Bikers and families descend on Ontario jail demanding end to deaths inside

Revving their engines, more than 500 bikers showed up at the Elgin Middlesex Detention Centre after a funeral for Brandon "Bam Bam" Marchant on Saturday. Marchant died after being found unresponsive in his cell earlier this month.

More than 1,000 people, including about 500 bikers, were at the Elgin Middlesex Detention Centre on Saturday

A woman holds a sign that calls for justice for Brandon "BamBam" Marchant as hundreds of bikers descended on the Elgin Middlesex Detention Centre on Saturday after his funeral. (Kate Dubinski/CBC News)

In a show of force that hasn't been seen before at the Elgin Middlesex Detention Centre (EMDC), more than 1000 people descended on the London, Ont., jail and demanded justice after the most recent death of an inmate, a 32-year-old father with ties to the Hell's Angels Motorcycle Club. 

Approximately 500 bikers, some wearing club jackets from Ontario and Quebec, stood alongside families and friends who have lost a loved one in the jail for about two hours Saturday afternoon. They revved engines, erected crosses and formed an Indigenous healing circle.  

"I hope this is the last death and that this will be the change in the jail. Brandon was loved by everyone and this is a show of support for him," said Dar Maynard, steps away from where a cross was placed on the lawn of the jail property for her stepson Brandon Marchant, who died earlier this month.  

"We will not give up. This will not be the last rally until there is justice," added Melissa Stokes, Marchant's sister. 

Several motorcyclists spun their back wheels while remaining stationary, creating a loud noise, smoke, and markings on the ground outside the provincial jail in London, Ont. (Kate Dubinski/CBC News)

Marchant, who was taken off life support on July 6, is the nineteen person since 2009 to die after being inside EMDC.

He was brought to the jail from hospital on July 2 after a car crash. Inmates have reported seeing guards assaulting Marchant after an alleged dispute over a towel. He was found unresponsive in his cell on July 3.

Raquel Hilliker, a niece of Floyd Deleary, writes her uncles name on a new cross at the Elgin Middlesex Detention Centre on Saturday, July 17. Deleary died at the jail in 2015. (Kate Dubinski/CBC News)

The union for corrections officers has not responded to requests for comment. 

The Ministry of the Solicitor General, the office of the Chief Coroner, and London police are all investigating the death. Minister Sylvia Jones refused a CBC request for an interview regarding allegations about the guards, who remain at work, according to a lawyer familiar with the jail. 

On Saturday, after a funeral at St. Peter's Cemetery for Marchant, the bikers rode peacefully through the city to the Exeter Road jail, where the group called answers.

'We're not giving up'

"We need to keep coming out and showing that we're not going to give up. We're going to keep sharing our stories and our loved ones stories, and hopefully it opens the eyes of the people in the jail and of the government," said Emily Kechego, whose uncle, Floyd Deleary, died in the jail in 2015. 

A jingle dancer from Chippewa of the Thames First Nation dances as community members sing a prophecy song about moving forward, part of an Indigenous healing circle at the Elgin Middlesex Detention Centre. (Kate Dubinski/CBC News)

Another niece, Raquel Hilliker, wrote Deleary's name on a wooden cross staked into the ground. Eighteen crosses put up by family members over the course of recent years were removed by jail officials earlier this month, after guards complained they added to their mental distress. 

"It's been 12 years that this has been going on. Whatever the reason that people are in there, it doesn't mean that they shouldn't have a chance to come out," said Jeanna Drysdale, whose husband, Randy Drysdale, was killed inside EMDC in 2009.  

Jeanna Drysdale's husband Randy was killed at EMDC in 2009. She says she will continue to fight for change at the jail, but she's lost faith that jail officials and governments are listening. (Kate Dubinski/CBC News)

"I wish I had faith that things would change, but I don't have faith anymore. Randy was such a good guy. He didn't deserve this, any of this. He was in here, never been to jail before, there's no reason why he shouldn't have come out."  

There was not a large police presence at the funeral or the EMDC ride. London police said they did not believe there was a concern for public safety and did not attend, save for one officer watching at the jail. 

See more photo from Saturday's gathering at the jail: 

About 1,000 people, including 500 bikers, rallied at the Elgin Middlesex Detention Centre on Saturday. (Kate Dubinski/CBC News)
A woman smudges bikers as they enter the Elgin Middlesex Detention Centre grounds on Saturday. (Kate Dubinski/CBC News)
In a show of force, hundreds of bikers, including some who belong to outlaw motorcycle clubs, rode to the Elgin Middlesex Detention Centre on Saturday. (Kate Dubinski/CBC News)
A new cross was installed for Brandon Marchant, 32, outside the Elgin Middlesex Detention Centre. Marchant is the 19th inmate to die at the jail since 2009. (Kate Dubinski/CBC News)