Police display weapons from Edmonton encampment as officers carry out evictions at eighth ‘high risk’ site

A pellet gun and BB gun, 34 knives, 11 machetes, 10 samurai swords, two axes, brass knuckles and a folding baton: that was the message from Edmonton police about the dangers of the camps early Tuesday morning.

Photos of the seized cache were shared on the Edmonton Police Service’s social media accounts at 7 a.m., about two hours before officers approached the eighth and final encampment deemed high risk by the city and EPS.

At an afternoon news conference, officials said that in addition to guns, the fields are also dangerous from fires, propane tank explosions, needles and toxic drugs.

Giving notice that officers are coming to remove encampments also creates risks, police say.

“We have seen booby traps in some of the camps and they pose real risks to our officers, cleanup crew and the general public,” said Deputy Chief Warren Driechel.

Police said there is also a gang element to the situation, with low-level gangsters living in camps and some coming and going from them.

“They are not very sophisticated organizations. But what they compensate for is the level of violence they use,” Driechel said.

“Not only do they victimize people inside the camps, the crime that happens on the streets, the drug dealing, but they turn on each other very quickly. They are extremely ruthless.”

The weapons in the photographs were displayed at the news conference after being collected a week earlier, when an encampment in Dawson Park was dismantled.

The deputy chief said it was important to share more information with reporters, such as photographs of the weapons, so the public understands the “depth and complexity” of the situation.

Driechel said there are 750 more encampments in the city that are high risk and EPS will continue to monitor and remove them.

‘I’M TAKING MY STANCE!’

Tuesday’s encampment raid at Rowland Road and 95 Street was met with resistance, and around 4 p.m., a crowd that had gathered during the day broke out as EPS officers arrested one person.

EPS told CTV News Edmonton Tuesday night that a man was arrested for assaulting a peace officer and charges are pending.

Police said the sound of a Taser in the video is one being activated, but it was not actually used on the arrested man.

“You can identify anyone who needs to go or who needs support or anything like that. Identify them and I’ll make sure they get that support,” a police officer told people at the camp later that day.

“I’m defending my position! What are we doing? We are defending our rights!” Roy Cardinal yelled as he refused to leave.

Standing silently alongside that discussion were NDP MP Blake Desjarlais and NDP MP Janis Irwin. Both also attended at least some of the other seven previous camp raids.

“Whether today or 100 years ago, indigenous peoples have suffered and continue to suffer displacement,” Desjarlais posted on X on Saturday while calling for better actions on reconciliation and more housing.

“Today I witnessed such displacement and once again my heart is broken.”

Riverdale resident Kelty Pelechytik came to support the people living on the vacant lot near her home.

“These are our neighbors,” he told CTV News Edmonton. “There is absolutely no problem here. We bring them coffee and we know their names.”

Pelechytik acknowledged the photos of the weapons shared by police, but said he is not afraid of the camp.

“These guys are not violent at all,” Pelechytik said.

“They are going to cross the street and in three days they will be back. We are going to help them rebuild their homes with warm material.”

Roy Cardinal speaks to police as politicians listen at an encampment in Edmonton on Jan. 9, 2024. (Cam Wiebe/CTV News Edmonton)

Cardinal, who said he recently became homeless, applauded the officers for doing their job and asked why they were sent in the first place.

He said he plans to resist their demands to leave because he sees no good reason to comply. Cardinal believes his camp is safe and he wants to be left alone.

“What does this piece of land mean to them that they have to come and shuffle us and see it empty every day? Is it because they are doing tourism? Aren’t we part of the tourism?” she asked.

At 2 p.m., Cardinal agreed to allow police to remove unoccupied tents and an Edmonton Transit bus was brought in to keep people warm.

Some camp residents stayed behind. The city says the camp was “cleared” but not cleared.

“While the planned closure was in full compliance with the city’s obligations under the interim order, including prior notification to social agencies, the city adjusted its approach given the number of third parties on site,” a statement said.

‘CAREFUL COMPLIANCE’

Earlier in the day, the Coalition for Justice and Human Rights appealed to the courts to stop the eighth and final eviction due to the change in colder weather and a dispute over alternatives for people in the camps.

“We believe your approach to determining adequate space for a shelter is flawed as it does not consider whether there is enough space for everyone currently in need of emergency shelter,” a post from the coalition on social media read.

“We urge witnesses to come forward as residents peacefully protest around a bonfire… Every displacement is a violation of treaty rights and our collective commitment to reconciliation.”

Police and city officials insisted there was enough space at the shelter, so the judge did not act on the case and instead deferred a decision until the main injunction request is heard again on Wednesday and Thursday.

In a statement to CTV News Edmonton, the city acknowledged that officials must consider the weather before removing encampments, but noted there is no specific temperature threshold.

“The city unequivocally rejects the suggestion that our actions over the past two weeks have not complied with the December court order,” a generic statement from the City of Edmonton read.

“All decisions regarding camp closures have been made with careful adherence to the terms of the order.”

Police said 76 people and 120 structures have been removed from the first seven encampments. They also cleaned 2,000 needles and almost 200 propane tanks.

Many of the camps already had tents on Tuesday.

With files from CTV News Edmonton’s Jeremy Thompson, Amanda Anderson and Matt Marshall

An encampment near Rowland Road and 95 Street in Edmonton on Jan. 9, 2024. (Jeremy Thompson/CTV News Edmonton)

Leave a Comment