The Justice for Abdirahman coalition says it feels betrayed after Ottawa police disperse a demonstration in support of black and Indigenous lives in downtown early Saturday morning, evicting protesters and laying multiple charges against 12 people .
The protest involved several advocacy groups, including the Coalition, which was formed after the death of Abdirahman Abdi in a violent arrest in 2016. The protesters were camped at the intersection of Laurier Avenue and Nicholas Street, near the University of Ottawa.
The Ottawa Police Service said in a press release it was monitoring the protest and found it was disrupting regular traffic and blocking an important road for emergency responders, causing “multiple safety issues” .
The police department said it was offering protesters alternative places to move the protest.
“After several warnings to protesters this morning at 3:30 am, Ottawa police expelled protesters from the area and laid multiple charges against 12 people,” the statement said.
The Justice for Abdirahman coalition shared its feelings of betrayal on Twitter.
What a disgusting tactic to promise morning community meetings with city council & amp; Ottawa Police Services Board, then ARREST US AT NIGHT. TREASON!!!!! Show up at 474 Elgin Street and demand the release of our brothers & amp; sisters #BLM # LandBack https://t.co/GaxfvsoCul
& mdash;@ J4Abdirahman
‘They didn’t do anything wrong’
Protesters are now rallying outside the Elgin Street Police Station to support those arrested.
Ottawa Police said the southbound lane of Elgin from Catherine Streets to McLeod Streets has been closed to traffic.
Officers also closed the reception of the police station as the protest outside continues.
Dahabo Omer, with the coalition, stood outside the police station on Saturday morning.
“We want our people to be liberated. We want their freedom to be given; it is their right,” Omer said. “They haven’t done anything wrong. They were peaceful.
“They shouldn’t have been arrested. They were given 10 minutes to pack their bags.”
Ottawa Police Services Board says talks called off
The Ottawa Police Services Board said its chairperson, Diane Deans, and members Coun. Rawlson King and Daljit Nirman agreed to meet with members of the Justice for the Abdirahman coalition “for the purposes of a constructive dialogue today at noon” Saturday.
“Unfortunately, following the arrest of protesters early this morning by the Ottawa Police Service, community members have since refused to meet,” Deans said in a statement. “We remain at the town hall ready and open to discussion.
“If we understand the concern raised by the decision to remove the demonstrators, the board of directors cannot interfere in the operational decisions of the service and was therefore not involved in this action,” the statement continued. . “The police make operational decisions based on risk assessments and ensure public safety.”
Protesters were also supposed to meet with city council members at 10 a.m., according to one of the advocacy groups that was part of the encampment near the University of Ottawa.
“There was a promise to meet with us,” Omer said. “There was a promise to have a discussion. The promise was broken by arresting members of our community who were exercising their right to protest.”
Ottawa Coun. Shawn Menard and NDP MP Joel Harden, who represents Ottawa Center, have expressed their displeasure at the police actions on social media.
“I hear there was no warning,” Menard wrote on Twitter. “The resolution was going to take place in the morning with a meeting with [c]ouncillors. The situation has rather worsened. “
I hear there was no warning. The resolution was to take place in the morning with a meeting with the councilors. The situation has rather worsened. https://t.co/vgacJRpkZk
& mdash;@ ShawnMenard1
Coun. Catherine McKenney was outside the police station on Saturday morning and said that as a city councilor they felt compelled to show solidarity with the protesters.
“The protesters felt betrayed. I think, you know, it was unexpected,” McKenney said.
Still, McKenney said, arrests are a police matter and city council is not directing operations.
Police say the intersection of Laurier Avenue and Nicholas Street is now open and police continue to monitor the area.