A two-week encampment in front of Toronto's police headquarters to protest police shootings has ended for now, after more than 150 Black Lives Matter demonstrators marched to Queen's Park on Monday and met briefly near the legislature steps with Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne.
The protesters, who come from a variety of ethnic backgrounds, have been demanding reforms to the way police misconduct is investigated. They also want criminal charges for the officers involved in the shooting death last July of Andrew Loku, a black man armed with a hammer. Last week, they took their campaign to the Premier's Toronto home, leaving her wine, cheese and flowers that prompted a visit from a police hazardous-materials team.
On Monday, organizers led a march, with a police escort, along College Street from police headquarters to Queen's Park, with protesters chanting "Black lives, they matter here!" and "No racist police, no justice, no peace!"
Just minutes after they arrived in front of the Ontario Legislature, Ms. Wynne emerged with three cabinet ministers, including Michael Coteau, who recently added an anti-racism portfolio to his duties as Minster of Tourism, Culture and Sport.
Ms. Wynne waded into the shouting crowd, speaking briefly with organizers and committing to more meetings with the protesters as her government reviews policing in the province.
"I am here because it is such an important issue," Ms. Wynne said. "… And in my heart, I believe that we all need to work together to make sure we get this right. The reason I am out here is that I want you to understand that."
Some shouted that she should have met with the protesters earlier, before they spent two weeks camping out in the cold.
"I apologize if we haven't responded as quickly as you would have liked," the Premier said. "But here I am saying that we are willing to meet with you. We are going to need to have your help. We are undertaking a review of the SIU. We are reviewing all of the police oversight bodies. We need your help in doing that. You are on the front lines."
Protesters have insisted that any meetings with politicians take place in public. Ms. Wynne said private meetings would need to take place ahead of time to have public meetings. When the demonstrators alleged that police beat protesters during an apparent attempt last month to shut them down, Ms. Wynne said it was "unacceptable for anyone to be bullied or brutalized" but said she could not comment further because she did not have enough information.
Organizers afterward immediately declared the meeting a victory, but warned they would hold the Premier to her word and that they could, after two weeks, decide to return to their occupation in front of police headquarters or take other action if they do not see progress.
"What we did that last two weeks shows that they can't ignore us," said Sandy Hudson, a movement co-founder.
Whether the movement becomes a permanent force remains unknown, but organizers can point to some short-term wins. In addition to keeping a spotlight on the issue of police shootings, they prompted Toronto City Council last week to unanimously pass a motion demanding the province review policing and the Special Investigations Unit that probes police shootings through an "anti-black racism lens." Their demand that the city backtrack on a decision to curtail the annual summer music festival Afrofest for alleged noise violations was also quickly granted.
The movement, affiliated with similar protests in U.S. cities, sprung up after the SIU announced March 18 that it would not lay charges against the unnamed officer who shot Mr. Loku.
After Ms. Wynne retreated back inside Queen's Park, protesters danced to hip-hop blasted from speakers on the back of a pickup truck before marching back to police headquarters, where they took down their posters and dismantled their encampment after hanging up a banner that read: "You are on notice. Your anti-blackness has been exposed. We are not finished."