University of Windsor students learn rights during police encounters

To kick off Black History Month, University of Windsor Students' Alliance hosts Afrofest. One event on Thursday was the Police Encounters Workshop - how to conduct yourself in the presence of police.

Nearly two dozen people showed up to learn their rights and how to conduct themselves in the presence of police on Thursday night in Thursday.

The University of Windsor Students' Alliance's week-long Afrofest continued Thursday with a Police Encounter Workshop around the relationship between individuals and police officers.

The issue of random stopping of citizens by police — known as carding — was a hot topic.

"Carding is not the answer," said criminal defence lawyer Gavin Holder, a University of Windsor Law School graduate who practices in Toronto.

"Simply going to a neighbourhood and picking out a random individual who just more and more often than not happens to be black, to ask them a series of questions that serves as a subtext or pretext for an investigation, that's not the answer. So, in my opinion, I don't believe carding is the way to go."

Percina Holder, Gavin's sister, is the coordinator of Afrofest 2016. She felt her peers could benefit from her brother's advice.

"I think it's important to know what your rights are. You don't have to speak to the police, you don't have to engage. And also if you're stopped or whatever, to be silent or you can be silent and you don't have to do certain things. Most people don't know that and so that's probably something that they learned today." 

The defence lawyer said he wanted participants to leave with a little bit more of an understanding of their rights.

"I'm not here to tell these individuals that they should be disrespectful, belligerent in any way shape or form to the police officers," Holder maintained.

"However, they need to assert their rights. At the end of the day, in terms of a defence against the long arm of the state, all we have is a Charter. It's entrenched within the Constitution, and we need to be able to utilize that effectively, not disrespectfully."

The UWSA's Afrofest 2016 wraps up on Friday.