Community Responds with Solidarity Resource Camp Against Police Violence.

(The following is a press release sent out by the Pekiwewin camp)

A community response to the police violence and deficient supports experienced by communities living rough in the Edmonton Area.

A collective of frontline outreach and housing workers, Black, Indigenous and Racialized community organizers, friends, family and those with lived experiences of homelessness have begun occupying space in so-called Downtown Edmonton. Organizers have chosen to occupy the green space along 104 St & 96 Ave until the City of Edmonton and Edmonton Area Law Enforcements commit to the divestment of $39 Million from the EPS budget and fulfil the clear demands that reflect the needs and voices of impacted communities and frontline workers. Community will be reclaiming space that has been a traditional gathering place, trading, burial and ceremonial grounds amongst many Indigenous families for generations. Community members and organizers have erected a tipi and a sacred fire. Community has established a resource and support distribution hub and a Solidarity Prayer & Resource Camp in response to ongoing racialized police and municipal violence towards homeless encampments and community members that predates the Covid-19 Pandemic.

The City of Edmonton has failed to adequately support houseless communities at the beginning of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.

Centralized services were inaccessible and overnight shelters were not available. For example, many community members feel unsafe in shelters, especially individuals who face multiple layers of marginalization and experience heightened street violence. The City of Edmonton failed to provide accessible or adequate public washrooms and hygiene facilities for houseless community members. The City of Edmonton’s Covid-19 response is consistent with the existing neglect of houseless and underserved community members.

Many community members have felt safer in their tent encampments and choose to isolate where they were best able to. The CDC cautions against displacing people experiencing unsheltered homelessness, and yet Edmonton Area Law Enforcements continues to enact violence and displacement against people with lived experiences of homelessness. Community members experienced slashing of tents, pepper spraying and
theft of belongings, as well as physical assaults, forceful removal and consistent displacement of people from their only dwellings.

Despite the heightened increase in Covid cases around the province and Edmonton, The City resumed fare collection in June, along with fare enforcement, and the closing of the Kinsmen shelter. Houseless communities are neither allowed to stay where they feel safe nor are they being given full access to mobility around the city. Unhoused community members often receive deficient health services and are subjected to conditions and realities that make them even more likely to be at risk of serious Covid-19 complications. The pandemic is not over, and the city is still unsafe and unlivable for communities with lived experiences of homelessness.

In the midst of an international conversation around the role of police, Edmonton Police Services continues to be one of the largest health and safety risks to homeless communities in the city. Edmonton Area Law Enforcements do not appropriately respond or contribute to the needs of the community. Edmonton Area Law Enforcements have continued to prove that they are a racist, violent reactionary force that has never assisted in housing community members and consistently works against community members and frontline support workers. Black and Indigenous peoples are disproportionately unhoused and subjected to police violence and displacement by the state and its agents. The displacement, disenfranchisement and over-policing of Indigenous houseless community members further perpetuates the unlawful colonial policing of Indigenous territories. The police violence experienced by Indigenous community members acts both as an example and replication of Canada’s historical and ongoing colonial violence against Indigenous communities and self-determination. The City of Edmonton and Edmonton Area Law enforcement is reflective of a pre-existing and historical program of disenfranchisement, which perpetuates poverty by those we are expected to look towards for protection and service.

As of 8 AM, July 24, organizers and the community have been encouraging folk to come to access the support and resources available on site. All-day, community and organizers have been collecting and distributing critical resources, ceremony and support to houseless community members. Edmonton Area Law Enforcement and The City of Edmonton have asked for the dismantling of the camp, the sacred fire and the tipi. They have asked for many community members to surrender their inherent right to occupy their territories, and they have asked community members and organizers to be silent about the violence they enact against houseless communities, every day. People will be reclaiming this land until the demands set by the community are met. The demands for divestment are non-negotiable.

We call on the City of Edmonton and Edmonton Area Law enforcement to fulfill demands and for a Divestment of $39 Million from Edmonton Area Law Enforcement.

DEMANDS

  1. Divest $39 Million from Edmonton Area Law Enforcement
  2. An end to Racialized Cop Violence against people with lived experiences of homelessness. An end to tent slashing, pepper spraying, destruction and theft of people’s property and only dwellings.
  3. The City of Edmonton and Edmonton Area Law Enforcement to follow the recommendations of the CDC, frontline workers and those with lived experiences of homelessness to desist from the forcible displacement and removal of people from encampments or their only dwellings.
  4. Accessible Emergency Response Fund for Frontline workers and communities with lived experiences of Homelessness.
  5. Free Transit. People have the right to move between spaces.
  6. Dismantling of racist bylaws that perpetually erode the security, safety and dignity of people with no fixed address and communities with lived experiences of homelessness.
    • Trespass fines issued for breaching a ban
    • Loitering on transit property or in transit vehicles
    • Fare evasion
    • Intoxication
    • Public Urination
  7. Recognize the legal protections against unreasonable search and seizure by the state for “houseless” people and their encampments under Sect. 8 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. We demand encampments be legitimately recognized as property and protected as homes. Additionally, we demand an honouring of inherent “Aboriginal Title” and Treaty Rights for many unhoused Indigenous peoples to occupy their territories within the urban centre.
  8. More transitional supports such as readily available harm reduction sites and resources around the city, accessible 24/7