On July 23rd, 2010, gunshots echoed through the corner of Esplanade and Sherbourne. Though severely injured, the victim will survive his injuries.
In the years past, our community has lost many of its beloved members. One common denominator has been gun violence, and unfortunately the majority of the victims have been our youth.
The rising tide of bloody violence happen alongside increasing unemployment, the loss of well-paying jobs, cuts to community services, lacking opportunities, and escalating housing costs. These changes are clearly related.
Too much comes in between youth and a dignified living nowadays. When there’s nothing to lose, selling drugs and other illegal economic activity become appealing.
Ultimately, the increasingly violent dynamic in our community is expected when even a sixty-hour workweek can fail to provide for a household. This unhealthy situation produced both the economic motivations and cultural environment of not only Friday’s shooting, but also the tragic deaths in our community over the years past.
Bringing an end to the violence requires responsibility. It means becoming active in the community; it means addressing the social causes of violence. This is embodied in the spirit of the Esplanade Community Group’s Six Point Program (http://espcg.blogspot.com/p/about-us.html).
Residents in our community will rejoice when the violence ends. That being written, a crime being committed in the community should not translate into an entire generation of residents losing their civil rights.
The police used Friday’s incident as justification to harass, illegally search, threaten, abuse, assault, and arrest our community’s youth. Young men are avoiding their very own streets to evade harassment.
On Friday, shortly after the shooting, an innocent young community member, Mikel Berhe, was “randomly” grabbed, struck and questioned by police officers. Friends of his approached at a safe distance to observe and remind him of his rights. But the police wouldn’t allow it. Even though his friends stood at a 10-meter distance (which far exceeded any reasonable definition of obstructing the officers), police threatened to arrest unless they left the vicinity.
Police then placed Farshad Azadian, another youth, under arrest. After he was thrown into the back of the police car, bystanders and friends were subject to insult and threats.
While Farshad was being taken to the police station, he sustained minor injuries to his face when the police officer, for no apparent reason, sped up and slammed on the brakes twice while he was cuffed. This sent him flying face first into the window panel. After six hours in the holding cell, Farshad was charged with obstruction and then released.
The Esplanade Community Group calls for the trumped-up charge on Farshad Azadian to be dropped and for an apology from the 51 division police for the incident. We also expect a written commitment to uphold the civil rights of all community members. However, we are not blind to the fact that a simple demand will not change the behaviour of the police.
Though the stated duty of the police department is to uphold the law, officers routinely bend and break it at the expense of the dignity of our community. The recent incident at the G20, where 300 peaceful protesters, residents and oblivious bystanders were illegally arrested on the Esplanade, beaten, detained and refused lawyers shows the degree to which the police stand above their own laws.
The Esplanade Community Group commits to a responsible approach to dealing with police violence and the violation of our rights. This includes an anti-police brutality campaign, legal defense workshops, townhalls, active cooperation with progressive politicians and the New Democratic party, and the beginnings of a cop-watch program.
We encourage all fellow residents to involve themselves by taking a responsible, active and politically conscious stand in our community on the issues we face. Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org to get informed and/or involved.
We are also asking for financial support to pay the cost of legal defense fees. Please get in touch with us if you, or the organization you are a part of, can make such a contribution.