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This article was published 8/4/2021 (413 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Golden letter-shaped balloons that spelled "missed & murdered" drifted up to the grey sky amid drizzle, as a drumming band began to sing with a sudden force that stopped the crowd from chattering.
Jingle-dress dancers hopped deftly on their toes, and the rattle of their bells mingled with the scent of burning sage. They sang and danced for Eishia Hudson, the 16-year-old Indigenous girl who was shot by a police officer after a high-speed chase on Lagimodiere Boulevard during the afternoon rush-hour on April 8, 2020.
About 200 supporters gathered at Oodena Celebration Circle at The Forks, near the monument to missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls. They came to remember the teen, denounce police violence toward Indigenous people and call for change.
They peered out from masks, some marked with red handprints or the words "Justice for Eishia." They held or set up signs that read "Not another Indigenous life… stop killing," and "Winnipeg Police Cause Harm."
One sign close to the speakers and musicians said, "Winnipeg police killed my sister."
Eishia, the driver of a stolen SUV, was shot at the intersection of Lagimodiere Boulevard and Fermor Avenue after police responded to a call about a robbery at the Sage Creek Liquor Mart. Four other teens who were passengers in the SUV weren't injured.
After an investigation, the Independent Investigation Unit cleared the officer in January.
"My daughter didn’t deserve what happened to her," said William Hudson. "No child deserves that."
He choked back tears throughout much of his speech, seeming particularly overwhelmed when thanking all those who were supporting him and his family — including at vigils in Vancouver, Toronto and Halifax.
"It touches my heart so much, it’s —" he paused for six seconds as he regained his composure. "It’s hard. Today’s a hard day for me."
He commended the crowd for coming out and made impassioned pleas for people to make their voices heard. He sharply criticized those who say a few "bad apples" are at the root of police violence.
"You’re just as bad when you stay silent," he said. "Silence is violence."
Community advocate Mitch Bourbonniere also spoke, saying, "It is both triumphant we are here, and sad that we have to be here again."
The current of mixed feelings seemed to run through the crowd, and multiple speakers echoed the sentiment, including Winnipeg Centre NDP MP Leah Gazan.
Crouching in the crowd, Jennifer Ashley Disbrowe, who said she knew Eishia, said she was happy to see how many people came out. She said it was shocking when she learned of Eishia’s death. It’s easy to put herself in the teen’s place, she said.
"I’ve made a lot of dumb mistakes in the past," she said. But she’d had the opportunity to "work and make things right."
Jonathan Henderson, co-founder of community group Healing Together, said it was important for him to support the vigil because his mother was a residential school survivor.
"It’s a little bit overwhelming right now," he said.
In the legislature Wednesday, NDP MLA Nahanni Fontaine renewed calls made by the Hudson family for a public inquiry into police violence against Indigenous people. Neither Justice Minister Cameron Friesen nor Premier Brian Pallister promised an inquiry.
Cody Sellar is the reporter/photographer for the Free Press Community Review West. He is a lifelong Winnipegger. He is a journalist, writer, sleuth, sloth, reader of books and lover of terse biographies. Email him at email@example.com or call him at 204-697-7206.