It was a solemn scene in Barrie as friends, family and members of the Black Lives Matter Toronto movement held a rally for Olando Brown, a man who died while in the custody of Barrie police last month.
Led by Black Lives Matter Toronto organizers, about 30 people marched to the Barrie Police Service station on Sperling Drive in a peaceful protest.
Brown died on June 23 after being arrested by Barrie police.
Police say that after Brown was arrested in downtown Barrie, the 32-year-old went into medical distress during the booking process. Officers called EMS, and Brown was transported to the Royal Victoria Health Centre, but ultimately died later that afternoon.
Shortly after the incident, witness video of the arrest surfaced online, which shows three officers engaged in the arrest. During the video, a Taser can be seen being used multiple times by police.
Friends and family say there was a warrant out for Brown’s arrest relating to a domestic dispute, however, police have not confirmed what the warrant was in relation to.
After Brown’s death, Barrie police notified the Ontario Special Investigations Unit, which invoked its mandate to investigate deaths, serious injury or allegations of sexual assault involving police officers.
Due to the ongoing SIU investigation, police would not comment on the matter. However, in a news conference held June 26, Barrie police Chief Kimberly Greenwood said Brown’s death was a “very tragic incident,” but did not comment further.
WATCH: Rally held by Black Lives Matter after Olando Brown’s death. Katherine Ward reports.
Brown’s community of friends and family have spent the last several weeks since the incident seeking justice for their friend.
Ravyn Wngz, a Black Lives Matter Toronto organizer, said the rally Wednesday was about getting Brown’s story out.
“It’s important for folks to know about this story, for folks to know about Olando Brown, what happened to him, the injustice that the South family is now having to fight against and it’s a rough day, it’s a rough day today,” Wngz said.
Wngz says Black Lives Matter Toronto is hoping that the rally helps to bring awareness to the issue, as well as offer support to the family.
“I’m hoping that today accomplishes a couple of things. I’m hoping the South family feels supported, and they feel like they are a part of a movement that is going to shift how police interact with black people in the city and out here in Barrie and I’m hoping for folks to learn about the story to learn from the family what exactly happened so that folks can understand that carding kills black people, that Tasers also do kill people as well. And we are just trying to bring awareness to that issue.”
In addition to helping organize the rally, Black Lives Matter Toronto has also released a list of 12 demands on behalf of Brown’s family.
Another Black Lives Matter Toronto organizer, Sandy Hudson, says she is concerned what a Ford government will mean for police oversight.
“Our new premier has said that he is pulling the new police oversight act that came as the result of a lot of activism over the last few years to keep police accountable when this type of thing happens, and so I don’t think we have a choice but to be out here and be saying this type of behaviour from police is unacceptable and we are not going to keep quiet if this type of thing continues,” she said.
Hudson says she is concerned about what is happening on a larger scale. “This type of stuff just continues to happen, and it has to stop. And we need people in power who are decision makers to make the structural changes we need so that this stuff does stop,” she said.
Among those present at the rally, was Brown’s 11-year-old daughter, Nevaeh Dubois.
Dubois says it was so important that she be there to help get justice for her father.
“I came here because my dad was always there for me so I want to be there for him,” she said.
Dubois noted she even used her own money to get to the rally.
“I called my grandpa, I said if he could come after work to pick me up I would give him gas money, I told my aunt I would give her my gas money, any way for me to get here,” Dubois said.
She said being at the rally brought up a lot of different emotions for her including sadness, nervousness, but that it was important that she be present. “I came here because he took a lot of time to spend around me and he dedicated his whole life to me so I’m going to dedicate my life to him,” she said.
Others, including family friend Alexandra Malloy, are also feeling the void. Malloy says she had known Brown for nine years. “He’s been there for everything … I was a single mom for a long time, anytime I needed help with groceries or with bills he was always there with no expectation in return,” said Malloy.
Another friend in attendance at the rally was Lance Freeman. Freeman says he has known Brown since he was 12 years old.
“He was a good guy he tried to help people in charities, helped people that were homeless, helped old people get across the street, even carried groceries,” he said. Freeman claims he witnessed Brown’s arrest and says he has not yet been contacted by police or the SIU as part of the investigation.
Brown’s aunt, Barbara South, says these types of stories are how she will remember her nephew. “For the kind and caring person that he was,” she said.
South said she is glad everyone came out to demand justice for Brown. “I’m telling you, that he has some friends that I’m wishing when my chips are down that I have friends like those because they are really fighting for him. I’m really proud of his friends,” she said.
— With files from Katherine Ward.
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