In One 90-Second Video, Toronto Cops Managed to Piss Off Nearly Everyone
N.W.A was right.
It's been a week since Pride Toronto members voted to exclude cops from participating in future gay pride parades, backing a demand made by Black Lives Matter Toronto last summer.
BLMTO has stated that their community and, in particular, black, trans people, have faced violence at the hands of police, and as such, they do not feel safe or respected by having to march alongside uniformed officers. They have called for the removal of police floats and booths.
Although Pride's board of directors has not yet finalized a new policy, they've made no indication that they are backtracking from what members decided.
In the vote's aftermath, we've seen an outpouring of empathy for police, from politicians to media pundits, to (primarily white) members of the LGBT community.
"An inclusive @PrideToronto should welcome everyone, including police. Any cop is welcome to march alongside me at this year's Pride," wrote Tory leader Patrick Brown on Twitter.
Others have pointed out that, although Pride started as a protest to the 1981 bathhouse raids, cops and LGBT Torontonians have since made major strides in mending their relationship.
But a video that surfaced Tuesday couldn't more perfectly validate what Black Lives Matter has been saying all along.
The minute-and-a-half cellphone clip, first aired by CityNews, shows several officers surrounding a black man who is laying on the ground motionless at an intersection near Dundas and Church streets in the city's downtown core. Despite the fact that the man is not moving, police Taser him and stomp on his body; one of the officers even dramatically shouts "stop resisting!"
The man, later identified as Andrew Henry, 43, has since been charged with uttering threats, assaulting police, and mischief. Cops say prior to the incident caught on tape, Henry spat on a staff member at Seaton House homeless shelter, punched a female officer, bit a construction worker, and kicked out the back window of a cop cruiser.
None of this changes the fact that he appeared to be completely still when he was kicked and Tasered. And remember, Tasers can and have killed people.
The clip also showed cops bullying the bystander taking the video. The officer with the Taser points at him and says "Move back sir, if you want to be a witness," to which the man behind the camera, already several metres removed, replies, "I'm not obstructing your arrest."
Later, that same cop orders a female officer to "get that guy out of my face please"—referring to the witness. She obeys, and, along with a different male officer, advises the witness that if he continues to film, his cellphone will be seized as evidence.
This is flat-out wrong. The bystander was nowhere near close to impeding on the arrest and was completely within his rights to film the interaction, something that even the normally pugnacious Toronto Police Service spokesman Mark Pugash agreed on.
As the two officers are threatening to seize the witness' phone, the male cop warns him, "He's going to spit in your face, you're going to get AIDS."
What. The. Fuck?
We know Henry allegedly spit on someone during the first altercation, so we can assume he's the one being referred to.
However, aside from demonstrating a totally inaccurate, serophobic understanding of how a person contracts HIV (you can't "get AIDS" and you can't contract HIV from saliva), when one considers that this all took place near the gay village, the comment—was it a joke?—also smacks of homophobia.
The cops have since issued a Twitter apology for the AIDS remark, noting they are bringing in an expert to explain how HIV/AIDS actually works. They are also conducting an "internal investigation," which many are rightfully skeptical will lead nowhere. The Special Investigations Unit, which looks into cop-caused fatalities and serious injuries, has said the injuries from Henry's Tasering weren't bad enough to warrant opening a file.
Today, the man who took the video, Waseem Khan, filed an official complaint with the Office of the Independent Police Review. Meanwhile, gay activist group Queers Crash the Beat protested outside police headquarters during a police board meeting.
"These are the same Toronto Police who illegally card and harass Black, Indigenous and other Torontonian people of colour. The same Toronto police that continue to disregard violence against trans women, people living with HIV/AIDS, and sex workers in our communities. The same Toronto police who recently enacted an undercover sting targeting men who have sex with men in Marie Curtis Park," the group said in a written statement.
For a few days there, it seems much of city had forgotten about all that. We can thank the officers in this 90-second video for the brutal reminder.
Follow Manisha Krishnan on Twitter.