Wynne has impromptu meeting with protesters outside Queen's Park
Sandie Benitah, CTV Toronto
Published Monday, April 4, 2016 3:01PM EDT
Last Updated Monday, April 4, 2016 4:18PM EDT
Premier Kathleen Wynne surprised protesters on the front lawns of Queen’s Park Monday when she walked over and spoke with the organizers of the Black Lives Matter demonstration.
Wynne met with the group at around 12:30 p.m., shortly after they marched over from police headquarters Monday morning.
About 100 people filled the lawns, many of them yelling and waving signs demanding accountability from police agencies such as the Special Investigations Unit.
Organizers called today’s march “black reckoning” and said it was to honour the deaths of black Torontonians who were killed during a confrontation with police.
The group has held several protests over the last two weeks, camping out in front of police headquarters and even in front of the premier’s house Friday. They are demanding public meetings with officials to discuss changes to the system that will help ensure racism isn’t a factor in policing.
In particular, the group wants to see changes to the Special Investigations Unit, a provincial body charged with overseeing police cases where officers are involved in incidents that lead to the death or serious harm of civilians.
The movement in Toronto picked up steam when Andrew Loku, a 45-year-old father of five, was shot to death by police in his apartment building last July.
The SIU cleared the police officer of any wrongdoing and has not publicly released his name.
Those involved with Black Lives Matter say releasing his name is an important part of the accountability process.
“We’re in mourning today. We’re mourning the loss of our community members and a system that does not care about Black life,” Yusra Khogali, the co-founder of Toronto’s Black Lives Matter movement, said in a news release distributed Monday. “I mean, we left a wreath commemorating our dead on Kathleen Wynne’s door and they called a bomb squad. As if to unabashedly prove that they will always respond with a heavy hand and suspicion to Black people. And so we mourn.”
Wynne told the leaders of the group she would set up a meeting with them to discuss the issue but that she would not discuss the matter on the spot.
“What I know is that up until this point I haven’t had a formal request from you. I want to meet with you and I want to get this right,” Wynne said. “The reason we’re setting up an anti-racism directorate is that I believe we still have racism in our society.”
One of the organizers responded to say the province has an “anti-black racism” problem.
After a brief discussion that ended with the leaders and the premier shaking hands, Wynne walked back into Queen’s Park as the crowd cheered.
However, not everyone was appeased by the premier’s gesture.
Khogali said it took Wynne too long to respond.
“It’s a shame that it’s been two weeks before she directly engaged with us,” Khogali said. “The fact that it’s taken two weeks for her to come out to us is disgusting. She is a politician who is accountable to us.”
Monday morning’s news release from the Black Lives Matter group said protesters dropped a banner outside police headquarters giving local and provincial decision-makers 300 hours to respond.
“The community deserves to hear from you in 300 hours. Or you will hear from us,” the group said.
Last week Toronto City Council passed a motion asking the province to review the SIU in terms of how it deals with minorities.
With files from Josh Freeman.