UPDATE: It’s probably no surprise to see that OCAP’s sponsor, Sid Ryan’s Ontario Federation of Labour has released a statement on Yatim’s case, continuing the pattern of exploitation.
On July 29th a young man named Sammy Yatim was shot and kiled by police while standing inside of a Toronto streetcar waving around a knife. It’s impossible to know the details of what happened without an investigation, but the initially released videos didn’t look very good. Most people who’ve watched them now question if something was done wrong- including Yatim’s family and friends.
Shortly after the videos went viral, the union affiliated Ontario Coalition Against Poverty (OCAP) did something entirely transparent and predictable- publishing a call for an anti-police rally to protest the killings. This, of course, brought in hoards of self-promoters, anti police extremists, angry loners and militant anarchists- OCAP is a magnet for those who want to riot against the police. But, 90% of the crowd were good people who simply came to express their sorrow over an undeniable tragedy.
Situations like this have the potential to be highly volatile. This march was no exception, OCAP’ers are legendary for their raw hate of all things police. And, they’re well organized entryists- when facing their prey, they’ve often been successful appropriating other people’s causes. But this time things were different, Sammy Yatim’s friends and family were too strong to succumb to OCAP’s weaknesses.
Yatim’s family and friends arrived in a group about 10-15 minutes before the march was scheduled to begin, carrying signs, and expressing their desire that his case is handled justly. They were loud, but from the moment they entered the stage they acted respectfully and without aggression. When they stopped, they gathered together and took the opportunity to make a statement to the media.
They began their speech making it clear they wanted a “civilized” and peaceful process. They then explained their belief that there must have been “so many other civil ways” to have handled the call that night, and questioned why the police didn’t shoot first with Tazers. People around them cheered, some began yelling out for militant solutions- despite the family’s wishes.
The family then decided to march out of Dundas Square and headed south down the Yonge street sidewalk. The media came chasing after them and a filming frenzy began. Then, about 200 meters away from the square, Sayed Hussan of No One Is Illegal came running up and tried to take control. First telling them that they should turn around and go back to the square to “wait for the other people who are coming”. The family were happy doing their own thing, but were ultimately convinced it was a good idea.
As they turned Hussan then began steering them towards the middle of Yonge street. They were reluctant at first, but he was insistent and they followed as he bounced around directing them with a cheerleader’s enthusiasm.
The family then decided to head west on Dundas street- more people decided to join them. But, once again, Hussan and the OCAP marshalls steered them back towards Dundas Square. People resisted going back but, with enough encouragement, OCAP was able to wrestle back control.
Back at Dundas Square a familiar character showed up- Ryerson professor Judy Rebick. She’s someone who spoke out most vocally after the violence during the riot at the Toronto G20. Contrastingly, she has close relationships to many of the people who were arrested in 2010- including Alex Hundert and Sayed Hussan who were helping to lead the Yatim march. It’s unknown if she’s expressed any concerns about OCAP’s appropriation of the family’s issue- she’s yet to have made any statements on Occupy Toronto’s racist, anti-Semitic hate broadcast she was slated to attend a couple of weeks ago.
The marshals next guided the protesters to start marching west on Dundas Street. Yatim’s family lead chants like “justice for Sammy”, and other non-aggressive messages. But, as the crowd approached the police’s 52 Division building, they began to overtake the family’s momentum. Then, when they arrived there, things began to get out of hand.
The most rowdy of the crowd broke away from the march and began to storm the police station’s front doors. Bike cops gathered together to block them from entering. Anarchists pushed-in while waving their flags, and people began shouting hate and abuse at the police. As the mob grew, other bike cops lined up to protect the station’s glass brick front wall.
The family distanced themselves from the melee, walking further west on Dundas. At one point one of them began yelling at the crowd to move-on saying “We’re leaving now, we’re leaving!”. Your humble narrator took the opportunity to speak quickly warn them about OCAP’s militancy- she thanked me for helping her confirm her concerns and gave a quick high-five. It was undeniably clear the family had no interest in a riot.
As the crowd came along many people began chanting and yelling at the bike cops. Sayed Hussan placed himself in-front of the police, and took no action to stop the abuse- it looked like quite the opposite. A few minutes after the attacks on the police began, something amazing happened.
