Police charge three people after statues covered in paint during Black Lives Matter protest

Black Lives Matter Toronto splattered pink paint on statues of Egerton Ryerson and John A. Macdonald during a protest on Saturday morning


Toronto police have charged three people with mischief after a Black Lives Matter-Toronto protest at Queen’s Park on Saturday morning.

In a tweet, police said statues were damaged with “spray painting and throwing buckets of paint on property.”

A photo posted on Black Lives Matter-Toronto’s social media pages shows the statue of Egerton Ryerson at Ryerson University splashed with pink paint and affixed with a sign.

“Tear down monuments that represent slavery, colonialism and violence,” the sign reads.

Ryerson was an integral figure in the implementation of the residential school system in Canada.

Other photos online show the John A. Macdonald statue at Queen’s Park splattered in pink paint.

Black Lives Matter-Toronto took credit for defacing the statues in a news release sent out on Saturday morning.

“Along with a coalition of artists, the group artistically disrupted statues of slaveholders and monuments to colonialism at Ryerson University and at Queen’s Park,” the release reads. “The action comes after the City of Toronto and the Province of Ontario have failed to take action against police violence against Black people.”

Charges and a standoff

In a news release on Saturday evening, police said at around 9:20 am a man and two women were seen vandalizing a statue and surrounding concrete embankments near Bond and Gould.

They left the area and police were called, police said.

Police said they located a van at Queen’s Park and that a woman got out of the van with tubs of paint and joined a crowd of people. Two men were in the van covered in paint, police said.

All three were arrested and police seized tubs of paint, spray paint, sidewalk chalk, stencils and rope from the van.

Daniel Gooch, Danielle Smith and Jenna Reid are each charged with three counts counts of mischief under $5,000 and conspiracy to commit a summary offence.

Gooch and Smith were released on a promise to appear and Reid is being held for Show Cause and will appear at Old City Hall court July 19.

Police said all three were provided access to counsel.

After police issues the news release, the three had not been released and a standoff outside 52 Division continued into the night.

Saron Gebressellassi, a lawyer for one of the detained, said she had been denied access to her client. She also said police would not allow one of three to receive a medication delivery from that detainee’s family.

Police chief Marc Saunders told CP24 that there was “misinformation” spreading outside the police station. He said the protestors could leave but had refused to sign a release form.

“They could be out the door right now if they choose to be, but they choose not to,” he said.

He also told the channel that police had accommodated the medication request and gave the three access to lawyers.

Gebressellassi called Saunders’ comments “nothing but lies” in a tweet.

At 3 am, she tweeted that all three had been released and are due to appear in court on September 30.

“What was the action?”

Earlier in the day, Constable Edward Parks, a media relations officer for the Toronto police, told NOW that there were between 10 to 40 people at the protest, which began at Ryerson University and proceeded to Queen’s Park.

Black Lives Matter-Toronto said on Twitter that the protest was peaceful and that demonstrators posted banners, painted statues and called for the defunding of the Toronto police.

“3 attendees of a peaceful action were arrested this morning while calling to defund the police. They were not told of their crime,” the group tweeted. “What did we do? We posted banners. We painted statues. We called to defund the system that targets us.”

Black Lives Matter also accused police of attempting to kettle protestors.

“We had our own safety team that had to deescalate you. And you still arrested *three people who were just sitting in a van after you tried – and failed – to kettle everyone,” the group tweeted in response to police posting news of the arrests.

In the afternoon, a crowd gathered outside 52 Division where the three people were taken. Gebressellassi said on Twitter that police had prevented her from seeing her client.

“My client is being detained without charges and without a lawyer,” she said. “Section 10b of the Charter guarantees the right to counsel immediately and without delay.”

In a statement sent to reporters on Saturday afternoon, BLM-TO said the three people were “not told of their crime.”

“What was the action?” said BLM-TO cofounder Sandy Hudson. “An artistic disruption of tributes to historical racism: Banners were posted. Statues were painted. We called to defund the system that targets us.

“Who are the police protecting by detaining people who have done no harm? Why are you these statues of slaveholders and genocide actors more important than our lives?”

Push to defund the police

Saturday’s action comes after hundreds of protestors rallied outside Toronto police headquarters on July 16 during the last of four public town halls on police reform.

In the wake of the Minneapolis police killing of unarmed Black man George Floyd in May, a wave of global protests have pushed for police budgets to be defunded and resources reallocated to community groups.

“The city of Toronto spends just over 25 per cent of taxpayer dollars on funding the police,” Black Lives Matter Toronto’s Rodney Diverlus said in a statement on Saturday. “That’s a cost of $1.13 billion, comparable to the tax dollars spent on public transportation, the library, children services and public health combined.

U.S. cities such as Minneapolis, San Francisco, Oakland and Los Angeles have undertaken police reform measures or budget cuts in recent months.

However, Toronto city council recently voted against a motion to cut the 2021 police budget by 10 per cent.

The renewed calls to defund and abolish the police have been accompanied by movements to remove statues or rename streets with connections to slavery and colonialism.

“Much like the institution of the police, these statues are monuments that glorify the ugliest parts of our history and our present,” said BLM-TO organizer Syrus Marcus Ware in a statement. “If this society truly believes that Black lives matter, it’s not enough to simply say so in words. Let’s refuse to honour colonialism, anti-Blackness, and white supremacy. Let’s tear down monuments to anti-Blackness and colonialism, including the police system. Let’s build a society that truly values safety for all of us.”

Editor’s note: this story has been updated

@nowtoronto

Comments (1)

  • Mario Migliazza July 18, 2020 11:14 PM

    Monuments are reminders of history. Some represent glorious undertakings; some represent horrendous deeds. The removal of a monument because it represents a negative aspect of history, is to state that segment of history has to be forgotten. We need to remember, that “those who forget history are doomed to repeat it”. Should we destroy the Auschwitz museum? – or the House of Horror on Budapest, or all the other preserved locations of Nazi terror? They are not there to glorify what took place there – they are being preserved for people to see the horror of what took place and stand as a reminder of something that shall never be allowed to happen again. A monument to a slave owner stands also as a reminder – spit on it if you wish – but it should continue to stand as a reminder of something that shall not be allowed to happen again.

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