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Project Traveller Raids Terrorize Dixon Community

Flash Grenades and Battering Rams Distress Mostly Somali Community

by Shafiqullah Aziz

Photo Trevor Dunn
Photo Trevor Dunn

The comprehensive raids carried out in numerous apartments in three Dixon Rd. buildings on the morning of June 13 have distressed many of the families living in the neighbourhood, particularly those from the Somali community. The massive operation was carried out before dawn and involved dozens of police from multiple divisions using flash-bang grenades, battering rams and rubber handcuffs, as they forcibly entered apartments to harass and arrest many of the residents who were still sleeping in their beds.

The raids followed in the wake of a scandal that had left the mayor’s office scrambling for weeks, with many speculating that the ‘Project Traveller’ raids were conducted in retaliation against the Dixon community for exposing Mayor Ford through an alleged video of the mayor smoking crack. Although Rob Ford denied any prior knowledge of the raids, several residents reported that as police were searching their apartments, they were told that “we’re here because of Rob Ford”. According to the Toronto Star, “another unit on Dixon Rd., also named on the [search] warrant, was the address that Rob Ford blurted out at a meeting with staff, saying the crack video could be found there”.

As a result of the aggressiveness of the police, destruction of property (ramming residents’ doors in), and the false arrests of numerous people, leaders in the Dixon neighbourhood and in the Somali community have spoken out against the Toronto Police Services. At a press conference, community elders spoke about the continued victimization and harassment that Somalis face from the TPS, citing a long history of violence dating back to the 1990s, when police used attack dogs against neighbourhood residents.

Local InPDUM organizer Kabir has been very critical against the Project Traveller raids, stating “we need to end the vulnerability to attack on our communities by the police as a result of the neighbourhood being divided and disorganized. The state feels that they can get away with invading our communities and we need to put a stop to this. It’s not just about reacting to being attacked but being organized enough so it becomes impossible for the police to attack the community in this way ever again.”  

The TPS has responded to the community’s outrage by permanently stationing a “Somali Liaison Unit” in the Dixon neighbourhood in order to cool down residents’ emotions, but it is also thought to be gathering information and attempting to recruit Somalis into the TPS. This attempt to win over the community has so far involved the police in activities such as handing out candy, going to sports events, working with religious figures and playing soccer with kids. However, the history of violence by the hands of police that the Somali community has known is undermining the attempts of this police unit.

 


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