Edmonton protest camp continues to grow a week after it began
EDMONTON — A camp near the ReMax Field demanding more support for homeless people and decrying police violence has grown more than 17 times in size since it began just over a week ago.
Around 10 people camped overnight on July 24, the day Pekiwewin camp issued a list of demands, asking city council to divest $39 million from law enforcement and scrap bylaws targeting homeless people.
By Sunday afternoon, more than 170 tents were seen in the park. Onsite, there were six outhouses, picnic tables, and tents supplying food and water, toiletries, harm-reduction supplies, and volunteers with first-aid and de-escalation training.
Victoria Guzman, an organizer who uses they and them pronouns, said the camp offers a safe place for homeless people to rest during the day and to sleep at night without fearing being forcibly removed by police. The city and police have, for now, decided not to dismantle the camp, a city spokesperson said Sunday.
Being made to move, Guzman said, makes it difficult for those on waitlists for permanent housing to stay in touch with caseworkers.
“A woman came here with pepper spray in her eyes … the cops had maced her, had broken her tent. People (have had) their tents slashed up,” they said.
“Also, reinforcing and creating this idea that tents are peoples’ personal homes, it’s their personal property. Their homes also deserve to be treated with respect and dignity.”
The camp was also made in response to the city shuttering the temporary 180-bed shelter at the Kinsmen Sport Centre last month, and the closure of the Expo Centre day drop-in space, which supported more than 700 people, on Friday.
Its demands include ending police violence against racialized people, ending the destruction of their property and forcible removal of encampments, creating an emergency response fund for frontline workers and homeless communities, making transit free, and scrapping bylaws that target homeless people, including trespassing and loitering fines.