Ontario’s police watchdog says it’s looking into an incident involving Hamilton Police (HPS) and a 24-year-old woman who was “seriously injured” during a demonstration at central station on Friday.
A Special Investigations Unit (SIU) spokesperson says the examination is tied to a “custody injury” as protestors descended on 155 King William Street on Nov. 26 to call for the release of a advocate arrested after a homeless encampment teardown at J.C. Beemer Park on Victoria Avenue North.
“Officers arrested three people. One woman who was arrested reportedly sustained a serious injury during the course of her arrest,” SIU spokesperson Kristy Denette said in a release.
Earlier on Tuesday, Denette said the agency invoked it’s mandate after the HPS reached out to the SIU about a pair of incidents tied to Beemer Park and central station.
HPS spokesperson Jackie Penman confirmed to Global News that the service had reached out to the SIU following a Monday morning press conference hosted by The Hamilton Encampment Support Network (HESN).
It occurred on Ferguson Avenue North near Barton Street East, where one of Hamilton’s largest homeless encampments used to be.
“The Hamilton Encampment Support Network hosted a media conference yesterday morning, where we were made aware of allegations regarding injuries caused during the arrests of those involved in the protest at J.C. Beemer Park,” Penman said.
“As such, we notified the SIU for further investigation and they have now invoked their mandate.”
In an e-mail to Global News, Denette said the incident under investigation is the only one that’s in the SIU’s jurisdiction from the occurrences last week.
“If there are any other serious injuries that the public would like to report, they could report it to the SIU,” Denette said.
“Other complaints that don’t meet our mandate could be referred to Office of the Independent Police Review Director (OIPRD)
Three investigators have been assigned to the case.
During the HESN press conference, several accusers told stories of how HPS officers were allegedly “callous” and assaulted them at Beemer Park as well as at a gathering outside the central police station on Friday during a protest over connected arrests.
Press Conference RE: the arrests and police violence of nov 24th – 26th https://t.co/Oot9qBeRGS
— Hamilton Encampment Support Network (@HamOntESN) November 29, 2021
Rowa Mohamed, an affordable housing advocate, described her interaction at the Monday press conference.
“I was screaming in pain and I felt a hand covering my mouth to stop me from screaming — as the man put the full weight of his knee and his body on to my neck and my head,” Mohamed said.
Jordan Grace told the press conference that he was the first of the arrests on Wednesday and that his encounter involved being “thrown to the ground” by police.
“As multiple officers piled on top of me, I struggled to breathe,” Grace said.
“I was banged up, bruised and suffered a concussion. But in all honesty, I count myself lucky.”
Sarah Jama, co-founder of the Disability Justice Network of Ontario, whose arrest was the focus of the central station demonstration, said her interaction was tied to an allegation that she assaulted a police officer with her wheelchair, by running over his foot.
“It is not possible, this chair can barely even drive on the grass,” Jama said.
HPS confirmed a total of five arrests have been made as a result of incidents during the Nov. 24 teardown at J.C. Beemer Park. All are accused of obstructing police, with some facing additional charges for assaulting peace officers.
In a statement on Saturday, Police Chief Frank Bergen characterized the gathering at Beemer Park as “not a peaceful protest” — stating protesters broke through a perimeter and compromised the safety of workers cleaning the area, encampment residents, city staff and outreach workers.
“We fundamentally agree that community support and demonstrations must not be criminalized,” Bergen said in Twitter video post.
“There is a fine balance in the need to allow for community activism, while also maintaining demonstrations that meet the threshold for peaceful, lawful and safe assembly.”
Hamilton began dismantling encampments in city parks following a superior court judge ruling on Nov. 2 against a group of homeless residents seeking a permanent injunction to stop the city from removing setups from the locations named.
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