This week, we cover the astronomical increase in killings by police in BC, as well as police murders that have taken place so far in 2023. We also take a look at fights in Toronto to stop continued police budget increases. Lastly, we take a belated look at a couple of solidarity initiatives that have taken place following the murder by Atlanta police of Tortuguita, an Atlanta Forest Defender.
The Montreal Anarchist Bookfair collective has made the exciting announcement that the bookfair will be back on May 27th and 28th. Applications for tables and events are open from now until March 15th!
As well, in just over a week, the Montreal Anarchist Zine Fair will be taking place on Saturday March 4th!
Now on to the news!
Police Killings in 2023, BC Police Killings up by 700% Since 2012
Since the beginning of 2023, cops have already murdered at least 8 people in Canada.
Prince Albert police shot and killed a man after a foot chase in the Saskatchewan town on January 16th. An 80 year old man died during a Windsor police action under unclear circumstances in Amherstburg, Ontario on January 17th. On January 19th a man fell to his death in the presence of the Ontario Provincial Police in South River Ontario. Another man in mental health crisis fell to his death while Quebec City police officers were present on January 25th. Wesley Wanuch, a 45 year old Beaver First Nation member, was killed by Alberta RCMP in Cold Lake First Nation on February 4th. An off duty Surrey Police Officer died during an RCMP deployment in Langley on February 8th. Vancouver police shot and killed a man on February 9th on the Granville Street Bridge in Vancouver, very shortly after arriving on the scene. On February 14th, Calgary police shot and killed Mitch Croston, a 34 year old man struggling with schizophrenia and homelessness.
As explained by Killer Cops Canada, the blog that collects and documents police killings, “Police are often the only ones present, apart from the victim, when they kill. They control the flow of information and often try to create a public view that a victim killed themselves when police know full well they were responsible.”
A recent investigation by The Tyee revealed that the number of “police-involved” deaths in British Columbia has increased by 700% in the last decade. In 2022, 64 people died at the hands of police in BC alone. As more deaths accumulate at the hands of the cops across the country, commentators search for an explanation. They gesture at the mental health consequences of the pandemic, leaving the door open to the idea that mental health crisis causes these deaths. The fact is, the police are the killers here. As Killer Cops Canada puts it, “Police are not health care resources. Mental health care and supports should be provided in cases of people in crisis, not police.”
And yet, as loved ones of those killed by police and prisons continue to mourn and fight in their memory, such as at this demo in memory of Nicous Spring in Montreal, the State continues to look for carceral solutions.
Toronto Demands Emergency Services for Unhoused, Not More Money for Police
Toronto has seen numerous protests in the past month on the subject of City Council’s spending and priorities, in particular the sharp contrast between funding to help the city’s most vulnerable and funding for the city’s police.
On February 6, a “die-in” was held at City Hall to call on the City expand access to warming shelters. That week, a motion went before City Council proposing that the City keep warming shelters open 24/7 until mid-April, rather than waiting for temperatures to reach the threshold of -15 C before opening. The motion failed. Later in the month, at a City Council budget debate, another motion came forward to redirect $900,000 from the police budget (0.07% of the police budget) to keep warming shelters open for the rest of the winter, which also failed. According to the Toronto Star, around 100 people are turned away from warming shelters every day.
At the @HPAP_Ontario public health rally where their coalition & community allies have gathered to demand a divestment from policing & investment in 24/7 open warming centers, adequate shelter space numbers, & social housing. Dr. Tahir from HPAP & @DrsDefundPolice speaking first. pic.twitter.com/vpKgCqfeK7
— The Hoser (@TheHoserMedia) February 6, 2023
At the same time, City Council approved a 2023 budget last week that included an additional nearly $50 million, or 4.3% increase, for the police. One intention for the increase is to add 200 officers to the force. The approved budget will also have the effect of reducing public transit service hours by 9%. According to the World Socialist Website, while the transit budget will increase overall, a portion of the increase will go toward funding 50 new transit enforcement officer positions.
The day of the budget meeting, folks again rallied outside City Hall to demand the City fund social services, not police. During the meeting, police were brought in to forcibly remove some protesters. Overall, the impression left by Toronto’s 2023 budget is that of a City whose strategy for dealing with homelessness is to let people die and continue to criminalize poverty.
Protesters take over Hamilton council chambers, demanding councillors reject police budget: https://t.co/LWPpVSlTbN #HamOnt
— CBC Hamilton (@CBCHamilton) February 7, 2023
Toronto is far from the only city where people are resisting increases to police budgets. In Hamilton earlier this month, a large group shut down a City Council meeting in the process of debating the City’s proposed budget, which included a $10 million, or 5.5% increase to the police budget. If there’s inspiring resistance to police budgets in your city, tell us about it at firstname.lastname@example.org!
Solidarity with Tortuguita and Atlanta Forest Defenders
An Atlanta Forest Defender known as Tortuguita was killed on January 18th, shot 13 times by Atlanta cops during a raid in service of the construction of cop city. A few solidarity events took place across Canada in response.
In Vancouver, anarchists held a solidarity demo. From their reportback:
On Monday, January 23rd a crowd of masked people coalesced in Musqueam, Squamish, and Tsleil-Waututh territory, taking over Cambie street near city hall. We walked up the road, singing, chanting, and holding signs to express our support for the Atlanta forest defenders and our rage at another life lost to police violence. At one point in the walk, an Indigenous man leaned out of his apartment window facing onto the street to drum along with our singing.
After blocking traffic for a 2 kilometer walk we arrived at Queen Elisabeth Park and dissappeared among the trees, where we shared words and silence in honour of Tortuguita.
Stay strong, forest defenders everywhere!
In Montreal, a small solidarity demonstration also took place.
#StopCopCity graffiti seen in Vancouver, Washington referring to the militarized police training facility that the Atlanta city council plans to build at the site of the Weelaunee Forest. pic.twitter.com/17oAqgiMg3
— Radical Graffiti (@GraffitiRadical) February 1, 2023
Gidimt’en Checkpoint released a photo (see top of post) and message of solidarity with Atlanta Forest Defenders:
We are saddened and enraged to learn this week of the murder of a young forest defender at the hands of police in Atlanta, Georgia, where police carry out violent and deadly raids against those defending the Weelaunee forest from destruction. We mourn the dead and fight for the living, and for all our future generations. Not one more life should be taken in the name of profit at the expense of the land, the forests, and the water we rely on for life. We recognize the violence police and colonial law enforcement enact on Black, Indigenous, and racialized people, those who stand to lose the most as the climate is destroyed. Against pipelines, mining, and more policing, we fight for all our children and our right to live free. Love and rage to all victims of police violence, and all who defend the earth.