Nearly a thousand people showed up again to rally in response to the shooting death of Sammy Yatim, the 18-year-old who was shot nine times by Toronto Police officer, James Forcillo, then tazed by an unknown sargeant.
It was the second rally (the first one happened two weeks ago) held in his honour. It began in Dundas Square, just blocks from where the shooting had taken place, and then proceeded to Toronto Police Headquarters.
The crowd was determined as ever to have their point heard. Popular chants carried over from the last rally, such as: “Justice For Sammy,” and “No Justice No Peace,” and “Cops are Murderers,” but some people also shouted: “Kill the Police.” (It was meant to be ‘jail’) while uniformed officers lined the streets.
A large red sign floated above the crowd that read: Disarm The Police. This sentiment was at the heart of the protest.
Tuesday’s crowd wanted justice Sammy, but they also wanted justice for anyone else whose been victimized by police. They seemed to want, more than anything, police accountability.
“My dad was gunned down by police on Boxing Day in 1992. Police should not be able to get away with this, but they always do and it needs to stop,” said Tony Vega who marched alongside his grandfather.
All police involved in death of Vega’s father were exonerated and his hope was that “this doesn’t happen with this case too.”
Other people who had lost loved ones to police shootings marched amongst the crowd with pictures of the deceased.
Pricilla Aldaz held up a large sign that listed nine people who had been fatally shot by police officers and who had also suffered with schizophrenia. Sammy Yatim was number nine on the list.
“Sammy was an amazing dude,” said 23-year-old Josh Romoo who was living with Sammy at the time of his death and had had breakfast with him that morning.
“He was just getting his life started, he was eager to learn and wasn’t a rough guy at all. Hopefully we get justice.”
There were mixed ideas in the crowd on how to make police accountable. Some believed total disarmament was necessary.
“We need to re-examine police regulations and the role they play in society. They continue to kill agitated people and get away with it. We need to take away their weapons,” said 32-year-old social worker, Patrick Clohessy.
When the crowd arrived outside police headquarters, a board meeting was just getting started.
Video by Michael Toledano for VICE Canada.
In a brief address to the small crowd inside the room a member of Toronto Police Services Board stated: “While the Board will respect and uphold the law, it will remain actively involved in efforts to improve policing services to people with mental illness, to do everything in its power to find ways to prevent death.”
Outside the chanting continued.
People wore shirts that read: Protect us from our Protectors. One man held a donut on a fishing reel and waved it in front of officers.
“Why would a cop shoot Sammy when they had the upper hand against a kid that was only 110 pounds?” asked 15-year-old student, Meryan Agtes who had come to protest with her friends.
“Police policing police isn’t right!” echoed through the sea of protestors.
“They will exonerate this cop, I guarantee it," said Robert Chinnery, whose son was fatally shot by police in 2011.
Unfortunately for everyone, the SIU investigation is underway, but it is not likely to be concluded for months.
Members of the Yatim family met privately with Toronto Police Chief Bill Blair in his office shortly after 2:30PM and when they emerged just after 3PM, the family asked the crowd to leave and requested that everyone show respect for the police and open the road.
For now the Yatims, Sammy’s friends, and other concerned Canadians will have to wait to see if the changes they want will happen.
Follow Angela on Twitter: @angelamaries
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