Protester no longer interested in meeting police board after 'traumatic' arrest

One of 12 protesters arrested in downtown Ottawa on Saturday morning says she feels betrayed and is no longer interested in meeting with members of the city's police services board.

Chief Peter Sloly expected to deliver remarks Monday afternoon

Dozens of protesters occupied the downtown intersection before the encampment was dismantled early Saturday morning. (Francis Ferland/CBC)

One of 12 protesters arrested in downtown Ottawa on Saturday morning says she feels betrayed and is no longer interested in meeting with members of the city's police services board.

Vanessa Dorimain, co-chair of the Ottawa Black Diaspora Coalition, was arrested when Ottawa police dispersed a demonstration in support of Black and Indigenous lives around 3:30 a.m. Saturday. Police charged 12 people with mischief. 

It came just hours before protesters were set to meet with Coun. Diane Deans, chair of the police services board, Coun. Rawlson King and Daljit Nirman "for the purposes of a constructive dialogue." The meeting was called off after the arrests.

Asked on CBC Radio's Ottawa Morning on Monday whether she was still open to a meeting, Dorimain said she's not.

"No," she said. "Because we were [ready] that morning, we were. We were telling everybody on site that we had gained a meeting ... we were ready for that. We were ready and prepared to have a conversation about the demands."

Vanessa Dorimain, co-chair for Ottawa Black Diaspora Coalition, was one of 12 protesters arrested and charged with mischief. (Francis Ferland/CBC)

Then came the arrests.

"I was arrested. I was detained, put in police custody. That's a very traumatic experience. I'm currently in pain due to my arrest," Dorimain said.

'Lines of police coming toward us'

The protest involved several advocacy groups including the Justice for Abdirahman coalition, formed after the death of Abdirahman Abdi, a Black Ottawa man, during a violent arrest in 2016.

The demonstrators had been camped out at the intersection of Laurier Avenue and Nicholas Street, near the University of Ottawa, since Thursday afternoon.

Dorimain said she and other protesters were fixing tents that had fallen over in the wind when they realized police were approaching the encampment. She said officers told the group over a loudspeaker they had 10 minutes to leave.

"Right after that announcement we saw the lines of police officers coming toward us, and realized that they were ready to arrest us on site that night," said Dorimain. "We were just also very confused as to why it is now that they're showing up."

CBC asked Ottawa police to comment on the timing of Saturday's arrests. A media relations official said Chief Peter Sloly will deliver remarks at 2 p.m. Monday during a Police Services Board meeting.

Rev. Anthony Bailey says clearing protesters out before a planned meeting with community leaders could undermine police efforts to reach out to Ottawa's marginalized communities. (Matthew Kupfer/CBC)

Dialogue best: Rev. Anthony Bailey

At least one prominent member of Ottawa's Black community said police could have waited before moving in to dismantle the protest.

"I believe that it was well-known that this meeting was arranged for a 12:00 p.m. on Saturday," said Rev. Anthony Bailey of Parkdale United Church.

WATCH | Engaging in dialogue would have been the best way for police to respond to protesters, says reverend:

Police should have used dialogue with anti-racism protesters rather than make arrests, advocate says

2 years ago
Duration 0:54
Dr. Rev. Anthony Bailey, of Parkdale United Church, says engaging in dialogue would have been the best way for police to respond to protesters. Instead, a dozen people involved in the protest were arrested on Saturday.

"So I'm not sure if there could have been an opportunity to engage in that dialogue. Perhaps there would have been a different way of resolving the situation."

Bailey said he takes Sloly "at his word" when the chief says he's trying to bridge the gap between police and marginalized communities in Ottawa, but added the action on Saturday could undermine those efforts.

In a news release, police said the demonstration had disrupted traffic and blocked an important route for emergency responders. All the protesters arrested have been released from custody.

Police say protest caused public safety concerns by blocking downtown intersection

2 years ago
Duration 0:52
Ottawa police Chief Peter Sloly says officers spoke to protesters about safety concerns at Laurier Avenue and Nicholas Street before dismantling the camp and making arrests early Saturday morning.


For more stories about the experiences of Black Canadians — from anti-Black racism to success stories within the Black community — check out Being Black in Canada, a CBC project Black Canadians can be proud of. You can read more stories here.


With files from CBC Radio's Ottawa Morning

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