Toronto

Black Lives Matter Toronto stop Yonge-Dundas traffic over Abdirahman Abdi case

Activist group issues a series of demands to Ontario's Special Investigations Unit in wake of Ottawa man's death.

Ottawa man died after confrontation with police on July 24

'Black lives they matter here,' demonstrators chanted as Black Lives Matter Toronto blocked the intersection of Yonge-Dundas to demand change in the wake of Abdirahman Abdi's death. Abdi died following a confrontation with Ottawa police in late July. (Martin Trainor/CBC)

Black Lives Matter Toronto (BLMTO) briefly shut down the intersection of Yonge and Dundas to demand justice in the death of Ottawa's Abdirahman Abdi.

Abdi, 37, died after what witnesses have said was a violent arrest on July 24. Ontario's Special Investigations Unit (SIU) is now investigating two Ottawa police constables in connection with Abdi's death and both have been suspended with pay.

Those who knew Abdi said told CBC News the man had mental health issues but described him as a gentle person. Prior to the altercation, police were notified that Abdi had been groping people inside a nearby coffee shop.

On Monday, BLMTO said this isn't just an issue in Ottawa and issued a series of demands including that the SIU — the provincial agency that investigates any interaction with police that results in a death, serious injury or allegation of sexual assault — lay charges against the police officers involved in Abdi's death.

"We don't want to be here, but we're here to say enough," said demonstrator Syrus Ware.

"If we don't get changes, we're going to keep shutting it down."

BLMTO representatives vowed to keep staging public protests until there's change at Ontario's Special Investigations Unit. (Alan Habbick/CBC)

BLMTO also called for the SIU to release its entire report into the Abdi case and release any race-based data that it keeps. 

Sitting in the middle of the normally bustling intersection, BLMTO representatives said they would keep shutting down public spaces until there's an "overhaul" of the SIU.

Yusra Khogali, a BLMTO spokesperson, said she believes the SIU now works to protect police officers rather than hold them accountable for their actions.

Previously, BLMTO staged an event at Ryerson University for the community to mourn Abdi's death but also to discuss the issues surrounding it.

The group pointed out there are some similarities between Abdi's death and that of black men who have died following interactions with Toronto police.

The intersection reopened just before 9:30 a.m.

now