Regent Park community speaks out against racism after noose found at 3rd Toronto construction site
‘We will not be silent in the face of racist violence,’ organizers pledge
Community members gathered in Regent Park on Sunday evening to protest against anti-Black racism after a noose was discovered at a construction site in the area last week.
The noose, found near Dundas and Sumach streets on Friday, marks the third incident of its kind this month.
Organizers of the event — which include the Regent Park Mothers of Peace, the Regent Park Neighbourhood Association and members of the community — are pledging to "not be silent in the face of racist violence."
"It's in our backyards," organizer Sureya Ibrahim told the crowd. "Very intimidating and very sad [that] it's happening here."
"I'm not surprised, but at the same time I think the silence that's happening in this community makes me sick and we have, all of us, a privilege to do something about it."
Supt. Peter Moreira spoke at the rally, saying police are taking the incident "very seriously."
"There is no place at all in this society, in our community ... for acts of anti-Black and anti-Indigenous racism," he said.
"We look forward to a time when we don't have to respond to calls like this."
Moreira said an investigator has been assigned to the case, and they will be in contact with investigators looking into similar acts across the city.
"We don't know if there is a connection, but we are going to find out if there is," he said.
In a Tweet on Sunday, Toronto police's 51 Division said they will work with the company in charge of the construction site, The Daniels Corporation, to "find out who committed this heinous act."
Our Unit Commander <a href="https://twitter.com/TPSPete?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@TPSPete</a> speaking at rally in <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/RegentPark?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#RegentPark</a> tonight. We will work with <a href="https://twitter.com/TheDanielsCorp?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@TheDanielsCorp</a> to try & find out who committed this heinous act. There is no place for hatred in Regent Park. <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/EraseHate?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#EraseHate</a> <a href="https://t.co/I6FJIBaNwm">pic.twitter.com/I6FJIBaNwm</a>—@TPS51Div
Protesters also added signs in front of the construction site in support of Black Lives Matter, reading "United Against Racism" and "Stand Together."
Toronto Coun. Kristyn Wong-Tam, who condemned the act over Twitter on Saturday, spoke at the rally, calling it "unfortunate" and "heartbreaking" that protesters had to gather "under these conditions."
"This is a very difficult moment in time," she said.
"This is a hate crime and it needs to be treated as a hate crime."
Wong-Tam said the noose sends a "very clear and horrifying message to our members in the Black community."
"I cannot imagine that this is random," she added. "It's just too difficult to scale a building of this magnitude and hang a noose."
Physical distancing and masks were required for those who attended the event.
'Shut down hate'
Regent Park isn't the only neighbourhood showing support for the city's Black community.
Posters and artwork, with phrases such as "Shut down hate" and "Call out racism every time," can be seen outside Michael Garron Hospital in East York, where two nooses were found by Black construction workers on June 10.
The incident repeated itself on Thursday, just two weeks later, when another noose was found at a downtown site, across from Scotiabank Arena, and owned by the same company, EllisDon.
Police said they were trying to figure out whether or not the two incidents at EllisDon are connected. Both are being investigated as hate crimes, police told CBC Toronto on Friday.
EllisDon and The Daniels Corporation say they have launched their own internal investigations.
The CEOs of both companies have publicly denounced the incidents, calling them hateful and intolerable.
"This is a disgraceful act by someone weak and cowardly," Geoff Smith, of EllisDon, said in a news release this week.
"We will do everything possible to identify, prosecute and evict anyone involved from our industry," Smith said.
The Daniels Corporation's Mitchell Cohen agrees.
"We are disgusted and horrified at this heinous act, which we are treating as a hate crime," he said.
"This deplorable act against the Black community is unacceptable and we reaffirm that there is zero tolerance for racism, prejudice and hate on our construction sites and within our organization."
Meanwhile, more than 1,000 protesters rallied in Nathan Phillips Square on Sunday afternoon to call for the defunding and abolition of all police forces in Canada as well as Ontario's Special Investigations Unit.
The event comes in the wake of the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis while in police custody, as well as Toronto woman Regis Korchinski-Paquet, 29, who fell from her balcony after Toronto police responded to a call at her home on May 27, and Mississauga man Ejaz Choudry, 62, who was fatally shot by Peel police while he was experiencing a mental health crisis on June 20.
'Racism is the real virus'
Suze Morrison, the NDP's member of provincial parliament in Toronto-Centre, made a commitment on Sunday that she will not stand behind any policies that are not looked at in anti-Indigenous and anti-Black racism lenses.
"If my policy is not good or needs to be tweaked, I need to hear that from you," she said.
"The act that we are here today to condemn was vile, was racist, and no young Black child in this community should have to walk these streets, knowing that someone was willing to hang a symbol of their death and their oppression from the tallest towers in our neighbourhood."
Morrison also acknowledged signs that read "racism is the real virus," saying that people should be focused on the COVID-19 pandemic, but are instead forced to confront acts of racism.
"We have to do better."
With files from Mark Bochsler