Mon­treal­ers demon­strate in sol­i­dar­ity with Black Lives Mat­ter Toronto

Or­ga­niz­ers seek to dis­rupt the Cana­dian nar­ra­tive of ‘mul­ti­cul­tur­al­ism’

The McGill Daily - - News - Vin­cent Sim­boli The Mcgill Daily

Hun­dreds gath­ered at Nor­man Bethune Square at 6 p.m. on March 29 for two hours to peace­fully show sup­port and sol­i­dar­ity with the mo­bi­liza­tion ef­forts of Black Lives Mat­ter Toronto (BLMTO). The demon­stra­tion was met with no in­ter­fer­ence from the Ser­vice de po­lice de la Ville de Mon­tréal (SPVM), although mul­ti­ple po­lice cars were sta­tioned on site.

Re­cent mo­bi­liza­tion in Toronto has come about in re­sponse to the ac­quit­tal of the Toronto po­lice of­fi­cer – whose iden­tity has not been re­leased – re­spon­si­ble for the fa­tal shoot­ing of An­drew Loku, a 45-year-old fa­ther of five ex­pe­ri­enc­ing a men­tal health cri­sis at the time. On July 5 2015, Loku, a South Su­danese man, was hold­ing a ham­mer when he was shot twice by po­lice in his neigh­bour’s home.

Ac­cord­ing to BLMTO’S Face­book event, the peace­ful occupation of Nathan Phillips Square in Toronto, which be­gan on March 20 and later moved to the Toronto Po­lice Ser­vice (TPS) head­quar­ters, has “faced count­less at­tacks from the TPS – rang­ing from phys­i­cal at­tacks, chem­i­cal war­fare, de­priva- tion of heat­ing and elec­tric­ity, and var­i­ous other bul­ly­ing/in­tim­i­da­tion tac­tics. De­spite it all, Black Lives Mat­ter Toronto has stood strong – cen­ter­ing warmth and com­mu­nity in the face of vi­cious anti-black racism and po­lice bru­tal­ity.”

The Daily spoke with the or­ga­niz­ers of the demon­stra­tion in Mon­treal, Yas­min Ali and Su­maya Ugas, both Mcgill stu­dents. Ugas ex­plained that the demon­stra­tion was to show the world that “po­lice vi­o­lence can­not go unchecked.”

“Cops can­not keep killing peo­ple with im­punity,” con­tin­ued Ugas. “The other part of why we’re here is to show love and sup­port and sol­i­dar­ity with the peo­ple who are out there in those streets, protest­ing [in Toronto], who have been met with phys­i­cal vi­o­lence.”

Ali added that an­other goal of the demon­stra­tion was to “dis­rupt this nar­ra­tive of ‘Cana­dian mul­ti­cul­tur­al­ism.’” Ali ex­plained, “In gen­eral dis­course, there’s no Cana­dian racial prob­lem. The Cana­dian state con­stantly feeds us this bull­shit and we want to show that there very much is a racial prob­lem in Canada. Black bod­ies face a lot of in­sti­tu­tional vi­o­lence from the state as well as peo­ple of colour in gen­eral and Indige­nous peo­ple specif­i­cally. We want to fuck that shit up.”

In a fol­low-up email to The Daily, Ali elab­o­rated that they were not for­mally con­tacted by BLMTO and that they de­cided to or­ga­nize the demon­stra­tion out of their own vo­li­tion. Ali said, “For­mal com­mu­ni­ca­tion seems so un­nec­es­sary when the bonds you share as black folks liv­ing in a white su­prem­a­cist world run so deep. In re­gards to lo­ca­tion and time, we wanted the rally to oc­cur in an open, ac­ces­si­ble, and pub­lic space. In terms of sup­port, the QPIRG- Con­cor­dia and QPIRG-MCGILL teams were im­mensely help­ful.”

The demon­stra­tion in­cluded spo­ken word per­for­mances and speeches about the top­ics of po­lice bru­tal­ity, Black and Indige­nous ally­ship, and is­sues fac­ing Black women and Black LGBTQ peo­ple.

In the open­ing speech, be­fore invit­ing guest speak­ers to share their thoughts, Ali stressed that “it is im­por­tant to re­mem­ber who is at the heart of the Black Lives Mat­ter move­ment; this is a move­ment of black women! Black trans folks, black stu­dents, black par­ents, black dis­abled folks, poor black folks. These are the bod­ies that are first to be at­tacked and last to be sup­ported. We see you and we hear you!”

The Daily spoke with Sidiki, one of the speak­ers at the demon­stra­tion, who called for ac­tion from “elites,” specif­i­cally stu­dents at uni­ver­si­ties like Mcgill. Sidiki said that they “have a huge re­spon­si­bil­ity in hav­ing an im­pact on so­cial jus­tice and so­cial af­fairs be­cause they are de­ci­sion mak­ers. Peo­ple in­volved in high in­sti­tu­tions, whether po­lit­i­cal or eco­nomic, should get in­volved in try­ing to pro­mote so­cial jus­tice through laws or en­dorse­ment.”

Les­lie Anne St. Amour, an Indige­nous Mcgill ac­tivist, ex­plained the im­por­tance of sol­i­dar­ity and col­lab­o­ra­tion be­tween Black and Indige­nous groups, both of whom have been his­tor­i­cally marginal­ized. “Black and Indige­nous peo­ple have some­thing in com­mon: We are an in­con­ve­nience to the ma­jor­ity. We have felt op­pres­sion for years, and now that we de­mand change, the ma­jor­ity feels threat­ened. We need to stand strong and stand to­gether,” St. Amour said.

St. Amour con­tin­ued, “Sol­i­dar­ity means stand­ing be­hind, and not in front of [oth­ers.]”

Pro­test­ers at the demon­stra­tion. Kevin Tam | The Mcgill Daily

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