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Tensions Rise During Anti-Police Brutality Protest

Originally Published by The Ryerson Free Press

by Eric Mark Do

Protesters marching
Protesters marching
Protesters block Frank Delango from documenting
Protesters block Frank Delango from documenting

TORONTO - On March 15, the International Day Against Police Brutality, a protester ended up on the ground - allegedly the result of police interference. Trey Wraith, a familiar face from the Occupy Toronto movement, spoke about the incident.

“Two officers scissored me with their bikes and proceeded to knock me over,” said Wraith. “The rear officer then pressed down on my ankle with his bike while I was on the ground.”

He said he was okay, but many protesters noted the irony of an alleged incident of police brutality happening at a rally aimed against it.

The protest began outside of 51 division with about 50 people in attendance, including black flag anarchists. A large “FUCK THE POLICE” sign faced the street as speakers addressed the crowd.

“There's been a gang running through the streets of Toronto, killing people,” said Kabir Joshi-Vijayan, a coordinator with BASICS Free Community Newsletter. "As we can already have guessed...I'm talking about the Toronto Police Service.”

He and other speakers went on to cite cases where individuals died after interactions with police.

“They're entitled to their opinions and they have the right to free speech” said Insp. Gary Meissner of 51 division. “I think what it has to be rooted in is in fact and there's nothing wrong with discussing (facts)…but at the end of the day I think these matters need to be discussed and out in the open.”

Open and transparent policing is what the Centre for Police Accountability is advocating for. Member Kris Pheasant said she was there because of police violence. “It's everyone's responsibility to watch the most dangerous, publically funded group among us,” she said.

“We're interested in keeping track of cases of violence when people have been seriously hurt, assaulted, killed by police.”

A rapper who goes by the name Testament performed an acapella version of his song Police State. “It’s a police state, a police state. Stand up, rebel before it’s too late,” he rapped.

Ezra Patel of Canadians Against Police Brutality noted, “We’re not anti-police.”

But the crowd replied with “YES WE ARE!” and proceeded to chant, “An-ti Police! An-ti Police! An-ti-Police!”

The demonstrators began their march going north on Parliament Street. A bystander gave his take on policing in Toronto.

“I think there is police brutality, I think it does exist and I think it ‘oughta stop,” said Frank Saptel. “I think they ‘oughta treat people like citizens and they should not be tools of the state. They should serve to protect ordinary citizens like you or I.”

The march then passed by a pizza store on Queen Street, with employee Htunn Kyaw standing outside.  

“Most of the police officers are good,” said Kyaw, “but some of them are very bad, so they should go back and redo their policing (training).”

The participants opted for unorthodox routes during the march, walking through Moss Park, and then through an alleyway onto Jarvis St. Along the way, Constable Sheraz Arshad talked about the relationship between protesters and the police.

“Everyone should come out and peacefully protest,” he said. “We can all coexist.”

Meissner later echoed that sentiment, saying he “absolutely” supports peaceful protest. “If there's an issue with respect that needs to be brought to the public consciousness, then protest is one of the many means by which people do that.

Eventually, the protest reached police headquarters on College Street and police numbers almost equaled the protesters. People like Eric Mconnell watched on.

It (protesting) has it’s time and it’s place, at the same time when they’re blocking traffic they can’t expect not to be pushed around,” said Mconell. “Policing in Toronto is honestly better than most states in the U.S. so I’m not complaining.”

The protesters then made their way to 52 division, the last destination of the night. There, the tone of the protest intensified when one demonstrator claimed to have seen a videographer hand a memory card to the police. The videographer, Frank Delango, takes pictures and records many rallies in Toronto.

Testament took the pole of the flag he was carrying, and shoved it into the lens of Delango’s camera. Balaclava-clad protesters then used umbrellas to block Delango’s view. The crowd expressed concerns that he never uploads any footage and accused him of working for the police.  

“All they have to do is check on my Facebook site…I put stuff there all the time,” said Delango.

The situation cooled down, and as the event winded to an end, people started talking plans for next year.

“I'm a normal working class person, and I'm here because I believe this is a really important event,” said Pheasant. “Every year I'd like to see more people here…because we wouldn't be here if police weren't brutal.”


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Eric Mark Do (Eric Mark Do)
Toronto
Member since March 2012

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Journalism student at Ryerson University. I cover many protests in and around Toronto.

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