, as Davies said officers used discretion to say he couldn’t avoid obstructing an officer.
Camp resident Pynk Mitton has lived at the encampment for 40 days. She said being at the tent encampment was a community and felt like a family.
“We’re all here for the same purpose, to be housed (and) to have our rights heard,” said Mitton. “Just because we’re homeless, why should our right to be taken away from us? That’s disgusting in so many levels … Mayor Masters says she wants to eliminate homelessness. This isn’t the way to go about it. This is not the way.”
Another camp resident Spottedhorse Vincent Wolfe is also someone who identifies as a homeless man.
“A tent is a not a home, but it is right now,” he said. “It’s my home … and I’m not leaving until everyone here is in a safe place.”
Members of the RPS have started taking down tents after the Regina Fire Chief made the decision following a fire that they had to put out on Thursday morning.
The Regina Fire and Protective Services chief said the decision to shut down the tent encampment was made with the intention of protecting the lives of those living there and in response to an imminent risk to their safety.
“I’m exercising my authority under the Fire Safety Act,” Chief Layne Jackson said Thursday. “A significant fire earlier this morning at the encampment confirms that the lives of those living on the encampment are at imminent risk.”
It was a decision that was fully supported by Regina Mayor Sandra Masters.
“Chief Jackson and the entire fire services who have been on-site every day since the camp started (who) responded to issues, they have my full support,” said Masters.
Davies said police officers could be present into the evening.
“Our officers will be out there for the next couple of hours, but it is our understanding the city has extra staff in place to ensure the facilities are secure,” Davies said. “So I envision our officers will be able to leave before the night is out.”
— with files from Andrew Benson