On behalf of Black man murdered by police and other injustices
Since Saturday, March 19, Black Lives Matter-Toronto have been mobilizing outside of the headquarters of the city’s police headquarters building a protest against a decision by Ontario’s Special Investigations Unit (SIU), not to recommend that charges be brought against a police officer who shot and killed Andrew Loku, a 45-year-old Black man.
Loku, a father of five, was shot last July after an altercation with him and a neighbor brought the police to his apartment building.
When the police arrived they found Loku with a hammer in his hand and shot him after he refused to drop the hammer.
The SIU, which investigates incidents of police shootings and acts of brutality, recently issued a one-page report clearing the police of blame.
Members of Black Lives Matter Toronto reacted quickly by calling for transparency in the investigation.
One of the organization’s co-founders, Sandy Hudson, was quoted as criticizing the process, saying: “We have no idea whether the police officers who killed Andrew Loku are still on the streets.”
As part of their protest, the group set up a tent city in Nathan Phillips Park outside the headquarters, which was eventually dismantled by the police.
But it did not dislodge members of BLM-T; their supporters and their continued round-the-clock vigilance in bringing attention to what they describe as anti-Black
Police brutality in the city.
Among the demands put forward by the group were:
* Transparency and the release of critical information concerning the shootings of Alex Wettlaufer, Andrew Loku and Jermaine Carby.
• Public release of the identities of the officers responsible for these shootings.
• The release of video footage from the building where Loku was killed.
• A review of the Special Investigations Unit with adequate consultation from families victimized by police violence and affected communities.
Their initial protest was also sparked by the City of Toronto’s decision to cancel one day of the two-day festival, Afro Fest, a popular music event staged every summer at Woodbine Park just outside of the city, after neighbors complained about noise.
Under sustained pressure, the City eventually backed down and issued the permit.
Getting the authorities to move on the issue of police accountability is a lot more problematic.
In response to BLM-T demands, Mayor Tory was quoted as saying he hadn’t seen the files from the police watchdog unit that exonerated the officer, and wouldn’t comment.
So far, neither Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne nor Toronto’s first Black police chief Mark Saunders has commented.
But BLM-T have been steadily picking up support for their cause from a line-up of influential individuals and groups, including the Canadian Union of Public Employees and three Toronto city councilors who are calling on the province to ensure police services and investigations are “fair and transparent.”
The three, Mike Layton, Kristyn Wong-Tam, and Gord Perks recently submitted a motion to city council on the issue.
Support also came from more than 100 prominent artists and community leaders who released an open letter about their concerns with anti-Black racism, police violence, and the attack on Black lives by the City and the Province.
Among those who signed on were: d’bi.young anitafrika, artistic director of The Watah Theatre, Alvis Choi Independent artist & Chairperson of the Chinese Canadian National Council Toronto Chapter (CCNCTO), Naomi Klein, Amanda Parris, John Greyson, artistic director for Obsidian Theatre Company, Phillip Akin, Dionne Brand, Naomi Campbell of the Luminato Festival, artistic director of Buddies in Bad Times Theatre Evalyn Parry, Coach House Books Editorial Director Alana Wilcox, LALs Rosina Kazi and Nicholas Murray, Canadian actress Sarah Polley, director and producer Gein Wong, artistic director of Factory Theatre Nina Lee Aquino, artistic director of The Theatre Centre Franco Boni, and artistic director of Native Earth Performing Arts Ryan Cunningham.
Their open letter can be found here: https://artistsforblmto.wordpress.com/
Also, the organization secured a mixtape with tracks donated by a line-up of local artists for use in its fundraising efforts.
The album, The Toronto Black City Mixtape: A Love Letter In Song To Black Community, features music by Spek Won Junia T, Lido Pimienta, LAL and Ian Kamau.