Police Disperse demonstration for Black Indigenous lives, Justice for Abdirahman Abdi

Protesters feel misled as police disrupt calls for Black, Indigenous lives

Officers hit 3:30 a.m. Saturday, rally triggered security problems
The morning of Nov. 20, 2020, hundreds of protesters were at a demonstration camp at a central Ottawa intersection. Early Saturday morning, police disrupted rally, removing protesters and threatening 12 people with various offences.

Coalition Justice for Abdirahman claims it feels misled after Ottawa police dispersed a rally for Black and Indigenous citizens living downtown early Saturday morning, removing demonstrators and laying several charges against 12 people.

The demonstration consisted of several activist organizations, including the alliance that was camped out at the intersection of Laurier Avenue and Nicholas Street near Ottawa University after Abdirahman Abdi's death during a violent arrest in 2016.

The Ottawa Police Service said it tracked the protest in a media statement, claiming it interrupted normal traffic and blocked an essential road for emergency responders causing multiple safety issues."

Police said it gave demonstrators several sites to relocate the rally.

"After multiple warnings to the demonstrators, this morning at 3:30 am, Ottawa Police removed demonstrators from the area and laid multiple charges against 12 individuals," the release said.

On Twitter, Abdirahman's Justice alliance expressed feelings of betrayal.

A group of residents assemble at the Elgin Street police department to help those arrested.
A group of residents assemble at the Elgin Street police department to help those arrested.

'We want to grant them freedom'

Protesters rally outside Elgin Street police station to help those arrested.

Ottawa police said Elgin Street's southbound lane from Catherine to McLeod Street was closed to traffic.

Officers locked the front desk of the police department while the protest outside begins.

Saturday morning, Dahabo Omer, with the Abdirahman Alliance Justice, stood outside the police station.

"We want our people to be released. We want them to be given their freedom; this is their right," Omer said. "They didn't do anything wrong. They were peaceful."

"They shouldn't have been arrested. They were given 10 minutes to pack up. Ten minutes. They've been there for two days, that's not enough time."

The Ottawa Police Forces Commission calls off negotiations

The group's chair, Diane Deans, and members Coun, according to the Ottawa Police Services Commission. Rawlson King and Daljit Nirman decided to consult with representatives of the Abdirahman Alliance for for the purposes of a constructive dialogue today at noon."

"Regrettably, following the apprehension of demonstrators early this morning by the Ottawa Police Service, the community members have since declined to meet," Deans said. "We remain at City Hall willing and open to talk."

Victoria Marchand, Anishinabe, left, and Dahabo Omer, centre, with the Abdirahman Justice Alliance, stood outside the police station on Saturday morning to help the detained demonstrator

"While we understand the concern with the decision to remove the demonstrators, the Board cannot interfere in the operational decisions of the Service and was therefore not involved in this action," the statement adds. "The police make operational decisions based on risk assessments and ensuring the safety of the public."

Protesters were also expected to address city council members at 10 a.m., according to one of the activist organizations in the camp near the University of Ottawa.

"There was a promise to meet us," Omer said. "There was a promise to have a discussion. The promise was broken by arresting our community members that were exercising their right to demonstrate."

Politicians including city councilor Shawn Menard and NDP MPP Joel Harden expressed frustration with social media police actions.

"I'm hearing that there was no warning," Capital Ward Coun. Menard's Tweet writing. "Resolution was going to take effect in the morning for a consultation with [c]ouncillors.

Coun. Coun. Saturday morning, Catherine McKenney was outside police station.

McKenney said they feel obligated as a councilor to express solidarity with demonstrators.

"Protesters felt betrayed. I think that, you know, it was unexpected," they said.

Still, McKenney says arrests are a matter of police, and city council does not direct operations.

The Laurier Avenue and Nicholas Street intersection is now accessible, police say, and the area is being monitored.