Hamilton police and protestors clash after fires, explosions at JC Beemer Park encampments

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Published November 24, 2021 at 11:05 am

Hamilton police made arrests Wednesday (Nov. 24) after protestors clashed with officers at the site of an encampment at JC Beemer Park. (Photo credit @HamOntESN on Twitter)

Hamilton police made two arrests Wednesday (Nov. 24) after protestors clashed with officers at the site of an encampment at JC Beemer Park.

The series of events began shortly before 6 a.m. when encampment residents were awoken by a fire that led to multiple explosions.

The Hamilton Police Service (HPS) said first responders found several tents fully engulfed in flames “spanning 15 to 20 feet in the air.” Multiple occupants were pulled from their tents before the fire spread, according to police.

“There were several explosions from items such as propane tanks and electrical generators, which was further fuelled by debris in the surrounding area,” said HPS. “The fire destroyed several tents but thankfully no physical injuries were reported.”

A hydro line was also damaged in the fire.

The advocacy organization, Hamilton Encampment Support Network (ESN) tweeted that “most of their possessions and tents” were destroyed.

Encampment residents told the ESN they don’t know how the fire was started at JC Beemer Park, located at the corner of Wilson St and Victoria Ave.

Police say “the majority of those affected have been relocated and six individuals have been provided with shelter.”

The advocacy group, however, called the shelter “inadequate.”

“Residents were not offered permanent housing solutions, and the options that were offered were more than inadequate,” said the ESN in a media release. “The shelter-hotels offered were locations where some residents have restrictions or have experienced past violence, and the crisis center ‘beds’ are an interim stay of five days.”

Dozens of activists gathered at J.C. Beemer Park after the fire to protest the removal of the encampment, which police deemed “unsafe.”

Two individuals were arrested during the protest; a 33-year-old male was charged with obstruct police and a 27-year-old female for assault police officer.

The ESN called the arrests “violent.”

In the video, posted by ESN, a protestor can be seen charging toward an officer before another individual is dragged by police.

Hamilton Police says it will remain in the area as municipal law enforcement works to clean up the site.

Advocates say they will continue to hold space at the park overnight as encampment residents refuse to leave.

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