Black Lives Matter–Toronto calls community to action, demands justice for Andrew Loku | What's Left

by Rodney Diverlus — last modified 2015-07-20T12:52:03-04:00
On Sunday July 5th, Toronto police shot and killed Andrew Loku, a 45 year old South Sudanese refugee. A father of 5, Loku escaped war-torn South Sudan in an attempt to find safety in Canada. He was killed in his own home, an apartment building leased by the Canadian Mental Health Association to those with a history of mental health challenges. It has been two weeks since his death. At the funeral, his family and the community laid him to rest without any answers about what happened that caused his death.

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In US cities, instances of overt anti-black racism are often met with quick condemnation. However, Toronto's leaders and broader community were virtually silent on this case. Newly-appointed Police Chief Mark Saunders issued no condolences to the family and there was absolutely no commitment to the investigative process. While there have been countless articles about the Pan Am games and an unfortunate dead raccoon, there has been general silence about Andrew Loku. A black man took refuge in this city, was killed by the state and the response is: silence. More problematic, Loku was just one of the many victims killed by Toronto Police since 1988, half of whom are black.

The tragic death of Andrew Loku affirms a reality that African, Caribbean, and Black (ABC) people in Canada know too well: to be black is to be a living target for police. He was a victim of the ever-tiring anti-black racism that exists in the Police Industrial Complex and society as a whole. The world we live in is anti-black. The country we live in is anti-black. Our communities are anti-black.

This past week, it was made clear to the Mayor and Chief of Police that, in the absence of action on their part, the community is ready to mobilize. It is a threat and a call-out, a warning and a demand for action. Our actions are centred on core demands, including: the release of the name(s) of the officers who killed Andrew Loku; charges to be laid against these officers; monetary compensation for the family of Andrew Loku; the adoption of all recommendations made by the African Canadian Legal Clinic; body cameras to be worn by all police officers, the release of data on the number of Special Investigations Unit cases involving racialized people, and racialized people living with mental health challenges; an inquiry by the Ontario Human Rights Commission into the disproportionate use of force used against black people with mental health challenges; and the adoption of the 84 recommendations of the 2014 report by Frank Iacobucci, aimed at reducing fatal encounters with people in emotional distress.

These recommendations have become more than requests for improved government policy, they are demands for action in matters of life and death. For black individuals navigating a violent and dangerous reality, these demands are not only policy directives, but one of many ways that state-sanctioned violence against black people can be eliminated. Rage seeps through the community, and will not be satisfied with studies, reports, or lip service. When we state that black lives matter, we are calling for justice for Andrew Loku, Michael Eligon, Reyal Jardine-Douglas, O'Brien Christopher-Reid, and Ian Pryce, all black individuals with mental health challenges killed by police. Black Lives Matter is not a slogan, it's a realization that police violence, poverty, mass incarceration, and under/unemployment are attempting to strip black people of our humanity and our worth. Andrew Loku's life matters, and we will not stop until justice is served.

Submitted by Rodney Diverlus on behalf of Black Lives Matter-Toronto

Facebook: Black Lives Matter-Toronto

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