More than 150 Calgarians came together Saturday to demonstrate the need to defund the police and shift funds to social supports.
Raricanow, DefundYYC and Idle No More organized the protest, joining other events across the country.
Calgary’s protest drew people from the LGBTQ and BIPOC (Black, Indigenous and people of colour) communities to Sien Lok Park for a march to city hall, with demonstrators taking a knee twice along Centre Avenue.
LJ Joseph, vice-president of Black Lives Matter Calgary, said the need for social supports is disproportionately greater in areas of the city that have more BIPOC.
“I do live in the affected area,” Joseph said. “So it hits closer to home. I can see how a lack of resources can lead up to crime.
“But people who live in a deep south suburb, they have no idea because they have all their social programs.”
According to Joseph, the protest is also meant to raise awareness of the challenges Black trans people face, especially with police.
“We really want people to focus on Black trans lives today. The police have their own role within the LGBTQ community — that’s why it’s important to us to support,” Joseph said.
‘Over to you’
Gender specialist Dr. Michael Marshall said it’s up to the advantageous people to demolish the systems that continue to harm.
“I feel very strongly that the role of Black folk, people of colour is really to raise awareness so that the work to dismantle the systems that oppress us could be done by the people who oppress us,” he said.
“My role here is not to do any work; we’ve done enough work. The role is to highlight so that we can say, ‘For centuries now, we’ve done the work. Over to you.'”
Marshall said unfortunately, there is a misconception of what defunding the police means.
“If we look at the communities that have the least amount of crime, it isn’t because they have the most police — they have the most resources. Such communities already have defunded the police,” he explained.
“So removing funds from an organization that is not equipped to do the work that they do and placing it squarely with a group that can do it — mental health workers, a social worker to do mental health visits and providing supports within the community that lift the individuals who come to harm — is exactly what defunding the police is.”
Because of the structures in place, racialized trans people have increased experiences of “mental health morbidity” and contact with the police as a result — not because of crimes, but because they are hurting, Marshall said.
“We find that racialized trans folk are in touch with police for the wrong reasons,” he said.
‘We have demands’
Adora Nwofor with Black Lives Matter YYC said the issue is about more than money.
“Don’t listen when the police say that they’re helping us. They are not. We’re telling you. We’re the people, we’re in trouble, hear us when we say defund the police.”
‘We are human’
Rally speaker Adebayo Chris Katiiti Kalibbala wants sensitivity training for everyone in positions of power.
“Before we are trans, we are Black. Before we are both of those things, we are human… like anybody else,” he said. “Before even police existed, we existed.”
He questioned when police brutality will end, saying “they keep funding them to murder us.” That money needs to go to the community.
“Don’t cry for us when police have murdered us, when you didn’t cry for us when we were crying. We’re crying right now; I’m going to need you to cry with us. We’re fighting right now; we need you to fight with us,” he said.
Global News reached out to the Calgary Police Service but it was not available for comment.
Alberta Justice Minister Kaycee Madu tweeted Saturday: “We must strengthen our law enforcement and make reforms where needed — not defund the police or defame those who bear enormous risks to keep our people and communities safe.”