A rally protesting police violence attracted a few dozen demonstrators in downtown Kelowna on Saturday afternoon.
The ‘Justice for Mona Wang’ protest took place at Stuart Park, where the demonstrators could be heard shouting and demanding ‘Justice for Mona!’ during the two-hour event.
The protest was one of four held simultaneously across the province in honour of university student Mona Wang, who, while handcuffed, was dragged and stepped on by an RCMP officer during a mental-health wellness check in January.
The incident was captured on video and was released last month, sparking outrage.
On Saturday, one protester, Heather Friesen, said she attended the Kelowna rally “because police brutality needs to end,” and “wellness checks should not involve violence.”
Friesen said the video was horrific, “that Constable Lacy Browning should be held accountable,” and that police should be eliminated from doing wellness checks, “but have them on backup if it does become violent.”
Kelowna city councilor Loyal Wooldridge was among those in attendance.
He said, “the behaviour that we saw in that video is absolutely unacceptable and certainly not the level of service that anyone in our community deserves to receive in a time of crisis.”
He continued, saying, “our system is broken. We need to have these tough conversations and do things differently, and we must recognize that racism, systemic injustice, the ongoing effects of colonization, and inequitable access to health-care resources are all risks that lead up to this crisis interaction.”
The mayor of Peachland, Cindy Fortin, also attended the event.
Fortin said it was difficult to attend, because she’s concerned about coronavirus exposure and wears a mask almost everywhere she goes, but “that’s how important I felt today was.”
The mayor said “what happened to Mona Wang shouldn’t happen to anybody. I have young daughters who also attended UBCO and stayed in the dorms. When I saw that (video), it just broke my heart.”
Fortin, a former nurse, also said “Mona needed someone to come there and talk to her, and hold her hand and have more sympathy than what she got.
“I’m just hoping that this day and this time will change the future, and that we’ll have more of these rallies, and protect people like Mona Wang, who really needed to have a different type of care and not that type of police action.”
Another demonstrator, Kayla White, said she attended because she wanted to support mental health and people going through tough times.
“When somebody phones the police to go and do a wellness check on someone who is in a mental health crisis, they want to help the person,” said White.
“They don’t want to have them dragged along the floor, face down. It’s terrible.”