The Black Lives Matter-Toronto Coalition organized a BLMTO BlackOUT Against Police Brutality rally outside the Toronto Police Services headquarters on College Street last Saturday at 4 pm. Supporters of Black Lives Matter had been there since March 19, in a space they are calling #BLMTOTentCity.
The rally was held in response to police action that took place on March 21, which was also the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. Members of the police force removed tents and doused the fire that demonstrators were using to keep warm.
According to the Toronto Police Operations’ Twitter, the action was taken because of safety concerns. Eyewitnesses said that materials were broken, personal belongings were confiscated, and people — including children — were attacked.
“The unprovoked police action on peaceful protesters raising their concerns about Anti-Black violence is an affront to our civil liberties and freedoms,” read part of a statement from the organizers on the Facebook event page.
#BLMTOTentCity began in response to the civilian police watchdog group, Ontario’s Special Investigations Unit (SIU) not indicting the officer who shot Andrew Loku. Loku, a black man, was shot inside a Toronto apartment building last July by an unidentified police officer.
Organizers with Black Lives Matter produced a list of demands which they sent to mayor John Tory, chief of police Mark Saunders, and premier Kathleen Wynne. The demands include: the immediate release of the names of the officer(s) who killed Loku and for charges to be laid accordingly; public release of any video footage from the scene of the shooting; and “the adoption of the African Canadian Legal Clinic’s demand for a coroner’s inquest into the death of Andrew Loku.”
Additional demands include the condemnation of the use of excessive force against a protester, an overhaul of the SIU, a commitment to the end of carding, and the release of the name(s) of the officer(s) who killed Alex Wettlaufer, along with appropriate charges. Wettlaufer was a 21 year old black man who was shot dead earlier this month.
The rally itself showed solidarity with other movements and people of intersecting identities. Among those in attendance were people who had marched in the We Believe Survivors rally, non-black supporters, ethnic and religious groups, and unions; attendees held signs in solidarity with Black Lives Matter. There was also a call for “black and Indigenous solidarity.”
“We stand in solidarity with Black Lives Matter—Toronto because CUPE members face anti-Black racism,” the Canadian Union of Public Employees, Ontario said in a statement of solidarity. “We support Black Lives Matter because this is about us — about our members, our families, and our communities. But this is also about solidarity against oppression. We are proud to stand with Aboriginal groups, the student movement, and other allies in the fight against anti-Black racism.”
Protesters eventually moved onto the road, which remained closed for most of the day.