Black Lives Matter rep refuses to comment on co-founder's tweet
Chris Herhalt and Paul Johnston, CP24.com
Published Tuesday, April 5, 2016 10:45AM EDT
Last Updated Wednesday, April 6, 2016 9:01AM EDT
The head of the union representing Toronto police officers is upset over comments made by the province’s premier to Black Lives Matter protesters suggesting there is widespread racism within the service.
Mike McCormack, president of the Toronto police Association, told CTV Toronto that the Black Lives Matter movement is “trying to drive a wedge” between the public and the police – and that the statements made Monday by Kathleen Wynne played right into their hand.
During an impromptu meeting with Black Lives Matter demonstrators outside Queen’s Park, Wynne agreed with protestors who said there is “anti-black racism” in Ontario society.
McCormack said there’s no way that statement does not suggest there is anti-black racism within the Toronto Police Service.
“The protest was all about policing and the (Special Investigations Unit) and how investigations are done,” McCormack said. “So for her to make those comments, you could reasonably draw conclusions she was talking about policing.”
“We’re very troubled by that.”
Black Lives Matter protesters started camping out near the entryway to police headquarters on College Street more than two weeks ago. The camp was dismantled yesterday.
The protesters have asked for the province to reform the Special Investigations Unit and to publicly name all officers who have fatally shot people while on duty – regardless of whether the killing was deemed to be justified.
They are also asking for an apology from Toronto police for the shooting death of Andrew Loku last July.
Loku, a 45-year-old South Sudanese migrant, was shot and killed by police in his apartment building after he advanced toward an officer carrying a hammer, according to a report released by the SIU.
Loku suffered from mental health issues and had graduated from a construction trades program at George Brown College before he was killed.
The demonstrators have asked for compensation to be paid to his wife and children.
McCormack said the demonstrations over the past weeks, including an overnight “vigil” outside Wynne’s residence in north Toronto last week, “are not helping to build relationships” between police and the public.
“Instead they’re trying to build an ‘us against them’ mentality,” he said.
McCormack said he wants Wynne to clarify her statements – specifically where they suggest that the police as an institution systemically target racial minorities.
“We’ve spent the last 25 years trying to deal with this in a very constructive way,” McCormack told CP24's Stephen LeDrew. “We train differently, we hire differently.”
On April 1, Black Lives Matter demonstrators shouted down a Toronto council meeting, claiming that police intentionally target black residents with an intention to malign, disrespect and sometimes physically harm them.
“I haven’t seen any evidence that supports their stated position,” McCormack said.
On Friday, Toronto City Council unanimously approved a motion calling on the province to re-examine the SIU how it conducts investigations that involve visible minorities.
Michael Coteau, the minister responsible for anti-racism activities, has invited Black Lives Matter demonstrators to meet with him sometime in the future.
"We’re working as quickly as possible to get something set up but in terms of details, we will have to work those out in consultation with Black Lives Matter," his press secretary Jesse Wright said in an email.
Controversial tweet surfaces
Attention on the Black Lives Matter movement shifted from Monday’s impromptu meeting with the premier to social media Tuesday, after a message posted by a co-founder of the movement earlier this year surfaced.
On Feb. 9, Black Lives Matter Toronto co-founder Yusra Khogali tweeted “Plz Allah give me strength to not cuss/kill these men and white folks out here today. Plz plz plz.”
The post was discovered by a Newstalk 1010 reporter.
It was not immediately clear what event or persons Khogali was referencing in the post, which was deleted earlier today.
Khogali has yet to respond to a request for comment about the message.
In a sit-down interview with CP24 Tuesday night, a representative with Black Lives Matter Toronto refused to comment on Khogali’s tweet.
“I won’t comment on it,” Sandy Hudson said. “It would be besmirching the memory of Andrew Loku, of Jermaine Carby, and the people who have died in our community.”
Discussing the tweet, Hudson said, was not in the public’s interest.
“This is tabloid,” she said. “It’s not public interest news. It’s not news.
“What is in the public interest is what our decision makers are going to be doing to ensure that black folks are not discriminated against, unfairly targeted, dehumanized, (and) killed by police services in our city and in our country.”
Asked if she had spoken to Khogali about the tweet, Husdon said she was instead interested in speaking with the premier about “what she has committed to for our community.”
“I think that that is what is important for your viewers to know – that we need to know what comes next after a commitment for a meeting.”