On July 24, Abdirahman Abdi, a Black Muslim Somali man living with autism and mental illness, was beaten to death by Ottawa police. Two days later, neighbours of Abdi, and supporters from across Ottawa, gathered for a vigil in the Hintonburg neighbourhood where he lived and was murdered.
While the vigil was an opportunity to mourn and stand by the family, the one-month anniversary of Abdi’s death on August 24 was an opportunity to demand justice. In solidarity with Black Lives Matter – Toronto, which called for nation-wide demonstrations on that day, rallies took place in Vancouver, Edmonton, Winnipeg, London, Kitchener/Waterloo, Hamilton, Sudbury, and in Ottawa.
The Ottawa rally was held at Ottawa Police Services, and was more broadly political than the vigil that followed Abdi's death. Unlike the vigil, it brought out fewer members of Ottawa's Somali community and residents of the immediate neighbourhood where he was killed. But still it represented an important continuity from that first response of support and outrage, with 200 people from different communities adding their voices to the call for justice."
Speakers emphasized that Abdi’s murder was not an exception: the crowd was asked to repeat names from a long list of victims of systemic police racism and violence. But the main message was still that Abdirahman will not be forgotten: his life will be celebrated and valued, and what ended it must be challenged.
Demands include: charge the two officers responsible for Abdi’s killing; release the Special Investigations Unit report on Abdi’s killing to the public; release general police statistics by race; enact recommendations on police protocol regarding interactions with people living with mental disabilities and mental distress; hold Ottawa Hospital accountable for mishandling of the Abdi situation and withholding information from his family; hold media accountable for misrepresentation of the killing.
It was announced at the rally that on the following day, August 25, a Town Hall for members of the Black community, led by Somali mothers, would take place in the neighbourhood where Abdi was killed.