Black Lives Matter

Black Lives Matter
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Yvano Antonio
Journalism Student

A Toronto woman is suing the Toronto Police Services Board for violating her charter rights.

Human rights lawyer Saron Gebresellassi announced Thursday March 24 she served a lawsuit on behalf of Jean Montaque, at a joint press conference with the Black Lives Matter Toronto chapter outside the Toronto Police headquarters.

Gebresellassi says Montaque, who is a registered nurse and mother of young children, is pursuing legal action against three Toronto police officers that are alleged to have illegally searched and terrorized her home. None of the claims contained in the lawsuit have been proven in court.

According to Montaque’s statement of claim, the alleged incident occurred in October 2013. Montaque had just returned home from driving her children to school when police arrived at her door in response to a 911 call. Montague advised the officers that she didn’t make the call, nor could she because she was out. She then asked to see a badge. She alleges the officers showed no identification and then left, only to return a short while later and force their way into Montaque’s home. She was detained while her home was searched, which caused damage to her belongings.

“This would never, ever, ever happen in the Bridal Path,” Gebrsellassi said, “but to Ms. Montaque and her family this did happen and we’re here to say that we’re suing you.”

Gebresellassi says the Montaque’s, who were not at the rally, want to see the police held accountable to help prevent this from repeating. The lawyer also calls on chief Mark Saunders to address the family.

“The Toronto Police services are acting with such a great level of disrespect and impunity towards the people of Toronto and towards black families,” Gebresellassi said.

“I want families watching to really think about how it would feel — in the privacy of your own home, when you’re just having an ordinary Friday, waking up in the morning about to have breakfast — to have police literally break down your door and walk into your house,” she said.

Mark Pugash, Director of Corporate Communications for the TPS, said Toronto Police will file a Statement of Defence, but it would be inappropriate to comment until that happens.

Shortly after, Gebresellassi and the protesters marched into the headquarters to serve the police, chanting, “Black lives, they matter here” as they filled the foyer. ‘A symbolic and powerful statement’ as they describe.

Inside, Gebresellassi attempted to hand the lawsuit to an officer at the duty desk, but he refused to take it. Rather than wait, the lawyer left the papers and marched out.

“They’re going to deny all the allegations, which is what any defendant will do,” Gebresellassi said. “We say that there is no excuse,” the lawyer continued.

Yusra Khogali is a co-founder of Black Lives Matter Toronto chapter, she sat alongside Gebresellassi when announcing the lawsuit. Khogali believes what the police did to the Montaques, says a lot about how they treat the people of Toronto.

“The ways in which the police have inflicted violence on this woman is the same way they have been inflicting violence on us,” she said.

The Toronto chapter has occupied police headquarters at 40 College St. since Monday March 21. Protesters initially gathered in Nathan Phillips Square on Sunday to protest against the SIU’s decision not to charge the police officer that fatally shot Andrew Loku, a 45-year-old father of five, last July. Black Lives Matter has been persistent in their demand for answers, although the police have yet to say anything formally.

“We know this is an everyday lived experience of being black in this city… from carding, which is the entry point for police violence…to us taking up this peaceful space to honour the lives of the people who have died in the hands of the police. To reaffirm that our lives matter and come collectively and heal as a community.” Khogali said.

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