Peaceful Black Lives Matter protest turns violent with police force

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Photo by Rebel Sage; Black Lives Matter Toronto protester at Nov 2014 demonstrat

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Update II: Black Lives Matter Toronto is organizing a #BlackOUT on Saturday March 26 4:00 p.m. at Toronto Police Headquarters to take action against anti-Black racism and police violence.

Black Lives Matter Toronto and allies have been camped out in front of Toronto Police Headquarters since March 19 and have released a list of demands to Mayor John Tory, Police Chief Mark Saunders, the City of Toronto, Premier Kathleen Wynn, and the Province of Ontario.

The action has sparked support from allies, unions and organizations across Canada and internationally.

Follow #BLMTOtentcity for information on how to support the action and join in.

For more information on #BlackOUT click here. BLMTO is calling for videographers/photographers to document the event and Black artists to fill the space with art.

Update: #BLMTOtentcity is currently in need of these items: hot water, insulated bags and coolers to store food, gift cards, scissors, sharpies, tape.

On Wednesday morning, a press conference was held to respond to Ontario's recent carding regulations and address the police violence that happened Monday night. Activists will continue to camp outside of Toronto Police Headquarters, according to a press release.

On Monday night, the Black Lives Matter Toronto peaceful protest outside the Toronto Police Headquarters turned violent as police officers took down protesters' tents, extinguished fires and attempted to physically remove campers.

Video footage on Facebook shows officers using force to control the protesters, including dragging one on the ground while fellow protesters chanted "the whole world is watching" in the background. 

Protesters were "not causing any harm" before police began attempting to shut down the protest, Pascale Diverlus, the co-founder of Black Lives Matter Toronto told the Toronto Star.

The police later returned in white suits to extinguish the protesters' fires with a tar-like substance. According to reports on Facebook, the police monitored the protestors throughout the night to ensure fires weren't relit.

"The surveillance through the night was mental warfare something to aid in helping lose our cool, start to become untrustworthy of each other in the hope of not agitating them to attack," posted protestor Alexandria Symone on Facebook. "We weren't though, we sang, talked, made music, shared stories -- we meet their prying eyes with our excellence. Very inspired."

The peaceful demonstration initially began on Sunday March 20 at the Toronto City Hall as a sit in to protest Friday's decision that police used "justifiable force" in the death of Andrew Loku, a 45-year-old man who was shot to death by police in early July 2015 in the building where he lived.

The outcome of this investigation highlighted the ongoing racism experienced by Toronto's Black community at the hands of the police and the city. Organizers also expressed frustration over the city's shortening of Afrofest, a two-day African music festival which, due to alleged noise complaints, was recently condensed to one day.

The demonstration then moved to an all-night campout, #BLMTOtentcity, at Toronto Police Headquarters where supporters and allies marked the International Day Against Racism by asking for accountability from Toronto Police Services, City of Toronto, and Mayor John Tory.

Protesters remain camped out in front of Toronto Police Headquarters and are asking supporters to drop off these essential items at the site: tarps, blankets, cardboard boxes, hot drinks, gloves and hand warmers.

Toronto Police stated on Twitter that they removed the tents and fire for safety reasons while Mark Saunders, Chief of Toronto Police stated they "will always continue to support lawful protest, as it is one's democratic right in Canada."

Black Lives Matter has listed these demands to the Mayor Tory and Police Chief Saunders in a press release:

  • The immediate release of the name(s) of the officer(s) who killed Andrew Loku and Jermaine Carby

  • Charges to be laid against the officers who killed Loku

  • The immediate and public release of any video footage from the apartment complex where Loku was murdered

  • An apology to the family of Loku and monetary compensation

  • A review of the Special Investigations Unit, with adequate consultation from families victimized by police violence

  • A reversal to all city-mandated changes imposed on Afrofest, including its restoration to a two-day festival

Follow Black Lives Matter Toronto Coalition on facebook and twitter.

Alyse Kotyk is a Vancouver-based writer and editor with a passion for social justice and storytelling. She studied English Literature and Global Development at Queen's University and is excited by media that digs deep, asks questions and shares narratives. Alyse was the Editor of Servants Quarters and has written for the Queen's News Centre, Quietly Media and the Vancouver Observer. She is now rabble’s News Intern.

Photo by Rebel Sage; Black Lives Matter Toronto protester at Nov 2014 demonstration

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