As the city’s Budget Committee wrapped up for the year, hundreds of demonstrators, including Socialist Action Canada and members of the Municipal Socialist Alliance, rallied outside of Toronto City Hall, demanding that the Toronto city council divest from the Toronto police budget and invest in Toronto communities.
Toronto Mayor John Tory and the Toronto city council pledged a $48.3 million dollar increase for policing in the 2023 Toronto city budget, which represents a 4.3% increase over the bloated 2022 TPS police budget.
The Tuesday, January 24th protest was MC’d by Robyn Maynard and the Toronto No Pride in Policing Coalition. Speakers included Claudette Beals-Clayton, mother of Regis Korchinski-Paquet, Taresh Bobby Ramroop family members, Toronto Indigenous Harm Reduction, TTC Riders, Jane-Finch Action Against Poverty, ESN Parkdale, and members of No Pride in Policing.
The event was organized by the No Pride in Policing Coalition, No More Silence, SURJ Toronto, Doctors for Defunding Police, Policing Free Schools, Toronto Indigenous Harm Reduction, No One Is Illegal Toronto, Bloordale Community Response, Jane-Finch Action Against Poverty
Socialist Action, S.M.A.S.H, Protest Toronto Police Budget
Among the speakers was also Socialist Action member and representative of SMASH U of T, Sean Ihn, who expressed his opposition to the increased Toronto police budget by giving insight into the multiple reports of police violence taking place against students both on and off U of T campus, including that of Hasani O’Gilvie.
O’Gilvie, 27 years old at the time of the violent attack, was heading to the University of Toronto on August 12th, 2021. Toronto police disciplinary documents categorized the incident as a case of ‘mistaken identity,’ but the lawyer representing O’Gilvie and his family told CBC that it was instead a case of someone being assaulted for “walking while being Black,”
While O’Gilvie was headed to school, he was followed by Toronto police, cornered and unlawfully detained. According to O’Gilvie, he was then forced to the ground with a knee on his neck and repeatedly shocked with a Taser.
While the allegations have not been proven in a court of law, Hasani O’Gilvie and his mother are now suing three Toronto police officers, along with the Toronto Police Services Board, for just under $3 million dollars for the violent incident.
This story is just one of many violent interactions that young people in Toronto have reported having with Toronto police while commuting to or from school.
In 2018, a 19-year-old Black young adult was unlawfully detained by TTC inspection officers near St. Clair West station. The victim was grabbed and violently pinned to the ground by fare inspectors, where he suffered severe physical and psychological harm. The incident resulted in a lawsuit, which saw the TTC and Toronto Police agreeing to a settlement.
Sean Ihn represents Students Mobilizing Against Systemic Hardship at U of T and spoke of many students’ fears when interacting with Toronto police. Remarks shared by Sean at Tuesday’s demonstration are transcribed below.
Hi everybody. Thank you so much to the organizers for having us here, my name is Sean Ihn, and I’m a graduate student at the University of Toronto here in the city and we are we represent a larger student Collective a unified voice of students that’s really sick and tired of seeing the bullshit in Toronto.Sean Ihn (SMASH U of T), January 24th at Nathan Philips Square
We are having our students in our own communities being brutalized by the police being harassed by the police being handcuffed by the police all for what for having a mental health crisis.
In August 2021, we had a U of T student trying to get to school who was stopped by the cops harassed, brutalized, beaten on the ground tased over and over again with a knee on his neck. This is 2021, one year after George Floyd was also executed by the hands of the police in the same manner this happened to a student. This happened to a U of T student. This is Toronto, this is Toronto.
This is a struggle against police violence this is a struggle against State violence and ultimately this is a struggle against capitalist violence. We today live in this city all around us we see the profit motive being prioritized over human life.
Everywhere all around us we see empty apartments that we could use we see big buildings like this big giant buildings like the Toronto police headquarters that we could repurpose to house to educate to care to give the people what we need instead of these cops. They need more?
Speakers earlier today had Great Expressions of why they don’t need more money. I want to inject a little bit of the student perspective because U of T and other universities are located on this downtown campus. They all have something called campus police. These campus police are members of the Toronto police. They are disguised as special constables that have full authority of a cop while being on campus. So what does that mean when a student is homesick going through probably the worst time of their life they are met with officers with weapons but they’re called peace officers. Why do they have weapons? Why do they carry batons? Why do they carry means to push us into the ground when we are crying, when we are poor, when we don’t have food in this city? Why do we need these big Burly cops coming to us with these weapons we don’t, we don’t, we don’t.
A few weeks ago, at the Toronto Police budget meeting in their headquarters building, there were 50-plus debutants that spoke against the Toronto Police budget increase. There were only four people in favour of the Toronto Police budget increase. These were representatives of the business Improvement area downtown. They said they represent millions of dollars worth of property. Notice, it’s not human lives, it’s property, it’s private property, that they represent and they’re the four only voices that called into the police, couldn’t even be bothered to be there in person, call in and say we want more police. Because guess what, we have more graffiti on our private property, and we have more public urination in our community, but now SMASH, we say [expletive] that. That’s ridiculous. That is ridiculous. How could you sit there comfy and warm in your home while there are people outside? We know how cold it is.
It is not profitable, according to John Tory, to have shelters open. It is not profitable apparently to re-house everyone in the city. It is not profitable to have 24/7, open warning centers. It’s not profitable. We are not worth more than the money that they peddle in there while all the big Real Estate Investors peddle all their money they donate to City Hall, they donate to city councillors in there, and we’re out here, we’re poor, we’re starving, we just want to be able to live.
Two weeks ago just one day after those cops sat in their Police Headquarters talking about how they want more money. Just one day after they were out on the streets brutalizing people experiencing homelessness. They were out in Allen Gardens. Thyme, who is a senior Indigenous resident of this land, he was forcefully evicted from his encampment at Simcoe and Richmond. Shame, shameful. The cops said that they would send the residents to shelters but when we got to the shelters we only found out that the cops had never even called them. The cops had lied, because that’s what they do. They take our money, they say that they are taxpayers too, they say they care about the city too. Well we care about the city, we pay the taxes too, and we can see how our taxpayer money is going into their handsm ultimately to kill us. I just want to leave off with one note. We all share the same oppressor. We all share the same oppressor, and we in SMASH as students, we understand that without students there’s no University. Just like how without the people, without the workers, there’s nothing. We have a coalition going to bring together students, because our voices matter. Because, shelters, a third of them are students, they’re students, this affects us all. We are all experiencing the same oppression here. Thank you very much. Thank you so much to the organizers.