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Black activists hold protest in response to fatal police shooting in Montreal

Last Updated Jul 3, 2017 at 8:34 am EDT

A Montreal police logo is seen on a cruiser on March 2, 2011 in Montreal. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson

Police should have no role in responding to mental health crises, activist groups said in response to last week last week’s police shooting of a Montreal man.

About 200 people, including representatives from the Montreal and Toronto chapters of the group Black Lives Matter, attended a protest Sunday in front of the apartment where Pierre Coriolan was shot.

They then marched through downtown, where photos posted on social media showed them climbing onto a stage at Montreal’s International Jazz Festival.

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Quebec’s police watchdog says they believe Coriolan, 58, was distressed and holding a screwdriver in each hand when police arrived at his apartment last Tuesday.

According to the watchdog’s account, police first used a Taser and rubber bullets on Coriolan but eventually drew their service weapons when those methods failed to subdue him.

Coriolan died in hospital after he was struck by several bullets.

“Police should not be the first to intervene in mental health crises,” spokeswoman Venetta Gordon told the cheering group at the vigil.

Following the vigil, the black-clad protesters marched downtown while chanting “Black lives matter!” The also carried signs bearing the name of people who died following police interventions.

Montreal police said there were no arrests.

Janaya Khan, who attended the march on behalf of Black Lives Matter’s Toronto chapter, said Coriolan’s death is part of a pattern of police violence against people who are black or mentally ill.

She pointed out similarities between Coriolan’s case and that of Andrew Loku, a black Toronto father of five who was holding a hammer when he was shot by police in 2015.

“Police were called on (Loku) for a noise complaint. He was in crisis. They killed him,” she said in a speech. “Pierre’s story follows along the same lines.”

Last week, an inquest jury ruled Loku’s case a homicide, a verdict which does not carry any criminal or civil liability. The jury also made 39 recommendations, including several aimed at better training for officers.

On Sunday, the organizers of the Montreal protest released a list of demands that includes government funding for black-specific mental health services.

They also called for the development of a national black mental health strategy, data collection on black people’s mental health and on their interactions with police, and that the names of the officers who shot Coriolan be released.