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Letter: Councillor speaks out about Belle Park encampment removal

Kingston Police at the perimeter of Belle Park on Tuesday, Sept. 1, 2020. Police ensured no one was allowed into the encampment while City Staff spoke with those who were there and began labeling and removing items — some for storage, others to be disposed of — before heavy equipment was brought in to demolish the make-shift shelters that had been built in the park. Campers had occupied the park since April 2020. Photo by Lucas Mulder.

The following is an open letter to Mayor Bryan Paterson from Councillor Jim Neill concerning the removal of items and shelters from Belle Park on Tuesday, Sept. 1, 2020. The views and opinions expressed do not neccessarily reflect those of Kingstonist.

Hello Bryan;

I just came from Belle Park. So much for no forced evictions!

I arrived at 2 p.m. I tried to go into the Public Park to speak to staff about what was happening. The police officer in charge told me I was forbidden to enter the park. The officer clearly knew who I was, calling me “Councillor.” I asked him to ask a City Staff member to speak to me and that I’d be back in 2 or 3 minutes. His response was that I’d be arrested if I came into the park again. That same message was repeated to those along the sidewalk a few minutes later.

Every instance of a planned closure of a public park in my 16 years on Council has taken a Motion of Council. How was this approved in this instance? I know you, Bryan, still have Emergency Powers. Did you direct this action? If not, why did it not come to Council, as Park Closures typically do?

In my younger, Direct Action Days I would have tested the Police Officers Threat. How can we refuse access to a Public Park when there are no apparent security issues? Why would a duly elected Councillor be refused access to a public space to speak to staff? This is an inexcusable abuse of power.

I look forward to your timely response Bryan.

Jim

Jim Neill is a City Councillor in Kingston representing the Williamsville District.

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