Last night’s grand jury verdict in Missouri to acquit Ferguson, St. Louis officer Darren Wilson for his killing of 18-yr-old Michael Brown (the prosecutor didn’t even choose to seek an indictment) sent shockwaves throughout the American body politic. Riots broke out on the streets, twinned with police violence that ended up producing imagery reminiscent of the 1992 LA riots.
Brown’s death reignited the political debates around racial profiling, police brutality, and the efficacy of the American justice system, sparking solidarity rallies in cities like LA, NY, Chicago, Toronto, etc. I was at the Toronto protest, organized by a coalition of activist groups who called it the #BlackLivesMatter rally. It was held right in front of the US Consulate near University and Queen street, and several hundred people ended up packing the space tight. Here are some photos.
Protestors demanded an official acknowledgement from the Harper government of police violence in Toronto, contributing to a toxic atmosphere of mistrust between communities and those who’re supposed to protect and serve. An report by the Ottawa-based Council of Canadian Academies was released this week and concluded that a “one-size-fits-all” policing approach isn’t going to work anymore. Police have to follow the lead of communities in order to partner with them for the creation of safe and just environments.
This rally occurred in a Canadian context, as the Conservative government is working on passing new anti-terror and surveillance laws to “protect” Canadians from criminals and terrorists. Meanwhile, the problems of civil liberty violations and government overreach remains unchanged. Ferguson has reignited the debate around who should watch the watchers and police the police.
But it’s been and will continue to be an uphill battle, as Ferguson is just a flash point in a simmering conflict that involves both race and class, where the strong preys on the weak.