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Sammy Yatim Protesters Blame the Police

A protest in memory of Sammy Yatim became a general airing of grievances against police.

A second protest demanding justice for Sammy Yatim, who was shot and killed by Toronto police late last month, took place this afternoon. The crowd of roughly 300 marched from Yonge-Dundas Square to Toronto Police headquarters on College Street, chanting slogans like, “No justice, no peace, no racist police,” “Jail those cops” and “Justice for Sammy, justice for all.” The protest included members of Yatim’s family, as well as the families of other young men who have been shot by police.

The group massed in front of police headquarters, blocking College Street as several impassioned speakers addressed the crowd from the back of a pickup truck. While most of the speakers didn’t identify themselves, one who did was Reuben Abib, of the National Conference of Black Lawyers and the Black Action Defence Committee. He said that the shooting of Sammy Yatim was part of a broader pattern of violence by the police against young men of colour.

“In 1988, when the Black Action Defence Committee was formed, we did so with the ideal that we would stop the police’s indiscriminate killing,” he said. “It is now 2013. Young Sammy, who wasn’t even alive when we formed, is dead.”

“Every single policeman you see, every clip he has on him has 15 rounds. Every time they pull their weapon, it’s attempted murder. They do not shoot to wound, they do not shoot to scare, they only shoot to kill.”

Abib wasn’t the only with a complaint about police as a whole. Indeed, the protest seemed to be only partially about the Yatim killing. For the most part, it was a general airing of grievances. More than one speaker drew parallels with the killing of Freddie Villanueva, an 18-year-old Honduran immigrant who was shot by police in Montreal in 2008. People held banners demanding that the police be disarmed. One unnamed speaker demanded the abolition of police forces entirely, saying that they’re part of a long history of oppression.

“The Royal Northwest Mounted Police, who became the RCMP, were created to crush the rebellion of Louis Riel,” said the man, who identified himself as a writer for Basics Community News. “While they were building the train tracks across the country, the police came to murder and snatch native children out of their homes and put them in residential schools. This is the legacy we’re left with. A paramilitary force who exist to protect the rich from us.”

A man named Joseph Azar, who thanked protesters “on behalf of the family” was the only person to deliver any kind of pro-police message.

“I want to make it clear, we respect the police. We respect the institution,” he said. “We’re not here to challenge the police…We should not hold the whole police force responsible for one person’s mistake. We should not lose our faith in this institution.”

Azar’s relatively moderate attitude was met with a smattering of boos and shouts of, “It’s systemic.” He finally won the crowd over, though, when he produced the standard training manual for Toronto taxi drivers.

“We want the force to go to proper training,” he said. “Cab drivers in the City of Toronto have to go for a training course to deal with the public. I’m just wondering, do the police go through the same training?”

The protest was scheduled to coincide with the Yatim family’s meeting with the Police Services Board. They were still inside when the protest began to peter out at 3 p.m.

CORRECTION: August 13, 2013, 5:45 PM This post originally misidentified a young woman as Sarah Yatim, Sammy’s sister, in two photo captions. The captions have been corrected.


  • zamarax

    why the fuck are we blaming the police? as stated by Mi, that whack job exposed himself to people, then brandished a knife and then with a hostile attitude took over a streetcar…and we’re supposed to feel sorry about this? it’s not like he just refused to pay his fare and was bare handed when they shot him dead, he deserved what he got…period.

    had he stabbed someone, not even seriously or fatally I bet you all would change your tune.

    • Dinah Might

      Sure, let’s invent new crimes he didn’t do, and blame him for those!

      In reality though, he had not stabbed anybody. He was isolated, confined, and surrounded inside an empty streetcar. The police could have shut the doors (there’s a switch on the outside) and waited for him to fall asleep.

      The police have said we don’t know all the facts… but I hope they give us those missing facts soon, because otherwise it’s hard to see how the shooting was in any way necessary.

      • zamarax

        He committed all those crimes I listed. I grew up in a very rough city and if Toronto had half of the problems that most major cities are prone too I’m pretty certain we would be on the cops side, our crime rate is remarkably low for the size of the city and that is largely in part to our fantastic police force.

        • OgtheDim

          Our crime rate is low because

          a) our population is older

          b) we don’t have as many guns

          The police force has little to do with it.

          • zamarax

            guns vs crime is not a valid conclusion to draw from, Mexico has always banned guns and have some of the lowest gun per capita in the world but a massively high crime rate…

          • EESASTORM

            Guns do not cause crimes.

    • tyrannosaurus_rek

      People are blaming the police because shooting him nine times, and then tasering him, was a gross overreaction to the immediate situation. Yes, he brandished a knife and waved his dong on the streetcar, but the streetcar was empty when this happened. He was surrounded by police who had at least a half-dozen non-fatal tools/tactics at their disposal.

      Being a “whack job” doesn’t mean you deserve to be killed.

      Neither does “not even seriously” stabbing someone, for that matter.

      • zamarax

        he exposed himself and pulled the knife with people around, only when police had him surrounded was he by himself.

        • tyrannosaurus_rek

          That’s what I said. The streetcar was empty when this – the multiple shots and tasering – happened. He wasn’t waving a knife (or penis) at a cowering churchlady in a seat when he was gunned down.

          • zamarax

            apologies I read your previous post incorrectly.

    • vampchick21

      The actions he did warrant being subdued and arrested. They do not warrant being shot 9 times when no one was in danger. THAT is the issue. Therefore, he did not deserve to be shot 9 times and killed. He deserved to be arrested and charged for brandishing a weapon and exposing himself. Do you see the difference?

