Advertisement

‘Defund the police’ rallies held across Canada; protesters topple John A. Macdonald statue

Click to play video 'Canada-wide protests held calling for defunding of police' Canada-wide protests held calling for defunding of police
WATCH ABOVE: Canada-wide protests held calling for defunding of police – Aug 29, 2020

Demonstrators in Montreal toppled a statue of Canada’s first prime minister amid marches across the country in support of calls to defund the police.

A flyer obtained by Global News shows that the movement to remove the statue of John A. Macdonald was organized separately from the group calling for police defunding.

Read more: Jacob Blake’s father says son paralyzed from waist down after Kenosha police shooting

“Today, inspired by a summer of rebellion and anti-racist protest, a diverse coalition of young activists take it upon themselves to act where the city has failed,” read the flyer.

“We offer this action in solidarity with the Indigenous peoples of Tio’tia:ke, Turtle Island and across the globe, and all those fighting against colonialism and anti-blackness in the struggle for a better world.”

Story continues below advertisement
Click to play video 'Protesters in Montreal topple John A. Macdonald statue, demand police defunding' Protesters in Montreal topple John A. Macdonald statue, demand police defunding
Protesters in Montreal topple John A. Macdonald statue, demand police defunding – Aug 29, 2020

The statue — which has long been at the centre of a debate over how it symbolizes Canada’s colonial past — was unbolted, pulled to the ground and sprayed with graffiti earlier Saturday afternoon, according to images of the incident posted to social media.

The statue was removed at the end of a peaceful protest where an estimated 200 people marched, according to The Canadian Press. No arrests were made.

Story continues below advertisement

In a tweet Saturday afternoon, Montreal Mayor Valerie Plante condemned the statue’s toppling as an act of vandalism.

“I reiterate that it’s better to put them in context rather than remove them,” read Plante’s tweet. “I am also in favour of adding monuments that are more representative of the society to which we aspire.”

Protests have also taken place in Toronto, London and Calgary. Others were also expected to happen in Fredericton and Moncton Saturday, according to event organizers.

The demonstrations called for money allocated to police forces to be reinvested into community organizations that work to address systemic racism and save the lives of BIPOC Canadians.

Story continues below advertisement

“This event, it’s been organized by groups and organizations from all across the country. We all got together and decided we needed to stage something bigger to get more people’s attention and to try and get people to understand that we’re not just going to take this lying down,” Gal Harper, member, organizer, and lead activist with Black Lives Matter London told Global News.

“Things need to change and it needs to happen now,” Harper said.

In Toronto, demonstrators gathered at Downsview Park for a march beginning at 11 a.m. ET, according to the Coalition for BIPOC Liberation.

By 12:30 p.m. ET, dozens of protesters had gathered on Sheppard Avenue. A second march also began at 4 p.m. ET at Christie Pits Park.

Story continues below advertisement

In a Facebook post Saturday morning, the coalition outlined its demands.

Click to play video 'Jacob Blake’s family delivers powerful message to protesters: “You must fight with self-love”' Jacob Blake’s family delivers powerful message to protesters: “You must fight with self-love”
Jacob Blake’s family delivers powerful message to protesters: “You must fight with self-love” – Aug 28, 2020

“We demand our basic human right to live peacefully with the equitable opportunity to live our best lives, take care of our families and support our communities,” the statement reads.

The coalition says without the removal of the laws of colonialism, the liberation of Black, Indigenous and People of Colour will “cease to exist.”

“Invest in people, not police,” the statement says. “Reallocation Committees will ensure funding divested from police forces will be reallocated back to community-based initiatives.”

Read more: Black man shot multiple times after turning his back to police in Kenosha, Wisc.

Photos posted on social media of the London, Ont., protest show dozens of demonstrators holding placards and signs in support of the Black Lives Matter movement.

Story continues below advertisement

View this post on Instagram

#ldntont @blacklivesmatterlondon

A post shared by Moon Of Retribvtion 🌖 (@moonofretribvtion) on

 

In a press release issued on Thursday, Black Trans Lives Matter, DefundYYC and Idle No More —  who have organized the demonstration in downtown Calgary — asked protesters to gather at Sien Lok Park at 1 p.m.

More than 150 demonstrators then marched to Calgary city hall at 2 p.m.

According to LJ Joseph, the vice-president of Black Lives Matter Calgary, social support needs are disproportionately greater in neighbourhoods that have a higher BIPOC population.

“I do live in the affected area,” said Joseph. “So it hits closer to home. I can see how a lack of resources can lead up to crime.

Story continues below advertisement

In the release, organizers said the world is “changing fast,” and that systems in place are “not evolving at the same pace as humanity.”

“We must keep putting pressure on those in power to make swift change that immobilizes racism at every interaction to alleviate ALL oppressions,” the release reads. “We believe ALL Black lives matter and will amplify Trans voices as well as other folx on the LBGTQ2S+ spectrum.”

Click to play video 'Kenosha police chief confirms 2 people killed, 1 injured during Jacob Blake protests' Kenosha police chief confirms 2 people killed, 1 injured during Jacob Blake protests
Kenosha police chief confirms 2 people killed, 1 injured during Jacob Blake protests – Aug 28, 2020

However, opponents of the defund the police movement claim doing so could have dangerous implications for society.

U.S. President Donald Trump has claimed calls to defund forces are an attempt to “take away” police.

Story continues below advertisement

A poll conducted last month by Ipsos on behalf of Global News found that Canadians are split on whether to defund the police.

The survey found 51 per cent of Canadians support the idea of defunding the police and redirecting the funds to other local government services.

Of those respndents, 19 per cent said they “strongly” agree, 32 per cent said they “somewhat” agree.

However, 49 per cent of Canadians said they do not support the idea of defunding the police.

The protests in Canada come less than a week after Jacob Blake, a 29-year-old Black man, was tasered and shot seven times by police in Kenosha, Wisconsin on Sunday.

The incident was caught on camera by bystanders and has been shared widely on social media.

Click to play video 'UN human rights office calls Jacob Blake shooting “excessive”' UN human rights office calls Jacob Blake shooting “excessive”
UN human rights office calls Jacob Blake shooting “excessive” – Aug 28, 2020

Blake was shot as he opened the door to his vehicle. Three of his children were present at the time of the incident.

Story continues below advertisement

In an interview with the Chicago Sun Times, Blake’s father — also named Jacob Blake — told the paper that his son, who was rushed to hospital after the shooting, is now paralyzed from the waist down.

Wisconsin’s Department of Justice is investigating the shooting, and all three officers involved have since been put on administrative leave.

The shooting sparked days of protests in Kenosha. On Friday, a candlelight vigil was held for Blake in the city.

A number of pro sports games were postponed after players took a stand against racial inequality following Blake’s shooting.

The NBA’s Milwaukee Bucks were the first franchise to postpone a game.

Read more: Calgary’s LGBTQ, BIPOC communities join nationwide protest to defund police

The decision caused a domino effect within the NBA and across several pro sports leagues with athletes in the WNBA, MLB, NHL, NFL, MLS and ATP choosing to stand with the Black Lives Matter movement.

Blake’s shooting follows months of unrest across the U.S. and around the world over police brutality and racial injustice.

Those protests began after George Floyd — a 46-year-old Black man from Minnesota — died after a police officer in Minneapolis knelt on his neck for more than seven minutes during an arrest.

Story continues below advertisement

–With files from Global News’ Kaylen Small, Adam Toy, Chris Jancelewicz, Jacquelyn LeBel and The Canadian Press