Police action to disperse and arrest activists in Ottawa raises questions

In response to the police intervention early in the morning of November 21, 2020 to disperse the occupation of a downtown intersection in Ottawa and arrest activists and allies with the Ottawa Black Diaspora Coalition, Anishinabe Land Protectors, and the Justice for Abdi Abdirahman Coalition, Amnesty International Canada Secretary General Ketty Nivyabandi said:

“We express our solidarity with communities calling for long overdue action to address systemic racism and transformative approaches to public safety.

“Peaceful protests are a fundamental part of a vibrant society. The right to freedom of peaceful assembly is a vital means of political engagement, with a long history of being a valid and effective means of bringing issues and grievances to light. Facilitating and protecting the right to freedom of assembly contributes to the protection of other human rights.

“The right to hold assemblies and demonstrations on public roads has been upheld consistently by regional and international human rights bodies, which have established that urban space is not only an area for circulation but also a space for participation. The UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association has stipulated that ‘the free flow of traffic should not automatically take precedence over freedom of peaceful assembly.’

“Why did police disperse the occupation and arrest 13 activists – 12 of whom were later charged with mischief – when community members from the three groups were already due to meet with city representatives later that day to address their concerns? The brief explanation provided by the Ottawa Police Service raises more questions than it answers.”