'March for Justice for Abdirahman Abdi' in Ottawa draws hundreds
Ontario's SIU probing actions of 2 officers involved in arrest of Somali-Canadian man
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.
Crowd is now walking from Somerset Square in Hintonburg to the Ottawa police station. <a href="https://t.co/X3JiE6QphX">pic.twitter.com/X3JiE6QphX</a>—@amkfoote
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.
- Hundreds gather for memorial to Abdirahman Abdi
- 2 officers under investigation in death of Ottawa man
- Witness describes fatal confrontation between Abdirahman Abdi and police
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.
A family representative speaks to marchers. <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/ottnews?src=hash">#ottnews</a> <a href="https://t.co/ZTbT46rxGj">pic.twitter.com/ZTbT46rxGj</a>—@idilmussa
No change in officers' employment status
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.
Several hundred marchers are out on Somerset <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/AbdirahmanAbdi?src=hash">#AbdirahmanAbdi</a> <a href="https://t.co/n9k8D2d1hJ">pic.twitter.com/n9k8D2d1hJ</a>—@idilmussa
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.
Marchers have arrived at the police station <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/ottnews?src=hash">#ottnews</a> <a href="https://t.co/QAGSrsIher">pic.twitter.com/QAGSrsIher</a>—@idilmussa
- 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