      • zamarax

        He was warned multiple times to drop the knife, were the police just supposed to wait around until he felt like obeying? He totally deserved to be shot.

        • vampchick21

          Yes he was warned multiple times, but there are other ways to subdue a suspect than shooting him 9 times. And police are trained in all those ways. I’m not saying all police are evil, far from it. But in THIS CASE, police made the incorrect judgement call for the situation and the result is a dead young man instead of an arrested young man.

          I honestly don’t know why I’m even wasting my time talking to you about this though, you’ve made it very evident in other posts that as far as you are concerned, your way of viewing the world and your opinion are the only ones that are correct and that matter. You absolutely refuse to see someone else’s side or point of view and you come across as an angry, hateful, uncaring person.

          • zamarax

            wrong, but it’s my opinion, just as you have your own feeling that the shooting was wrong – you feel it’s wrong / I feel it’s right.

            that’s where we are.

          • vampchick21

            And why exactly do you feel it is the correct and only way to have handled this situation given the numerous other options and tactics that police have at their disposal and in their training? Or do you think anyone not behaving in a socially acceptable manner should be shot?

          • zamarax

            I don’t think that anyone not behaving in a socially acceptably manner should be shot – however varying degree’s of circumstances require varying degree’s or responses and in this case I personally feel that the police reacted 100% accurately for the circumstance.

          • vampchick21

            Why do you feel they reacted 100% accurately in this case? Why would shooting a young man who has already been isolated from the general public, armed only with a small knife, having not actually harmed anyone, and surrounded by police be the proper option in the TPS arsenal of subduing techniques?

          • OgtheDim

            And most people who train cops in figuing out which degree of response to use disagree with you.

          • dsmithhfx

            I think one cop did the wrong thing in opening fire, then ‘the police’ institutionally did the wrong thing in closing ranks to protect the one cop from repercussions for his wrong act. And soon it will be the SIU’s turn to do the wrong thing. Ad nauseum. That is what has people so upset. The TPS is institutionally incapable of accepting legitimate criticism and learning from it. And that’s a leadership issue.

  • Dinah Might

    Mental illness caused the initial situation, but not the response to it (at least I sure hope not).

    And yes, [more than zero shots] = [too many shots]

  • OgtheDim

    The situations may start in one way.

    It didn’t have to end how it did.

    TPS deal with situations like what happened periodically. The vast majority of the time, procedure and training is followed and nobody dies or gets hurt and life goes on.

    But with a force of 10000 cops, there are always going to be a few who do not follow training and procedure.

    That those cops are never charged bugs people.

  • Specialk

    Dean this is the first real comment I have read today. Obviously there was a lot more that happened before this story I dont agree with the circumstances surrounding that mans death however I wasnt there the video was horrific but similar to Mariam, (who was committed suicide) I for one would like to know what responsibility the parents played in all of this.

  • tyrannosaurus_rek

    Context is integral to reading comprehension.

  • zamarax

    you have to be f**king kidding me, do you not remember the woolwhich attack? do you have any idea how quickly a knife attack can be deadly?

    • OgtheDim

      But it doesn’t have to be.

      You still are not addressing the fact the cop ignored his deescalation training.

  • dsmithhfx

    That there’s an obvious mental health issue doesn’t really help the police case, does it?

    • Jessica

      It also doesn’t help that the family doesn’t want to admit their responsibility either. There are two parts to any story. The cop shooting was the end, the beginning was the where the kid came from-a broken family with no support. Tough love did not work on the father’s part did it. It made the city clean up their mess. The kid should have been in therapy. He was with a dark negative crowd of kids. I ask, where were the parents when he was thrown into this culture. The kid spoke poorly in English and his dad just expected him to learn. Where were the tutors and help to get him to adjust to this country. The family had money and didnt’ know what to do with it. Shame on the dad not dealing with his son. Now blame the cops for you son being high, depressed and confused. Then he pulls his penis in one hand and a knife in the other. The two 15 year olds where scared for their life! They thought he was going to kill them if they didn’t run out of the streetcar. Oh yeah- no one got hurt. That’s because they ran for their life. Thank G-d they ran and used their voice. Yes the cop went with too many shots but why don’t you be a cop and see what it is like to deal with REAL time. Go to Syria and see what the police state is there. The kid was a threat to more then one person. Then he was a threat and didn’t have his family to help him

      • dsmithhfx

        The cop is being blamed for shooting someone to death, when clearly he didn’t need to do that. It’s an all too familiar story. Maybe that cop, and many others, should not be carrying guns, or be on the force in the first place. The fact is, there’s a lot of bad parenting. That’s no reason to kill kids.

  • zamarax

    See someone’s got it right – it’s time we start blaming the so called ‘victim’ here.

    • Greg

      Hey, I still feel saver living in Toronto then in Detroit. Start living in the US when the city is bankrupt. The police would never have come to the steetcar in Detroit. This is a case of a messed up kid with no strong support at home. A very sad case and one messed up cop who lost it with shooting. Yes, one cop that couldn’t control his gun and another messed up kid from a split family who has no direction in his life. It is a recipe for disaster. If you notice the father is staying quiet in the media. He must feel tremendous guilt for closing the door on his son. So sad for the parents as they grieve. As people in our society in this day or age, we only get 19 summers with our kids. You have to make each one count. This kid needed help.

    • dsmithhfx

      The “so-called victim”? Sammy Yatim is dead. Nothing “so-called victim” about that. Jeesh.