by BASICS Neighbourhood Committee
It’s become a common sight on the evening news. Police proudly displaying a cache of guns, cash and drugs, announcing they took down the latest threat to public safety; Sick Thugz, Dixon City Bloods, Young Buck Killers or any other partially made-up gang held responsible for all the violence in its respective neighbourhood.
Over the next few days dozens, sometimes up to a hundred children and young adults are paraded before a judge, accused of everything the law can throw at them. Most will be denied bail; all will have to rot in detention centers or under strict bail conditions until a year or more later when hearings, pre trails and trails are all concluded, and over half of all charges end up being thrown out.
But these are just the raids that make headlines.
Almost every week a Toronto Community Housing or low-rent unit’s door is kicked in, usually in the dead of night, usually with heavily-armed officers finding nothing but a terrified family and some weed. If they’re lucky they find more weed, maybe crack or a gun under a mattress -̶ in which case every male over 14, sometimes every female, is violently arrested, and all the cash, sometimes all expensive clothing in the house, is seized as ‘proceeds of crime’.
Those of us who’ve gone through this terror become used to the routine of cleaning up or replacing the broken furniture, strewn clothes and smashed windows. We get used to the holes in the wall, the knife marks in our mattresses (yes during a raid couches, chairs and beds are cut open), the scuffs on our walls and floors from police boots and flash grenades. Like any other people living under occupation, our oppression becomes normal. The truth is these are not examples of police ‘just doing their jobs’, they aren’t, as some youth put it, just ‘part of the game’. They are acts of war by cops and landlords against our communities, and they are getting worse.
For one, raids are getting more violent, with officers regularly breaking noses and arms, throwing people down stairs, forcing confessions with the heels of their boots or the end of their batons. They are also more desperate to lay charges, where a single house will be ransacked every other month until either something is found or planted. Most importantly, the targets for brutality and criminal charges have now been extended to mothers, grandmothers, sisters and aunts. From 2005 to 2009, the list of accused in major gang raids are exclusively men and few young women. But during recent operations like Project Traveler in Dixon last June or the Project Marvel raid in the winter of 2011, we Íaw grandmothers in their 90s being arrested or beaten, unheard of even from the most vicious police divisions a few years ago!
Finally, landlords such as TCHC have further cemented their support for these attacks by summarily evicting entire families when any drugs or guns are said to be found in a home. This policy, used occasionally in Toronto before, has become routine under the rule of the now ex-CEO and uncle-tom extraordinaire Eugene Jones. Brought in from bankrupt Detroit – a worldwide model of a caring and successful city where hundreds of thousands are now having their water shut off on them – Jones was forced to resign after breaking too many internal hiring procedures for the city to cover up. But the anti-tenant policies he was hired to enforce remain fully intact.
The reasons for the attacks on our neighbourhoods’ ̶ which do nothing to prevent or end actual violence or ‘crime’ ̶ are pretty clear. They want to mine our buildings and complexes for the ever growing prison system. They want the violence amongst our people to stay contained; so when it spills out into their financial districts and shopping malls, or when they’re building condos across the street from us, we can expect severe punishment and mass arrests. And as recent trends described above indicate, they want to target not just rebellious black and other oppressed youth, but the largely single mothers and grandmothers raising our communities. These women are the ones posting bail, fighting with teachers and landlords, standing by their children no matter what the media or cops have to say about them, and they are a problem for this system! TCHC’s eviction policy is designed to break the bonds between parent and child, and to emotionally, financially and psychologically break the social and political leaders of our community (mothers).
The war continues, and it will only get worse until we start to fight back!
If you, your family or your neighbor has experienced a police raid or eviction described in the article and you want to do something about it contact BASICS organizers to set up a meeting and plan an organized response.