Toronto police, under fire from Black Lives Matter over how investigations of police shootings are investigated, now have another reason to watch their backs.
Following a two-week sit-in at police headquarters that concluded Monday, Toronto-chapter co-founder Yusra Khogali spoke to supporters from a megaphone, addressing police with a warning.
“If you think this is the end, you are irresponsible. It is irresponsible for you to feel safe. Do you hear me police? Do you hear me police? It is irresponsible for you to feel safe. If we are not safe, you are not safe,” Khogali said.
The veiled threat took on added meaning Tuesday, when an earlier threatening tweet was discovered by a local reporter:
“Plz Allah give me strength to not cuss/kill these men and white folks out here today. Plz plz plz,” Khogali tweeted Feb. 9.
The tweet has since been removed.
The Toronto group has accused the city’s Special Investigations Unit of anti-black racism following the shooting death of Andrew Loku, a 45-year-old South Sudanese migrant with mental-health issues.
Loku was shot and killed by police in his apartment building after he advanced toward an officer, carrying a hammer, according to the SIU, reported Toronto’s CP24 News.
Mike McCormack, president of the Toronto police Association, disputed charges of racism in the department, saying BLM activists were “trying to build an ‘us against them’ mentality.”
“We’ve spent the last 25 years trying to deal with this in a very constructive way,” McCormack said. “We train differently, we hire differently.”
The protesters have demanded police release the names of all officers who have shot people in the line of duty, even if the shootings have been deemed justified, adding weight to Khogali’s threat.
Khogali has refused requests from local media for comment on her Twitter message, but that has not stopped supporters from coming forth.
Marjorie Wallens, a public relations consultant, commended the BLM protesters who participated in the sit-in for remaining “controlled,” reported the International Business Times, downplaying Khogali’s comment.
“Their passion is there and I think in the court of public opinion people would look at it and say, ‘Well, there’s an issue,’” Wallens said. “It might be a bit more disorganized or some people may say inappropriate or incendiary things, but … they have gotten the attention of the various governments and the police.”
Megan Boler, a University of Toronto professor in the social justice education department, criticized the attention being given to a “throwaway comment,” calling the attention a “deeply disturbing distraction” from the issues raised by protesters.
Tuesday, Black Lives Matter Toronto representative Sandy Hudson was interviewed by CP24 News regarding the tweet, but refused to answer any questions about it.
“I won’t comment on it,” Hudson said. “It would be besmirching the memory of Andrew Loku … and the people who have died in our community.”
“This is tabloid,” she said. “It’s not public interest news. It’s not news.
“What is in the public interest is what our decision makers are going to be doing to ensure that black folks are not discriminated against, unfairly targeted, dehumanized, (and) killed by police services in our city and in our country.”
No race-based statistics on fatal police encounters are kept by the province of Ontario’s police watchdog, Statistics Canada, Toronto police or the Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services, reports the Toronto Star.