Black Lives Matter Holds Vigil in Memory of Coriolan

Calling for the End of Systematic Police Brutality Against POC

A Black Lives Matter activist took to the streets soon after the vigil. Photo by Jérémie Gauthier-Caron.
Black Lives Matter protesters asserted themselves at the Quartier des Spectacles. Photo by Jérémie Gauthier-Caron.
After denouncing the mainstream media’s silence on Black struggle, Desmond Cole took to the streets. Photo by Jérémie Gauthier-Caron.
Co-fonder of Montréal-Nord Républik Will Prosper also took to the stage. Photo by Jérémie Gauthier-Caron.

A vigil organized by Black Lives Matter was held this afternoon to mark the death of Pierre Coriolan, a Haitian man who was shot earlier this week by Montreal police.

According to the Montreal Gazette, Coriolan—who suffered mental health problems—was in a state of crisis before being shot by police.

“He was in a mental crisis,” said Black Lives Matter activist Robyn Maynard. “The police lack respect for Black people, and lack respect for people with mental health problems.”

Attendees dressed all in black and came to grieve near the apartment in the Gay Village where Coriolan once lived. All the while, neighbors looked on from their balconies above.

According to the Bureau des enquêtes indépendantes, Montreal police were not able to de-escalate the situation. They fired rubber bullets and put their tasers to use. Later on, they resorted to fatally shooting Coriolan. The BEI, the watchdog group for police in Quebec, are in the process of investigating the case.

Black Lives Matter, who came with contingents from both Montreal and Toronto, are calling the fatal shooting an act of racial violence. They say the racial discrimination that Black people face from police is not limited to one city, but rather is found systematically across Canada.

They say police are not properly equipped when it comes to dealing with people in a state of crisis, and that proper training on the necessary procedures is needed. Black Lives Matter activist Brian Uwayo wishes that Coriolan’s neighbors would have called an ambulance instead of the police.

Photo by Jérémie Gauthier-Caron.

“There is clearly an issue with police and people of colour,” Uwayo said. “Training needs to change, police officers need to change.”

Black Lives Matter is hoping to bring about a national discussion on the matter. They’re also demanding that police improve their record keeping, especially when it comes to matters such as racial profiling and the fatal shootings of people of colour.

Toronto journalist and activist Desmond Cole attended the vigil, and took to the mic to denounce the mainstream media who were present.

“The media in Canada, they see what is happening to Black people and they are silent,” said Cole. “The media is complicit in this ongoing, intentional [and] willful blindness to what is happening. We see you in the media, and I’m just here to say today that we will not allow you to not see us. We know you see us!”

His remarks left some journalists visibly uncomfortable, but came with little surprise. Earlier this year, Cole made headlines after he decided to leave behind his column at the Toronto Star due to increasing racial tension between him and his colleagues.

“When we’re shot, we’re often portrayed by the media as criminals,” said Maynard, adding that this doesn’t happen for white people. “This is systemic anti-Black racism.”

After the vigil, the crowd took to the streets in protest, going west along Ste. Catherine St. until they reached the Jazz Festival. There, they took to a stage in the Quartier des Spectacles and chanted “Jazz is Black” while holding a sign saying “Rest in Power Pierre Coriolan.”

With reporting from Jérémie Gauthier-Caron