On March 21st, while the world observes International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, Black Lives Matter Toronto took it to the streets to demand justice about Andrew Loku and Afrofest.
Andrew Loku, a 45 old mentally-ill black man, was fatally shot by Toronto police last year in July 2015. According to the Urban Alliance on Race Relations, during the incident Loku “was clearly distressed, but not a threat”. Even though Loku was carrying a hammer at the moment, eyewitness testimonies indicated that he “didn’t have a chance to do anything” after the police told him to drop the hammer and shot him within seconds. The controversial question remains whether Loku was given enough time to process what is going on and drop the hammer; and if the police officers tried their best to deescalate the situation before using deadly force. On March 18, 2016, the Special Investigation Unit (SIU) declared that the police officer who fatally shot Andrew Loku will not face any criminal charges.
Since the incident, Black Lives Matter Toronto has been protesting demanding the police force to be held accountable for the fatal shooting of Loku- mentally-ill father of 5 from South Sudan.
In a press conference this morning, a young Black Lives Matter activist explains:
“In July 2015, when Andrew Loku was killed, Chief Saunders and Mayor John Tory, they said we should wait for the SIU investigation, that we would get justice… Just like 95% of the time that the SIU does investigation against police brutality, they have again decided that we are undeserving of justice. They have decided not to lay charges against the police officers….We are not going to take this. Our community is not going to take this.”
The activist group have said they have decided to protest peacefully with a festival, through art and culture. They said they came out ‘to rage together, to hold each other, to heal together‘
The activists also have protested about the recent City of Tornoto’s decision to reduce the two-day event Afrofest to one day due to noise complaints. The 28 years old festival Afrofest is the largest free African music festival that gathers more that 120,000 visitors every year.
” …with an offensive note from a Councillor saying that if we behave we may be getting our day back next time. … in a blatant form of anti-black racism that no other festival see something like this”, one of the protesters said.
The city’s decision to cut back the two-day event to one day is based on noise complaints and some allegations that the organizers didn’t comply with the time limitation at last year’s event. The decision is said to be unfair and discriminatory by many since Afrofest utilizes the same sound company and sound levels that other festivals use at the event location. A petition page has been started to restore Afrofest to a two-day event by the organizers who believe that turning Afrofest into a one day event doesn’t only make it difficult to organize the event but also limits the festival’s growth and impact.
The Black Lives Matter Tornoto protest on Monday wasn’t welcomed by the Police officers who clashed with the protesters at the Police headquarters on Monday night. According to a CBC report, the police has claimed they removed the protesters tents and fire due to safety concerns.
Supporters of the Black Lives Matter movement and the activists, however, claim that the police attacked them even though they were protesting peacefully.
#BLMTOtentcity was trending on twitter through out the night with protesters and other supporters describing their dissatisfaction with how the Toronto Police handled the situation.
— BlackLivesMatter TO (@BLM_TO) March 22, 2016
— Wendy Gillis (@wendygillis) March 22, 2016