Toronto protesters mobilize around the cry “black lives matter”
Photo Credit/Zach Morgenstern
Organized to fall within 24 hours of a grand jury's ruling on whether to indict Darren Wilson for the murder of Michael Brown, Toronto’s Black Lives Matter protest had an incredible showing, that largely filled up the courthouse square across the street from the US consulate. The protest was distinctly well organized, with legal help, a political therapist and an ASL interpreter amongst those present. As an organizer proclaimed “in times like these, taking care of yourself is a political action.”
The rally began with a series of chants including “black lives matter”, “the system isn’t broken it was built that way”, and “being black is not a crime.” Eventually, however, a speaker introduced a comprehensive list of demands including calls for the arrest of Wilson, investigations into Ferguson’s general police operations, the end of the militarization of police forces, direct rhetorical and monetary support from the city of Toronto towards the Ferguson protesters, recognition by Canadian politicians at all levels of the existence of systematic racism and white privilege, and compensation from the Toronto Police department for victims of police brutality.
As the rally progressed, it increasingly emphasized police racism in Toronto. One speaker added the end of unjust carding in the Jane and Finch Neighborhood as a demand, something that had only been alluded to in an earlier call for the city to listen to demands from Jane and Finch Action Against Poverty (JFAAP). Another speaker, La Tanya Grant, told the story of her cousin Jermaine Carby who was shot and killed by Peel regional police on September 24th. The name of the officer who killed Carby has not been released, and the location of Carby’s bullet wounds suggest he had to have been shot with his hands up.
In another powerful moment, protesters clumped towards the courthouse’s “Pillars of Justice Sculpture.” A non-black person briefly stood towards the centre of the group and was asked to move out of the way. When the person did, the action was commended as a symbolic showing that black voices matter.
The protest eventually wound down with a moment of silence, the distribution of lit candles and an a capella singing performance.
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