Two people of Yatim’s kin began yelling into the megaphone asking the crowd to get more under control. The noise of the crowd was so high that many people didn’t hear their appeal though. Hussan was standing in-front of them as they spoke, clearly within hearing distance- but throughout the march, he wasn’t seen making any effort to get the crowd to respect their wishes. Had he done so, he’d be breaking the radical left’s agreement on Diversity of Tactics.
While the noise of the “f##k the police” (“FTP”) chanting increased, and the crowd quickly fell back into attacking individual police officers- family continued to try to reign in the tone. Next Hussan had another surprise for them, In a shamelessly transparent attempt to hold control, he had his fellow marshals rolled out a banner in front of the family. Banners are useful tools for ensuring the entire road stays blocked, and to help control the speed and direction of the crowd. Ruckus Society 101.
When the march reached the spot where Yatim was shot they stopped and gathered around it. A man jumped down and painted a red circle with his spray can, then placed down his hand and painted an outline of it. He followed this up spraying the paint all over his body, street theatre, and perhaps a way to get one’s picture in the paper or on TV. Similarly, a bagpiper placed himself out in-front of Yatim’s (Syrian) family for much of the march.
The crowd began moving again 10-15 minutes later, marching up to the foot of Dovercourt road. A speaker was setup and the family continued their statement they will be vigilant. OCAP then announced a future protest in front of Toronto police headquarters. There was a moment of silence, and everyone was respectful.
People were told that a group was going to march north on Dovercourt towards the 14 Division police station. There was a wide understanding this next stop could get militant. A number of people, including some of Yatim’s kin, decided to move on. But, the hardest-core anarchists were entirely eager- it’s a unique occasion when they’re able to hatefully swarm a police station with relative impunity.
When they arrived at 14 division the protesters had become a circus of radicalism, hate, anger, self-promotion- and many good people looking on in horror. One protester was screaming out racist remarks, many were chanting “f##k the police”, individual cops were being made into targets for abuse. One of the officers looked deeply hurt- he’s a regular at the protests and only appears to treat people with respect and kindness.
In a story reported by UndercoverKity, Swamp Line 9 arrestee Trish Mills was put under arrest (presumably for mischief) after walking up to the police line and writing “cops, pigs, murderers” on the side of the station. The anarchists led the crowd to move in on the police- using a tactic that G20 ringleader Alex Hundert was imprisoned for called “de-arresting”. In a move to avert a potential riot, the police let Mills go. It’s unknown if the police will later pursue her for arrest, or if this will be addressed in her trial over the Line 9 incident.
A short while after the crowd continued screaming insults and FTP chants. OCAP anarchist Doug Kynikos walked up to protesters standing beside the police stations’s front window- with them were Davyn Calfchild, one of those wacky University of Toronto Maoists, and Swamp Line 9 arrestee Gary Wassaykeesic. The three of them began banging on the windows with their flagpole, others began banging with their hands- the police stood their ground and let this continue.
As the crowd thinned out many of the radicals began to leave too. Some of the stragglers began to use this as an opportunity for shameless self promotion. The infamous cop-baiter Zach Ruiter tried to get people to start doing Idle No More chants, but the crowd mostly ignored him- he then moved on to promoting his anti-nuclear rallies. An unknown man started yelling to the police that they are like Hitler and Stalin.
Then came the Occupy Toronto livestream drumming circle- bursting into a song and expecting everyone to give their attention. Some people ignored them and kept talking, Ruiter went to them telling them they need to be quiet and ‘respectful’ while the shameless Kevin Annett supporting drummers did their piece. These were some of the same people who were banging on the station’s windows a few moments earlier.
Despite all of the hate surrounding them at the march, Yatim’s family and friends stayed true to their message and were respectful throughout. They not only had to endure the loss of a loved one, but had insult added to injury having to deal with the raging mobs and professional agitators. Watching people who’ve faced such tragedy take-on and help tame an angry mob was a truly inspiring sight.
OCAP, and their supporters, have a lot of explaining to do. It wasn’t right for them to try and co-opt Yatim’s killing in the first place- but, when the family made it clear they didn’t want an FTP march, OCAP’s lack of effort to fix the problem was positively shameful.
This can’t be allowed to happen again- OCAP needs new management…