Organizers plan to stay at Laurier and Nicholas until city officials listen to demands
Advocates calling for changes to Ottawa’s budget, police policies and more say they’ll stay at an intersection near the University of Ottawa until the city listens to their demands.
The Day of Action for Anishinabeg and Black Lives is organized by a collection of groups including Justice for Abdirahman, formed after the death of Abdirahman Abdi during a violent arrest in 2016.
They’ve been at the intersection of Laurier Avenue and Nicholas Street since Thursday afternoon and say they plan to be there until the city and police start talking to them about meaningful changes.
“At the end of the day, we want folks to be enraged that they have to take alternative routes,” said Vanessa Dorimain, co-chair for Ottawa Black Diaspora Coalition and one of the demonstration’s organizers.
“We want folks to be uncomfortable. We want folks to be inconvenienced, because this is how we feel constantly living in this city and in this province and in this country.”
List of demands
A list of 10 demands shared on social media by Justice for Abdirahman include calling upon city council to vote down a $13.2-million increase to the Ottawa police budget, changing police policies around dynamic entries and mental health call responses and ending racism in schools and the health-care system.
“We’re standing hand in hand together against the injustice that happened within our communities, and also to show the city that we will not take any more police violence,” said Ifrah Yusuf, co-chair of Justice for Abdirahman coalition and another organizer.
Canadians need to also be made aware that systemic racism is not something solely happening south of the border, said Dorimain.
While there was an outpouring of anger after the death of George Floyd at the hands of a police officer in Minneapolis, Dorimain said it’s not the same when there’s similar violence here in Canada.
“I think in Canada, especially, we act as if this doesn’t exist … but I mean, folks, it’s right here. We’re going through this every day right here. Be enraged at home because we’re going through it here,” she said.
“I think that it is a little bit disappointing that I feel like Canadians need to feel or need to see a boot on my neck in order for you to understand that racism is alive and well.”
1 injured Thursday
Organizers said one person suffered minor injuries when the driver of a car drove into a line of protesters Thursday afternoon, and were disappointed some people were so impatient they couldn’t wait mere minutes.
They also said the response by police was slow.
“Police do not recognize us as an urgency. They do not protect our bodies. They do not care about our voice. They do not care about us and more importantly not meant to protect us,” said Dorimain.
As of noon Friday, Laurier Avenue was closed between Elgin Street and King Edward Avenue. Nicholas Street was closed from Daly Avenue to Highway 417, meaning drivers can’t get off the highway at the Nicholas exit.
In an email to CBC, the Ottawa Police Service said they were on scene Friday morning directing traffic and “ensuring the safety of those involved.”
Police said they were investigating Thursday’s incident and that there was no timeline for ending the roadblocks.
For more stories about the experiences of Black Canadians — from anti-Black racism to success stories within the Black community — check out Being Black in Canada, a CBC project Black Canadians can be proud of. You can read more stories here.
With files from Kimberley Molina
By: CBC News · Posted: Nov 20, 2020