Tensions between the residents of Jamestown and Safe Space came to a head on Sunday, May 16, 2021.
Members of the community, tired of illegal drug use, discarded needles, and the site setting up in their neighborhood, decided to peacefully protest the tent site. They convened at the area of Jamestown, near the children’s park, where Safe Space typically sets up, arriving prior to organization, and occupied the area.
In a widely circulating video, Merissa Dinner, owner of Safe Space, can be seen asking the protesters to stop recording her clients. Someone identifying himself as “Security” for Safe Space was seen trying to de-escalate the situation.
The residents of Jamestown who have spoken with SaultOnline have repeatedly called Police in regards to the ongoing situation, and admit to being frustrated with the apparent lack of response. This was their next step as they are frustrated with the City for allowing this organization to set up in their area, suggesting that if Safe Space were to set up in some other, more affluent part of the city, it would be shut down quickly.
They are also confused as to how Safe Space can operate without any community consultation, which is a required step along the way of getting a SIS (Safe Injection Site) exemption from Health Canada.
SaultOnline received a statement from Dinner about the situation yesterday.
“There were some people with valid questions which I answered. I answered appropriate questions or people were told to contact me via email [email protected],” said Dinner. “A husband and wife have been there to videotape us before and this time they started calling my clients crackheads. As I was telling them to leave, my Volunteer stepped in to tell them to leave. The husband attacked him and I got punched in the mouth in the crossfire. Whenever someone has an issue, I support protests. I support freedom of speech and communication, but I refuse to all/any abuse of the City’s most vulnerable.”
Shauna Wilson said to SaultOnline that she and her husband were the “husband and wife” in the above statement, and she provided her side.
“I never once used the word Crackhead! My husband did not attack him! He was coming toward me with his hands up, my husband pushed his arm out of the way and his arm hit her,” said Wilson. “That’s the only reason my husband stepped in is because they were all coming towards me! He stepped in and then my son pulled him away! No punches were thrown! You can see in the video when Paula was talking to him that he said he was coming towards me!”
What is clear is, Dinner has never provided the proper paperwork giving her an exemption by Health Canada, when asked. Further, residents of the area of tired of the lack of concern that city officials appear to be showing them.
SaultOnline reached out to Sault Police Services last night for comment, but have yet to hear anything back at time of publishing.
Stay with SaultOnline as we bring you more information in this developing situation.