On May 30, 2020 Socialist Action members marched in solidarity with thousands to protest the death of Regis Korchinski-Paquet. The demonstration, organized by Not Another Black Life, was held in response to the suspicious death of Regis, a 29-year-old Black woman who fell to her death from her 24th floor west-end Toronto apartment while several police were in her home on the evening of Wednesday, May 27.
Earlier that evening, family members called police for help, telling them that Regis was having a mental health crisis. When the police arrived at her home, the family met them in the hallway. Regis’ mother says she urged them to take her daughter to Toronto’s Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) for support.
While it is not entirely clear what happened next, soon after the police arrived, Regis asked to go to the washroom inside her apartment. Evidently, several officers followed. Her family, however, was not allowed into the apartment. Soon after, her family heard Regis call out “mom help, mom help, mom help”. At some point later, an officer came out and and told the family that her daughter had fallen to the ground where she died.
The Special Investigations Unit (SIU) of the Toronto Police is now tasked with investigating mysterious circumstances surrounding Regis’ death. This case raises issues around police conduct and the need for adequate mental health support services for people in distress. In particular, people are asking why Toronto’s Mobile Crisis Intervention Team, a unit specifically designed to respond to calls involving mental health crises, was not in attendance at the apartment before Regis fell to her death.
As Knia Singh, the family’s lawyer, grimly noted, “When you intersect mental health and colour – you get an even higher percentage of incidence of violence by police.” He is absolutely right. It is an unfortunately reality that people of colour who suffer from mental health issues disproportionately become victims of police violence. They often they end up dead after interactions with the police. But we need more than just the SIU investigating. We need a full, transparent, and completely independent investigation. We must ensure that there is justice for Regis, for her family, and for the Black community.
It is also important to note that Regis’ death is not an isolated incident. It is part of a pattern of Black and Indigenous people’s death in our province. The sad reality is that existing police oversight tools rarely result in justice for those communities. And the limited resources they had available to them have been viciously gutted by the thugs running the current Conservative provincial government of Ontario. The protest march on May 30 (described by the commercial media as 5,000 strong — a gross underestimation of its actual size) was amplified by the brutal murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis. There, an apparently psychotic cop pressed his knee on Floyd’s neck for nine long minutes, squeezing the life out him as three of his cop buddies watched and supported the choke hold. This act of murder led to justified expressions of rage that exploded into revolt in cities across the United States. The anger on Toronto streets was palpable as people chanted “Black Lives, They Matter Here,” “Fuck the Police”, “All Cops Are Bastards”, “No Justice, No Peace”. Many carried numerous home-made signs. The Socialist Action banner and flags were very visible.
Revolutionary socialists have always been in the forefront of the struggle against racism and police brutality. We have always understood that racist oppression is a tool for the capitalist exploitation of all workers. Karl Marx, when discussing slavery in the United States, wrote in his masterpiece Capital, in 1867, “Labour in white skin cannot emancipate itself where the black skin is branded”. V.I. Lenin and the 1917 Russian Revolution provided the most oppressed and exploited in society a glimpse of a future freed from the chains of capitalism. Leon Trotsky warned that the “worker who becomes a policeman in the service of the capitalist state, is a bourgeois cop, not a worker”. C.L.R. James, author of “The Black Jacobins”, told us that the black liberation movement “is able to exercise a powerful influence upon the revolutionary proletariat, that it has got a great contribution to make to the development of the proletariat…and that it is in itself a constituent part of the struggle for socialism”. Revolutionary socialists reject the call for more police and for ‘law and order.’ Rather, we fight for justice and freedom for all oppressed people. We boldly stand up against police violence and expose the links between Neo-fascists and the criminal-psychopathic cops who are trained to shoot first and ask questions later. They escalate violence. Socialists demand that, from Toronto, to Minneapolis, to Wet’suwet’en territory, to Palestine, all police forces must demilitarize, disarm, and society should de-fund legalized state violence.
The capitalist system is truly in it’s death agony. Its fatal flaws — violence, racism, chaos, and inequality — are now increasingly exposed for all to see. We must educate and organize in this genuinely historic moment to indict the system, and to toss capitalism into the dustbin of history, to bury it, and ensure it never rears its ugly head again.
Photos: All photos, except the aerial shot that we received anonymously, are by Socialist Action.