Thousands of people gathered at Nathan Phillips Square Sunday afternoon to push for police reform in the city.
The “Abolish Police in Canada: A Pride Rally & Teach-in” was organized by the No Pride in Policing Coalition.
Chanting and holding signs that read “Stop Killing Us and “Black Lives Matter,” the demonstrators called on leaders to defund, disarm, demilitarize and abolish police.
“During this context of a pandemic, we’re seeing the killings in plain sight of Blacks, of Indigenous people, including Black women and Indigenous women by police, particularly in the context of when they doing mental health checks,” said Beverly Bain with the No Pride in Policing Coalition.
Organizers said the goal of the rally and teach-in is to demand a 50 per cent cut to the Toronto police services budget.
A motion by Coun. Josh Matlow and Coun. Kristyn Wong-Tam is set to go before city council this week calling for a 10 per cent cut to the police service budget, roughly $122 million, and that the money be redirected to other marginalized community support programs.
Toronto Mayor John Tory is also proposing the creation of a new non-police response unti for calls that do not involve weapons or violence, however, he does not specifically call for defunding of police services.
Supporters also chanted “here for Dafonte” and “shame,” expressing anger and disappointment at Friday’s verdict in the Dafonte Miller case.
Const. Michael Theriault was found guilty of assault but cleared of the more serious charge of aggravated assault in the 2016 beating of Miller that left the then 19-year-old with a ruptured eye and other serious injuries.
“We never counted on the justice system to deliver fairness and accountability,” said journalist and activist Desmond Cole, who addressed the crowd. “And so the decision is not a surprise.”
Participants were asked to bring their own masks and to practice physical distancing at the event due to the coronavirus pandemic.