Ottawa

'March for Justice for Abdirahman Abdi' in Ottawa draws hundreds

Hundreds gathered to honour Abdirahman Abdi — who died following what witnesses described as a violent arrest last Sunday — before beginning a 3.5-kilometre march to the Elgin Street police station in downtown Ottawa this afternoon.

Ontario's SIU probing actions of 2 officers involved in arrest of Somali-Canadian man

A group holding a "Justice for Abdirahman Abdi" banner leads hundreds on a march from Somerset Park Square to the Ottawa police headquarters on Elgin Street. (Trevor Pritchard/CBC)

Hundreds gathered to honour Abdirahman Abdi — who died following what witnesses described as a violent arrest last Sunday — before beginning a 3.5-kilometre march to the Elgin Street police station in downtown Ottawa this afternoon.

The 37-year-old Somali-Canadian was remembered as a "kind and gentle soul" in one of several speeches, including remarks from brother and niece.

The march began at Somerset Square Park in Ottawa's Hintonburg neighbourhood, across the street from where witnesses say Abdi was pepper sprayed, beaten with a baton and punched in the head during an arrest outside his apartment building last Sunday. 

The crowd chanted, "black lives matter," as it left the square and introduced other chants, including "silence is violence" as it made its way to the police station.
Abdirahman Abdi, 37, was a Somali-Canadian with mental health issues, whose family moved to Canada eight years ago. He was pronounced dead Monday afternoon after losing vital signs during a confrontation with police on Sunday morning. (Abdi family)

​The event this weekend, billed as a peaceful "March for Justice for Abdirahman Abdi," was meant to promote discussion about police-sanctioned violence, anti-blackness and Islamophobia, organizers said.

Wangui Kimari, who helped organize the rally after meeting Abdi's mother, said the event is also meant to "draw attention to the intersection of mental health and racialization." Abdi's family has said he struggled with mental health issues.

A similar march was held in Montreal on Thursday evening, and organizers in Ottawa said marches are also being held in Toronto and Halifax.

No change in officers' employment status

The violence involving Abdi started after police were called to a Hintonburg coffee shop on reports that a woman had been groped.
Const. Dave Weir, left, and Const. Daniel Montsion, left, are seen kneeling by Abdirahman Abdi outside his apartment building on Hilda Street. (Still from YouTube video)

Witnesses told CBC News that Abdi was restrained outside the coffee shop before police arrived but he wasn't arrested outside the store. Other witnesses described two officers beating him 250 metres away from the coffee shop outside the apartment building.

Ontario's Special Investigations Unit, a civilian law enforcement agency tasked with investigating police officers, is investigating the actions of those two officers — Const. Dave Weir and Const. Daniel Montsion — and the circumstances surrounding Abdi's death. It could take months to complete the probe.

Neither officer involved in Abdi's death is on front-line duty at the moment, but their employment status remains the same.

Weir is now on leave and Montsion, who was on assisted patrol the evening Abdi was killed, is back on his usual investigative duty, according to police Chief Charles Bordeleau.

Kimari said the officers should be suspended without pay.

"Someone cannot be on a payroll if they have just killed someone," she said, adding that the march is also meant to highlight a demand that the results of the SIU investigation be made public when it is complete.

Ahead of the march, organizers flagged that police were present and that "marshals" in orange vests would walk between officers and those marching to prevent any uncomfortable encounters.

The Elgin Street police station was temporarily closed to the public due to the demonstration, and police asked anyone who needed to file a report to go to a different station.

Marchers shouted "shame on you" upon arriving at the station, but did not cross the barricades put up by police. They continued to wave banners and organizers delivered more speeches outside the station.

Corrections

  • An earlier version of this story said one of the officers under investigation was removed from patrol duty. In fact, the employment status of both officers remains the same.
    Jul 30, 2016 8:37 PM ET