Toronto

Black Lives Matter protesters remain at Toronto police headquarters

Black Lives Matter activists remain at Toronto Police headquarters today after officers and protesters clashed overnight.

Toronto Police spokesperson says activists showed 'defiance' when told to take down tents, put out fire

Toronto police put out fire that kept Black Lives Matter protesters warm. Police said fire was illegal. (CBC)

Black Lives Matter is continuing its protest at Toronto Police headquarters Tuesday after clashes overnight between officers and activists.

Supporters of the protest urged Toronto residents on Twitter to donate blankets, sleeping bags, heaters, heat lamps and hand warmers to keep the activists warm. 

Police dismantled tents and doused a fire on Monday night at 40 College St. Officers in white jumpsuits poured fire retardant on the remaining pieces of wood.

When police moved into the demonstration to extinguish the fire, there was pushing and shoving. The crowd shouted: "Shame." After the police finished, the crowd chanted: "Hands up, don't shoot."

Mark Pugash, spokesperson for Toronto Police, said the protesters were notified that the tents and fire were illegal and given adequate notice to remove them. He said when they did not comply, police moved in to enforce the law.

"The protesters' response was defiance. They linked arms. They did it around the fire. They obstructed police," Pugash said Tuesday.

"If people want to protest peacefully, we will work with you. We will facilitate. They are welcome to be out there."

Pugash said the police notice given to the protesters was adequate and they were told the tents and fire were illegal.

"Nobody was taken by surprise. It was enough time for them to decide they were not going to comply."

​Black Lives Matter protesters on Twitter say the police attacked the protesters and poured toxic chemicals on their wood. 

"Apparently 'support' is beating up peaceful protesters, pushing us into fire and poisoning the air," it said.

The activists say they have three demands:

  • The release of the names of officers who killed Andrew Loku, a 45-year-old father of five fatally shot in Toronto last July, and Jermaine Carby, a 33-year-old man fatally shot last September in Brampton at a traffic stop. Both officers were cleared in the shootings.
  • A review of the Ontario Special Investigations Unit with consultation from families affected by police violence.
  • A reversal of changes imposed by the city on Afrofest and restoration of the event to a two-day festival.

Group leaders have said they are frustrated with the city's decision to shorten the Afrofest festival after officials say they received noise complaints.

Last Wednesday, Coun. Mary Margaret-McMahon said a meeting has been scheduled with city staff, the mayor and festival organizers to discuss the future of the event and how to get it in compliance with regulations.

The SIU announced Friday that the officer who fatally shot Loku won't face criminal charges. It said firing his weapon was necessary to ward off an "imminent hammer attack." 

The Black Lives Matter protest began at Nathan Phillips Square on Sunday after that announcement and moved to Toronto Police headquarters on Monday.

Clarifications

  • An earlier version of this story reported that police spokesperson Mark Pugash said protesters were welcome to complain to the Police Services Board. In fact Pugash did not offer that as an avenue of complaint. Also, an earlier version of this story said police told protesters to take down their tents. In fact, protesters were notified that the tents were illegal.
    Mar 23, 2016 11:05 AM ET

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