From May 9 to 10, two members from Housing Now! and one member from O:se Kenhionhata:tie (Land Back camp) was arrested. Julian Ichim and Wren Wombwell are both Housing Now! Tent City Organizers, and Sarah Siembida is a Land Back Camp member.
“Shame on The City of Kitchener and By-Law for their decision to favor profit over people and set up gated checkpoints so that no other homeless people can set up camp on the Island,” Fightback KW said in a statement.
Conditions include non-association with each other and a prohibition from any part of Willow River Park. Two other community members were arrested with seemingly no connection to Housing Now Tent City or Land Back Camp.
“FightBack KW, Land Back Camp, Housing Now! Tent City Associates and The Alan Ryan People’s Defense Brigade condemns these actions by Waterloo Regional Police Services,” Fightback KW said in a statement.
The charges against the individuals seem to be the same across the board: forcible entry, assault of a Peace Officer using a weapon and mischief-obstructing lawful use of property.
“These charges are nothing more than scare tactics meant to end dissent in this community and stop marginalized communities from working together,” Fightback KW said in a statement.
Land Back Camp has been an important ally to Fightback KW. On May 26 members of Land back Camp joined in on the 24-hour challenge Fightback KW hosted. A sacred fire was lit and there was ceremonial drumming and singing at the event.
“I was pretty much apart from the main group with a few other people. And we were making our own noise separately. And then I guess there was a group that decided to [try to] open the gate. When I got back there were people sitting inside the gate, so I joined in,” Ed Edwards, a Fightback KW organizer said.
With projections of the unhoused community in KW to grow with the rising cost of living and housing, it is concerning to many in the KW Region how the unhoused community is treated by the city, the WRPS and security. To community members who are allies, it does not seem like the city is a good place to show support.
“I don’t know exactly what happened. I just know that whatever happened, whoever was injured they didn’t seem to be injured that day because nobody received any medical treatment on scene or anything else,” Edwards said.
There were about 40 people who rallied at the bridge to Roos Island on April 27 to support the six unsheltered people who lived there after the City of Kitchener announced it was fencing off both bridges to the island.
“The three have been charged. I think an initial appearance in early June and their first like actual court date is set for late June believe. They’ve all been ordered, non-association with each other. They’ve all been banned from entering the park at all,” Edwards said.
Thirty minutes into the rally that ensued, some members of the crowd removed the chain on the island gate. The individuals were able to get onto the bridge before being stopped by the police.
“When they [the organizers] pulled on the gate one direction and he [the officer] pulled it the other and they pulled harder than he did, so he hurt his finger. I know one of the people that was pulling on the gate got hit by the actual chain with the padlock on it in the process,” Edwards said.
The arrest of a member of Land Back Camp alongside Fightback KW has allied these two organizations even more with each other. After the rally ended, police officers and protesters spoke with each other for at least an hour.
“Two of the three that got arrested were two of our founding members. But then the third person was an Indigenous person from Land Back camp. That was basically their solidarity on the day of that demonstration,” Edwards said.
The Waterloo Region community at large should take the time to support the community members who have been arrested. Supporting people who are unhoused should not be a crime. You can support them by scanning the QR codes below.