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#BlackLivesMatter Protests Escalate in Toronto as Police Shooting Deaths Scrutinised

Meanwhile, VICE has obtained a leaked letter from Peel Police, who are angry about claims that they "tampered" with a knife at the scene of a police shooting.

by Hilary Beaumont
29 July 2015, 5:20am

The Black Lives Matter protest in Toronto on July 27. Photo via Twitter

This article originally appeared on VICE Canada.

About a hundred #BlackLivesMatter demonstrators blocked traffic on a Toronto expressway Monday evening following what they view as two recent injustices: the police shooting of Andrew Loku, and the lack of charges against an officer who shot and killed Jermaine Carby.

And they're not the only ones denouncing the investigation into Carby's death: a letter leaked to VICE shows the Peel Police are similarly displeased with the fallout of the investigation—but for very different reasons.

Monday's #BlackLivesMatter rally began near Loku's apartment building, where police shot and killed the 45-year-old black man two weeks ago. Protesters then marched to the Allen Expressway, where they linked arms, blocking traffic. As the sun set, the group grew in numbers and police arrived on the scene, but unlike the police pepper-spraying of Black Lives Matter demonstrators in Cleveland over the weekend, no violence broke out.

"It is time for action," the Facebook event for the #BlackLivesMatter rally states. "...Mayor [John] Tory and Police Chief Saunders say that we should wait for the 'independent' Special Investigations Unit report... This week, we saw the results of this supposed process: The officer(s) responsible for Jermaine Carby's death will not be charged for his murder. This is the Canadian equivalent of the 'no indictment' decision of the Mike Brown murder south of the border."

Still here. Justice for Jermaine. Justice for Andrew. #BLMTOshutitdown @osope pic.twitter.com/XpeiiFVpVW
— BlackLivesMatter TO (@BLM_TO) July 28, 2015

Carby's death at police gunpoint and the subsequent investigation into his shooting have raised the eyebrows and ire of his family members and supporters.

At around 10 PM on the evening of September 24 last fall, Peel Police told media they pulled Carby's vehicle over near Queen Street East and Kennedy Road in Brampton.

The Peel Police narrative was that the 33-year-old black man was holding a knife, and that police told him to "drop the knife" before an unnamed officer shot and killed him.

On July 21, Special Investigations Unit director Tony Loparco told media his investigators didn't find a knife at the scene, and that an officer had handed in the 13-centimeter kitchen knife to a senior officer "several hours" after the shooting, in a paper bag.

"This conduct is hard to fathom," Loparco told media. "As a result of the officer's actions, the SIU, and in a broader sense the public, is asked to accept that the knife it retrieved from police was in Mr. Carby's possession when he was shot, when that same inference could have more readily and safely been made had the scene not been tampered with."

The SIU didn't lay charges against the officer because, they found, he was defending himself against Carby.

"The particulars of his case are suspicious," the Toronto Black Lives Matter group stated on the Facebook event page for Monday's rally. "The SIU confirms the officers tampered with evidence at the scene, producing the apparent knife of Jermaine's hours after the initial investigations began, which suggests that a weapon was planted. Jermaine was defamed by police to justify his murder."

But a July 22 letter from Peel Police to the SIU that was leaked to VICE states the SIU shouldn't have said there was "tampering" in Carby's case.

The letter from Paul Black, president of the Peel Regional Police Association, to Tony Loparco, Director of the Special Investigations Unit, claims the SIU "came to the appropriate and expected decision in clearing the officer of any wrongdoing."

"However," Black's letter continues, "the subsequent Press Release of your findings made comments about our officers, that were inciteful [sic] and inflammatory, while failing to fully explain the exoneration of our subject officer."

"Using the word 'tampering' to describe the events surrounding the knife, leads one to believe that police had sinister motives," Black writes. "It is, quite simply, unacceptable for you to make such an inappropriate and inaccurate statement. Like a gun properly seized from the subject officer, the knife was seized in good faith, was correctly bagged for forensic purposes, was properly turned over to a Supervisor for safekeeping, and in due course turned over to SIU forensic investigators.

"Your comment, suggesting the knife was not turned over for several hours is also misleading. Most of those hours and minutes were derived waiting for the SIU forensic investigators to arrive."

VICE sent the letter to the Black Lives Matter Toronto Coalition, requesting comment.

Rodney Diverlus, an organizer with the group, told VICE over the phone that the letter was offensive.

"I think this letter is incredibly angering and offensive," he said. "It is offensive to the families of Jermaine Carby, it is offensive to the families of all victims of police shooting, and I think that this letter shows a lot about where the priorities of the police association and where the priorities of our municipal police forces are at."

"What we need from the Peel Regional Police, what we need from Police Associations, isn't an angry letter sent to the SIU that plays on semantics. What we need from the police are a real commitment to address anti-black racism. What we need from the police are systemic work to address the way that violence is perpetrated by their officers. What we need from the police are to stop killing black bodies. That's what we need from the police."

VICE also reached out to Peel Police and the SIU, but did not hear back before publication. This story will be updated if we hear back from them.

Monday evening, representatives of the Black Lives Matter Toronto Coalition posted on Facebook that mayor John Tory had agreed to meet with them. A couple hours later the group posted on Twitter, "We got the mayor on the phone, but that ain't enough. We need solid commitments."

Follow Hilary Beaumont on Twitter.

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