Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Police Raids: How Cops and Landlords Work Together to Destroy Toronto Hoods

by Kabir Joshi-Vijayan
Basics Issue #9 (May 2008)

Since 2004, poor people in this city have had to deal with 6 major police attacks on their communities in Malvern, Galloway, Jamestown, Ardwick, Driftwood and most recently, the downtown East End. These raids involved hundreds of heavily armed cops and RCMP, undercover agents and paid snitches. They have arrested and jailed hundreds of youth, broken households and did absolutely nothing to address the conditions that force and lead people into crime in the first place. They seem directed more at terrorizing the people, and allowing the government, developers and landlords to further rob, destroy and vilify poor, black and racialized communities.

The most recent exposure of these raids was the 2005 police raid on Ardwick Boulevard, a small block off Finch and near Islington. Called “Project Flicker”, the sweep included over 300 cops who stormed the area as residents were still sleeping, arresting around 50 youth. The police claimed that all 50 were members of the Ardwick Blood Crew. Three years later, we find out that well over half of those arrested have been released, 20 were found completely innocent and the rest have had many of their charges dropped. In other words, this was definitely not the huge ‘threat’ the police and media had talked about back in 2005. A lawyer for one of the accused believes the mass arrests were aimed more at showing Toronto was ‘safe’ and open for business during a year when many people were shot in the city.

However the fact that so many innocent people are arrested assaulted and jailed by the cops during these attacks on our neighborhoods is no surprise to anyone who’s experienced a raid. When Driftwood (in Jane and Finch) was raided last summer, Police busted up houses and destroyed furniture, threatened kids and mothers with machine guns, and brutalized and handcuffed a number of people (including a grandmother) for simply being in the wrong house! Many of the people arrested didn’t commit any crime themselves, but were charged with ‘belonging to a criminal organization’, or with simply being in or renting a house where drugs and weapons were supposedly kept.

Besides exposing the violent and brutal tactics used by police, raids are also an example of how landlords and cops work together to oppress our communities. For example, after the 2005 raids on Jamestown (in Rexdale), which arrested around 100 people, TCHC (Toronto Community Housing) evicted the families of many of the youth arrested - before the youth were even put on trial! Many tenants have already been kicked out, while others have (and continue) to fight the notices. Despite the main and obvious point that a whole family has nothing to do with what one member does, the outcomes from other police raids show us that many of the people arrested were innocent to begin with.

The latest major raid TO cops have conducted happened this past February/March 2008. During a six week period, which included a major undercover operation and multiple raids, Police of 51 Division arrested almost 300 people in the Church and Seaton area (just east of Regent Park). According to police, the raid was focused on “drug dealers, prostitutes and aggressive panhandling (begging)”!

In other words, we are supposed to congratulate the cops for throwing in jail the poorest people in one of the poorest areas of Toronto. This comes of course as the city is tearing down Regent Park, and cutting off services to the poor (including shutting down 3 rooming houses and shelters in the targeted area), forcing people further into a situation where they have to beg, sell drugs, or sell themselves to survive or get an income. This raid is clearly just one part of the city’s/TCHC’s plan to take all community housing and poor people out of the Downtown East end (including Regent Park) in order to make way for land developers and condos. The raid was even code-named “Project Revival”, the similar term used to disguise the breaking down (“revitalization”) of Regent and the surrounding area.

So as we head into summer and people in hoods throughout the city are noticing a beefing up of police presence, along with the continued tearing up of our communities, we must be ready to defend our homes against future attacks - whether by the police or their partner landlords. ∗