by Shafiqullah Aziz
The comprehensive raids that were carried out in numerous apartments in three Dixon Rd. buildings on the morning of June 13th have distressed many of the families living in the neighbourhood, particularly those from the Somali community. The massive military operation was carried out before dawn and involved dozens of police from multiple divisions using flash grenades, battering rams and rubber handcuffs to forcibly enter apartments and harass and arrest many of the residents who were still sleeping in their beds.
The raids follow the Rob Ford crack scandal that had the mayor’s office scrambling for weeks, with many speculating that the ‘Project Traveler’ raids were conducted in retaliation against the Dixon community for exposing Ford through the alleged video of the mayor smoking crack. Although Rob Ford denied any knowledge that the raids were to be carried out, several residents reported that when the police were searching their apartments, they told them that “we’re here because of Rob Ford.” According to the Toronto Star, “another unit on Dixon Rd., also named on the [search] warrant was the address that Rob Ford blurted out at a meeting with staff, saying the crack video could be found there.”
As a result of the aggressiveness of the police, destruction of property (ramming residents’ doors in), and the false arrests of numerous people, leaders in the Dixon neighbourhood and in the Somali community have come out against the Toronto Police Services. At a press conference, community elders spoke about the continued victimization and harassment that Somalis face from the TPS, citing a long history of violence from the 1990s when police would use attack dogs against neighbourhood residents.
Local International People’s Democratic Uhuru Movement organizer Kabir has been very critical against the Project Traveler raids, stating “we need to end the vulnerability to attack on our communities by the police as a result of the neighbourhood being divided and disorganized. The state feels that they can get away with invading our communities and we need to put a stop to this. It’s not just about reacting to being attacked but being organized enough so it becomes impossible for the police to attack the community in this way ever again.”
The TPS has responded to the community’s outrage by permanently stationing a “Somali Liaison Unit” in the Dixon neighbourhood in order to cool down residents’ emotions, but also to gather information, win over the community and to recruit Somalis into the police forces. This pathetic attempt to manipulate the community has so far involved the police in activities like handing out candy, going to sports events, working with religious figures and playing soccer with kids. Undoubtedly, the history of violence at the hands of police that the Somali community has known will foil the PR-attempts of this weak-ass police unit to gather themselves some legitimacy in the eyes of this terrorized community.
[Article created in collaboration with Toronto Media Co-op]