July 9, 2020

Winnipeg
20° C, Partly cloudy

Full Forecast

Close this

Advertisement

Advertise With Us

Rally to be held Friday outside legislature

Showing solidarity with those protesting police violence in U.S.

At 20 years old, Jayda Hope is already familiar with the heart-wrenching feeling of watching the death of another black person through her phone screen. She says it’s impossible to detach from, impossible to numb.

"Every single time we see a black person who is killed by the police, or assaulted by the police, it’s like that is literally our brother or sister that it’s happening to. Our heart is breaking," the black Winnipegger said Monday.

Hope is organizing a peaceful rally to be held Friday in solidarity with those who have flooded streets in cities across the United States (and increasingly Canada) to protest acts of police violence against black people. The recent protests were triggered after George Floyd died during an arrest by police officers in Minneapolis on May 25. (An autopsy commissioned for Floyd's family found he died of asphyxiation.)

There was a noticeable vacuum of action locally, Hope said, which spurred her and 10 other black Winnipeggers to come together to try and get momentum behind an event. They are not a formal organization, but are using the name Justice 4 Black Lives Winnipeg. The event is set for 6 p.m. Friday outside the provincial legislature.

"(It's) allowing black people to have a space to mourn and grieve, and have their feelings be validated and feel support from allies; feel like their issues matter, they matter, their lives matter — not just when they’re dead and on the news," Hope said.

In early 2019, Winnipeg’s black community and supporters came out to protest the death of Machuar Madut, a 43-year-old South Sudanese man, who died after being shot by a city police officer during a mental health crisis intervention. The Independent Investigation Unit of Manitoba, which looks into cases of serious injury involving law enforcement, found Madut’s death to be "reasonable, necessary, justified, and unavoidable."

More recently, Winnipeg Police Service officers were involved in three separate incidents in a 10-day period that led to the shooting deaths of Indigenous people.

Eishia Hudson, 16, was shot April 8 after a reported robbery of a Liquor Mart. The following day, Jason Collins, 36, was killed following a reported domestic dispute. On April 18, Stewart Andrews, 22, was shot when police responded to a 911 call from a man who said he was threatened and assaulted while taking out his garbage.

All three deaths are still under investigation by the IIU.

In their pain and loss, the Indigenous and black communities are tragically united, said Grand Chief Jerry Daniels of the Southern Chiefs' Organization, representing 34 First Nation communities in Manitoba.

"Indigenous leaders want to lend their voices, and I think there needs to be space for that, but there’s no doubt that it’s time for black leaders to be heard," Daniels said Monday.

WPS Insp. Bonnie Emerson leads the force's community support division. She spends a lot of time thinking — and listening to new ideas — about how to connect with local groups and find creative ways to try and divert people from the justice system.

"I became a police officer because I believe in the concept of police officers being peacekeepers," Emerson said.

Over the past 2 1/2 decades she’s worked as a police officer in the city, Emerson said, the service has greatly improved in terms of how it connects to minority groups. However, "Has the escalation of conflict — both locally and globally — gotten better? I don’t know. It certainly doesn’t seem that way," she said.

Emerson maintains hope further improvements can be made because officers care, they want to help. Emerson’s team will be reaching out to the event co-ordinators for Friday’s protest and will be asking how they can best work with them.

While the flashpoints of conflict for minorities are often connected to police officers, the problems are more deep-rooted and systemic and can’t be mended with changes to policing alone.

"If you look at justice systems, they disproportionately have impacted Indigenous and black lives across the country," said NDP MP Leah Gazan (Winnipeg Centre).

Gazan, a former organizer with the Idle No More movement, said she’s alarmed whenever she hears of violent clashes with minorities and police, but she doesn’t blame the issues on a lack of goodwill or support from the people.

"With the onset of Idle No More, people from all walks of life said they care. I saw families and advocates from across this country pushing for a national inquiry (on murdered and missing Indigenous women), how we got that. So it’s not that," she said. "It’s from a lack of political will to actually listen, to take our positions of privilege and figure this out, in solidarity with community.

"I put the onus on us as elected officials to figure out a way forward."

sarah.lawrynuik@freepress.mb.ca

Sarah Lawrynuik

Sarah Lawrynuik
Reporter

Sarah Lawrynuik reports on climate change for the Winnipeg Free Press. Funding for the Free Press climate change reporter comes from the Government of Canada through the Local Journalism Initiative.

Read full biography

Advertisement

Advertise With Us

Your support has enabled us to provide free access to stories about COVID-19 because we believe everyone deserves trusted and critical information during the pandemic.

Our readership has contributed additional funding to give Free Press online subscriptions to those that can’t afford one in these extraordinary times — giving new readers the opportunity to see beyond the headlines and connect with other stories about their community.

To those who have made donations, thank you.

To those able to give and share our journalism with others, please Pay it Forward.

The Free Press has shared COVID-19 stories free of charge because we believe everyone deserves access to trusted and critical information during the pandemic.

While we stand by this decision, it has undoubtedly affected our bottom line.

After nearly 150 years of reporting on our city, we don’t want to stop any time soon. With your support, we’ll be able to forge ahead with our journalistic mission.

If you believe in an independent, transparent, and democratic press, please consider subscribing today.

We understand that some readers cannot afford a subscription during these difficult times and invite them to apply for a free digital subscription through our Pay it Forward program.

History

Updated on Monday, June 1, 2020 at 10:53 PM CDT: Updates headline.

The Free Press will close this commenting platform at noon on July 14.

We want to thank those who have shared their views over the years as part of this reader engagement initiative.

In the coming weeks, the Free Press will announce new opportunities for readers to share their thoughts and to engage with our staff and each other.

You can comment on most stories on The Winnipeg Free Press website. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or digital subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

Have Your Say

Have Your Say

Comments are open to The Winnipeg Free Press print or digital subscribers only. why?

Have Your Say

Comments are open to The Winnipeg Free Press Subscribers only. why?

By submitting your comment, you agree to abide by our Community Standards and Moderation Policy. These guidelines were revised effective February 27, 2019. Have a question about our comment forum? Check our frequently asked questions.

Advertisement

Advertise With Us