What will happen next isn’t clear. There might be an explosion of anger, or maybe just a continuing slow simmer.
Last week, Toronto police officers chased 18-year-old student Junior Alexander Manon from a car near York University, ran him down, and then said he died of a heart attack.
Since then, the family’s lawyer, the well-respected Selwyn Pieters, attended the morgue and after reviewing the amount of blood on Junior’s body, his black eyes and a neck brace, said, “The issue of a heart attack is a fiction. It seems that he died from physical force.”
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The Special Investigation Unit, a provincial body that investigates cases of serious injury or death when police are present, has identified the 10 police officers present when or immediately after the student was caught. No charges have been laid.
In situations like this, police officers get together, discuss what happened among themselves and then make notes that reflect what they have agreed on. It is almost unheard of for an officer to speak up and say, “I was there and what happened wasn’t pretty.” Usually, police officers find an explanation that shows it wasn’t their fault.
Maybe the SIU and Manon’s family will be able to track down independent witnesses who can confirm Pieter’s conclusions, but then it will be their word against the police.
Black youth are at risk because of racial profiling by Toronto police officers, as identified in Toronto Star articles published in February. They are stopped and charged much more frequently than white youth. And then there are incidents like this, which raise levels of frustration and anger.
What should black youth say? That police should stop racial profiling? Stop beating up black youth? Stop cooking their evidence? Would the police force listen and change its ways? Would the Police Services Board finally show some leadership?
Black youth in Toronto have been painted into a corner. What will happen next?
John Sewell is a former mayor of Toronto; firstname.lastname@example.org.