Abdirahman Abdi, who was beaten brutally by Ottawa police on Sunday July 24, passed away from his injuries. We express our solidarity and rage with his family and friends.
It is impossible to separate this event from all the other killings, all the violence against the Black community perpetrated by police across the United States and Canada. Family members and neighbours of Abdirahman, many of whom witnessed his horrifying beating, emphasized themselves the question of racial profiling suffered by Blacks in Ottawa, in particular among the Somali community. In addition, they have pointed to his mental condition and the language barrier which hindered his ability to effectively communicate with police, something the five officers involved gave no consideration for when they assaulted him.
Abdirahman was pinned face down and handcuffed, and then repeatedly hit with batons and kicked until he started bleeding, right in front of his apartment in the Hintonburg area. He had run there in fear from the officers who were chasing him following a call from a local shop. The Gangs and Guns Unit was deployed, even though Abdirahman was unarmed. After waiting a long time to call an ambulance, the cops tried to take phones from the people who had been filming, but were unable to prevent videos from surfacing on the web.
This event is sadly not surprising given the history of targeted violence and harassment against marginalized communities on the part of Ottawa police. The Somali community in particular has long been vocal against the harassment they suffer, particularly through the use of carding. It came out for example in 2014 that 20% of people carded by police in Ottawa were classified as Black, and 14% as “Middle-Eastern”, while the two communities make up only 5,7% and 3,7% of the city’s population respectively. While the Ottawa police have carefully crafted over the years the image of a police department in harmony and peace with Ottawa’s “diverse” communities, tensions are boiling under the surface. The rallying cry Black Lives Matter resonated loudly in the city, in solidarity with struggles for justice, for Mike Brown in Ferguson, for Freddie Gray in Baltimore, for Andrew Loku and Jermaine Carby in Toronto, and more recently for Alton Sterling and Philando Castile. No doubt it will be heard even louder now.
The Special Investigations Unit put in charge of the case will predictably rubber-stamp the non-indictment of the officers. Just like the two cops who got away with the point-blank murder of Brandon Maurice in Maniwaki. Just like the murderer who shot nine bullets into Sammy Yatim and got charged with “attempted” murder. Just like all those officers who beat Freddie Gray to death and were found not responsible. And the subservient “civilian board” will rubber-stamp the rubber-stamp, and the case will be closed.
Why this impunity? Because, as it has been said often after so many vigils and rallies in those last few years, under this capitalist system, all lives don’t matter. Police forces, let’s not forget, originate in Canada from an occupation army that was set up to crush Native people’s resistance. Similarly, in much of the United States, they were first set up as slave patrols. They are the enforcers of the ruling class’ interests, the armed defenders of private property. The lives of Black, disabled immigrants like Abdirahman, are collateral damage in the war waged by the dominant class to enforce its rule. In exchange for their loyalty, police forces are given the exclusive use of armed force, as well as almost complete impunity whenever they abuse it.
As a logical result of this, more and more people are coming to the conclusion that justice can be achieved only through their own struggle. This is what the masses in Ferguson, Baltimore and elsewhere have been pursuing when they rioted, inspiring the rebirth of a revolutionary Black movement crushed decades ago by the terrorist tactics of the US government counter-intelligence program (COINTELPRO). This is what the Indigenous resistance movement in Canada is also increasingly coming to terms with, as we find out more and more the extent to which police forces are involved in the systemic murder and disappearance of Indigenous women across the country. This is also what dozens of immigrants, currently on hunger strike to protest their illegal, unlimited prison detention, have realized a long time ago already. More recently, we have seen this with the desperate adventurist actions of armed Blacks in Baton Rouge and Dallas who have taken it upon themselves to avenge police brutality.
We are part of a growing movement in Canada that is rising up to challenge police impunity and state power. The families of various victims of police brutality and their supporters are joining up in a struggle for justice. Justice for Brandon Maurice, a 17 year old killed by police in Messines, Québec; Justice for Gladys Tolley, from Kitigan Zibi; Justice for Fredy Villanueva and Jean-Pierre Bony, from Montréal-Nord. Likewise, we will support Abdirahman’s family all the way in their struggle for justice.
The movement against police brutality has the potential to unite the masses across the country, uniting all groups that are marginalized and oppressed under this capitalist, white-supremacist, colonial system. By building connections between each local struggle, centralizing intelligence concerning police actions, and sharing resources and tactics to resist repression, we can build an alternative counter-power. Only in this way will be able to achieve true justice.
Justice for Abdirahman Abdi!
Fuck the racist police!
Long live people’s resistance!