After his election in October, Toronto Mayor John Tory decided to sit on the Toronto Police Services Board, saying he wanted to become personally involved in police management. He has gotten his wish.
With chants of "Black lives matter," activists disrupted Thursday's meeting of the Toronto Police Service's civilian oversight board. The protesters, a local branch of a larger movement, mentioned Mr. Tory several times by name as they vowed to ramp up pressure this summer.
They read out a list of demands over the recent police shooting death of a black Toronto man, including a public apology from Mr. Tory, Police Chief Mark Saunders and the police force.
Andrew Loku, a refugee from South Sudan who suffered from mental illness, was shot within seconds of officers arriving at his social housing unit near Eglinton Avenue and Keele Street on July 5, according to a statement from Toronto's Urban Alliance on Race Relations and media reports. Police said he was wielding a hammer.
The protesters asked police to name and charge the officers involved, to pay for Mr. Loku's funeral, to compensate his family and to release video footage of the shooting.
In response to shouted questions, Mr. Tory and board chair Alok Mukherjee said the Special Investigations Unit is reviewing the case, so they could not comment before those findings were ready.
"Black lives matter – and all lives matter," Mr. Mukherjee said as the group finished chanting.
The semi-rehearsed protest, which ended within 15 minutes, will be followed up with more demonstrations, said one of the organizers, Sandy Hudson.
"The things that we've heard from Mayor Tory are things that we have heard time and time again. Again, adoption of reports," said co-organizer Rodney Diverlus.
"Black people are fed up and we are tired. … Our lives are being targeted every single day," he said. "Whether that's carding, whether that's surveillance, whether that's violence, whether that's us physically dying, it's about life and death. There's an urgency for us to go beyond reports and to actually hear real, concrete plans and to see those plans implemented."
Mr. Tory left after the meeting without speaking to reporters and could not be reached later for comment.
The protest came during a trying time for the mayor on police matters. On Wednesday, he had to backtrack after wrongly telling reporters this week that the police board had approved the body camera pilot project currently under way. And earlier this month, the reappointment to the board of Andy Pringle – a friend of Mr. Tory – once again stoked tensions.
Mr. Tory decided to sit on the board after years of tension between the police board and the black community. That tension intensified in 2014, particularly over the unpopular police policy of carding, viewed by many within the black community as a form of racial profiling.
That relationship has remained strained despite several recent changes, including carding reforms passed last month and the aforementioned body camera pilot project.
On Thursday, the board reviewed the pilot project and requested a written report by September, to be followed by a fuller review in March. Mr. Tory called the project "a hugely positive step" for transparency but said he wanted to be cautious about the privacy rights of citizens.
Protester Tarisai Ngangura said she wants to see all officers wearing cameras immediately.
At the meeting, Mr. Tory thanked Mr. Mukherjee, the outgoing chair, for his years on the board.
"I've certainly realized in a few short months here that this is a very difficult board to sit on," he said.