Protesters feel betrayed after police disperse demonstration for Black, Indigenous lives

Officers arrived at 3:30 a.m. on Saturday morning, say protest caused safety issues

CBC News · Posted: Nov 21, 2020 8:24 AM ET | Last Updated: 1 hour ago

Dozens of people were at a protest camp in a central Ottawa intersection the morning of Nov. 20, 2020. Early Saturday morning, police dispersed the protest, removing demonstrators and laying multiple charges against 12 people. (Francis Ferland/CBC)

The Justice for Abdirahman coalition say they feel betrayed after Ottawa police dispersed a demonstration for Black and Indigenous lives downtown early Saturday morning, removing protesters and laying multiple charges against 12 people. 

The protest was composed of many advocacy groups, including the coalition – formed after the death of Abdirahman Abdi during a violent arrest in 2016 – that were camped out at the intersection of Laurier Avenue and Nicholas Street, near the University of Ottawa.

In a media release, the Ottawa Police Service said it had been monitoring the demonstration, saying it disrupted regular traffic and blocked an important route for emergency responders causing “multiple safety issues.”  

The police service said it offered protesters multiple locations to relocate the demonstration.

“After multiple warnings to the demonstrators, this morning at 3:30 am, Ottawa Police removed demonstrators from the area and laid multiple charges against 12 individuals,” the release said.

On Twitter the Justice for Abdirahman coalition voiced feelings of betrayal.

A group of people are now gathering outside the police station on Elgin Street in support of those arrested. 

According to police, the Laurier Avenue and Nicholas Street intersection is now open and police continue to monitor the area.

Another group of people are now gathering outside the police station on Elgin Street in support of those arrested. (Sarah Kester/CBC News)

Source: CBC News


Ottawa Black community groups condemn police action against peaceful protesters

Monday, November 23 – Ottawa, Ontario – Ottawa Black community groups strongly condemn the removal and arrest of peaceful protesters by Ottawa police in the early hours of Saturday, November 21. Twelve people were arrested and charged after Ottawa police moved in early Saturday to break up a multi-day downtown demonstration demanding change for Black and Indigenous people.

The police justified the action saying, “The demonstration disrupted regular traffic and blocked an important route for emergency responders. This caused multiple safety issues.” 

If safety was an issue, why didn’t the police remove the protesters when they first arrived Thursday afternoon? Why did the police wait until 3:30am Saturday morning, well out of sight of the media, to move in?

Media reports quoted protesters saying that police handcuffed and harassed them and kept waiting in a stuffy, airless police van. They said the police alternately yelled at, and ignored, them and bullied them from the very moment they arrested them to when they were released.

The protesters had an agreement to meet with some city councillors at the blocked intersection at 10 a.m. Saturday and with members of the Ottawa Police Services Board at city hall at noon – and the police knew this. That the police went ahead and forcibly removed the protesters just hours before the meetings was an act of bad faith. Also, charging 12 protestors with mischief contradicts the OPS’ frequent claim that they want to “improve community relations” as it appears to be no more than an intimidation tactic. Since, as previously stated, the timing of the police action suggests safety wasn’t really an issue, why did the police choose to arrest and charge 12 people? Yes, blocking an intersection is illegal but so is jaywalking but the police don’t enforce it because, most of the time, safety isn’t an issue. 

This contradiction makes it difficult for Black community groups to support the OPS’ current request for over $1 million in its 2021 budget for neighborhood resource teams it claims will improve community relations. Having some officers play basketball with some neighborhood kids while others arrest and charge peaceful protestors will further erode community relations.

Ifrah Yusuf, co-chair of the Justice for Abdirahman Coalition, said occupying the intersection, which began Thursday afternoon, was a way to stand in solidarity with Black and Indigenous groups against systemic racism in institutions. She said they wanted to show that they stand, hand-in-hand, against the violence that is inflicted on them on a daily basis, with the policing system, the housing system, the education system, the health system and the city as a whole.

The police could have let the protestors stay until it was time for their meetings and taken other action to ensure safety at the scene. That they chose to criminalize protesters instead is yet another set back for police/community relations. 

The first step towards repairing relations must be immediately dropping all charges against protestors.

613-819 Black Hub–
Robin Browne (he/him)
613/819 Black Hub
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