A video has surfaced online of an angry crowd of customers at a Toronto liquor store attempting to stop an officer from arresting a man being pinned on the ground.
In the 16-minute video, the police officer in question can be seen pinning a man on the ground as people gather around him, yelling for him to stop. At one point, the officer wipes what appears to be blood from the top of the officer's head, although it's not clear what caused the injury.
Video via YouTube/CBC
Shortly after, a man in a Toronto Blue Jay's jacket is scene grabbing at the officer, attempting to pull him away from the man on the ground. The officer, who is white, is called out in the description of the video post for attempting to "intimidate" other black people at the scene. The narrator of the video also mentions that the officer, prior to the incident, seemed unhappy and did not want to be there.
After the altercation broke out, the narrator of the video claims that the police officer was not only being aggressive to surrounding bystanders, but "was punching the gentleman and tackled him down aggressively with his knees on his neck."
The video was posted by Ajith Thala, who describes himself as someone with a "vendetta" against the police, citing incidents like the altercation in the video as a reason to distrust them.
"Toronto Police are now trying to say the kid who was harmless on the ground injured the officer," Thala wrote.
"I actually know what happened, [it's that] this officer is a power tripper and he felt powerless and disrespected. That's why he did what he did."
Toronto Police's director of communications Mark Pugash told VICE that the officer was on duty at the LCBO to screen people coming in and make sure that no one caused problems for the store or customers.
Pugash said that the man, who has been identified as 25-year-old Marquel Johnson, was not known to police when he approached the store, but that he was acting erratically as he tried to enter the LCBO.
"The behavior of the man in question caused the officer some concern. He was fidgety, he kept walking back and forth, he kept moving his hands in and out of his pockets," Pugash told VICE.
Pugash said that when the officer asked the man for ID after he entered the store and requested to take his hands from his pockets, which is when the man allegedly struck the officer with his hands. The officer then moved to make the arrest of the man, which is when the crowd gathered.
"What you see on the video is very disturbing," Pugash said.
"The officer, I think, displayed enormous restraint and professionalism. His conduct under difficult circumstances was extremely professional and positive despite great provocation and active interference from members of the crowd. That is extremely dangerous behavior, to interfere with a police officer when they are making an arrest."
Pugash could not comment on specifics of what the altercation with the crowd will mean for the officer or those who interfered, but noted that an investigation into the matter was ongoing. He also shot down allegations that this involved a matter of race.
"I haven't spoken to the officer, but what I can say is that allegations are very easy to make. As far as I'm aware, there was nothing substantiated [in terms of racism]."
This incident comes amid growing sentiment around the policing in marginalized communities in North America, with movements like Black Lives Matter gaining serious momentum following police shootings like that of Laquan McDonald, Michael Brown, and Walter Scott.
Yesterday, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel forced the resignation of the city's chief of police after video surfaced of the Chicago Police Department covering up evidence in the case of McDonald's murder. Many critics have also called for Emanuel's own resignation, although he has insisted that he won't.
In Toronto, there has been concern raised in the past over initiatives such as police carding, which many see as a racist and discriminatory practice. The practice, which is under review by the province's Liberal government, involves the police randomly stopping citizens, during which time they must produce some form of identification, so that police can record information about who they are and what they were doing—even if none of it was illegal or even suspicious. The practice was suspended in 2014, but was recently re-approved by the Toronto Police Services Board, with the stipulation that "receipts" of each incident can be requested by the carded individual.
Additionally, Toronto policing is being tried alongside Const. James Forcillo, a Toronto police officer who is currently on trial for both the second-degree and attempted murder of Sammy Yatim. Forcillo shot and killed Yatim on a streetcar in July 2013 after Yatim drew a knife, causing passengers to flee. Yatim did not hurt anybody on board and was several meters away from Forcillo when he was shot and killed.
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